Immaturity on the left

Fighting the inevitable is a waste of time

Three weeks ago, this column appeared under the headline: “Time to support Snyder.” From the start, I made it clear I was not arguing in favor of everything he’s done.

Far from it. Nor did I say people ought to re-elect him, and I listed all the areas where I sharply disagreed with the governor, from right-to-work to his moronic support of the bill allowing motorcyclists to ride without helmets.

But on the issue of expanding Medicaid to poor people without children, Gov. Rick Snyder is on the side of the angels, as he has consistently been on building a new bridge.

Any sane person with the slightest bit of common sense knows the first rule of getting anything done in politics is to make common cause with anyone you can.

Winston Churchill was perhaps the most rabid anti-Communist in Great Britain before World War II. But when his nation was fighting for its life, Nazi Germany suddenly invaded the Soviet Union. Churchill instantly pledged the USSR his full support, saying, “If Hitler invaded hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

Compared to that, supporting a nerdy governor on Medicaid ought to be a no-brainer. Not, however, for some. “Hell no will I support him … he can rot in hell. No way no how,” an online reader named Wendy posted.

“Maybe three months ago I could have taken your high road. Not now,” wrote a reader who said he was a retiree, and discovered the state now takes taxes out when he took money out of his IRA. He said Snyder had permanently alienated him.

Well, that’s just fine. But does that mean he and Wendy and a whole lot of other readers would deny poor kids medical benefits just to spite a governor they don’t like?

If so, they are worse than he is.

Vladimir Lenin denounced behavior like that as “left-wing infantilism.” It is probably taboo to quote Lenin these days, but in this case, I don’t give much of a damn. George Orwell, my personal hero, had no use for those who sold out to “smelly little orthodoxies” instead of thinking for themselves.

What bothers me is that we have boatloads of those. Last week, the governor came to Wayne State University, to announce that he found Detroit was in a state of financial emergency, and that he soon would be appointing an emergency manager.

Nobody old enough to have lost his or her umbilical cord was surprised by this. Anyone who knows anything about the political or economic situation would have a hard time arguing that there is any reasonable alternative, given the problem.

Detroit does have a weak mayor and a largely irrational City Council, true. Giving them more money and time would be like giving a bag of heroin to a junkie in the gutter.

But it is simply irrational to think any politicians could take the drastic steps needed for a city with $14 billion in pension and other unfunded liabilities, and very little revenue.

I didn’t believe the governor when he told me at that meeting that an emergency manager could get it done and be gone in a year and a half. Yet he had my wholehearted support when he said what we need to do now was fix the problem, not the blame.

There’s going to be an emergency manager and lots of difficulty to come. We can scream and kick our little feet — or we can rationally start preparing to try to work with whomever that emergency manager may be to try to save Detroit.

Fighting the inevitable is a waste of time. Detroit and Detroiters, right now, have little of either.

But there is a silver lining in all this. Somebody is going to come in with the power and the authority to start trying to fix this city, to give it a chance to succeed. Painful? Sure.

Much of this is going to be surgery without anesthesia. But surgery needed to save the patient’s life. There is nothing that now can be done to stop a manager from coming. It may not even be possible to stop an eventual bankruptcy.

Yet, we, and more importantly our elected officials, can — and must — do the best they can to cooperate with the emergency manager for the benefit of the citizens.

So far as I can see, every politician in Detroit has officially come out against having an emergency manager, though they mostly all know it is inevitable, and some have to be relieved.

Now, for one thing, there will be someone else to blame. They, however, can perform a real service by offering to help collaborate for the benefit of Detroiters. Take pensions, for one thing. The way it looks now, a lot of retired city workers will lose money that they have always thought they had coming.

If the mayor and the council can work with the manager to try to preserve something for the neediest, that will be a real service. Councilman Gary Brown seems to get that.

The worst choice would be to go the route of JoAnn Watson, who seems stuck in the racial politics games of the 1970s, calling what’s happening now a “white power grab.”

Hate to burst your bubble, hon, but whites mostly own what’s worth owning anyway, and don’t want the rest.

Sheila Cockrel, who knows Detroit better than almost anyone of any complexion, actually thinks the citizens would elect a white mayor like Mike Duggan if they thought he or she could make the streets safe and get basic services restored.

What’s needed, however, is for him and everyone else to stop pandering to the worst impulses we all have.

This is as serious as wartime once was. We have to fix the problems; how about shutting up for a year about the blame?

There will be plenty of time to squabble once the lights are back on, and more cops are back on the streets.


Looking ahead to November 2014: Just in case I have any friends left out there, here’s a prediction: Rick Snyder will be re-elected governor next year, probably easily.

No, that’s not an endorsement. Merely a cold, rational, assessment. Under Mark Brewer, the just-fired longtime Democratic state chair, the party did little or nothing to develop a group of bright, young, up-and-coming potential candidates.

Democrats, as a result, have no strong challenger to run against the governor they loathe. Their top potential prospect right now is Mark Schauer, a former one-term congressman from the Battle Creek area who got tossed out in 2010.

The party does control both U.S. Senate seats, but neither of the incumbents would dream of giving up their jobs to try to become a term-limited governor. Three of the five Democratic congressmen are well over 80. The other two are a freshman from Flint (Dan Kildee) who took his octogenarian uncle’s place this January, and third-termer Gary Peters.

Peters likely plans to squat in his safe seat till Carl Levin retires or is transported to the throne of heaven.

Incidentally, know how many Michigan governors have been defeated for a second term since the state’s current constitution was ratified a half-century ago?

That number would be … zero.

But this is different, you say? People are really mad this time, over right-to-work most of all? Yes, they are … now.

But the election is more than a year-and-a-half away. I’ve been watching how things work for a long, long time.

Sadly, I think I know what we’ll see.


Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for the Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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