Politics and Prejudices: Why Snyder lost

Had he stepped down after one term, our nerd governor would’ve looked like a true statesman

Nov 19, 2014 at 1:00 am

Had he stepped down after one term, our nerd governor would've looked like a true statesman. Yes, you read that right.

Rick Snyder, more than likely, made a dreadful mistake when he decided to run for a second term.

Now he will pay for it. Mitt Romney isn't someone Snyder feels very close to, as far as I can tell. Our governor didn't knock himself out campaigning for Mitt two years ago, probably suspecting — correctly — that he would lose Michigan badly.

When Romney came here this fall to campaign for Terri Lynn Land, Snyder avoided 'em both. But Mitt was smarter about one thing than Rick. Twelve years, ago, Romney, like Snyder, took advantage of Democrats in disarray to get himself elected governor of Massachusetts.

He was mostly successful at getting his agenda through, most notably a health-care plan that looks very much like the Affordable Care Act, though he later stoutly denied this.

But when Romney's first term ended, he walked away. That might have been because he'd decided to devote all his energies to running for president. It could've also been partly because the next election was shaping up as a Democratic year, and he might well have been beaten.

Regardless, he left office undefeated and looking politically strong. Rick Snyder might have done the same thing. Like Romney, he doesn't need to make money anymore.

Snyder, too, managed to get most of what he wanted in his first term, especially overhauling the tax structure.

Few thought he would be able to find a way to make the badly needed new Detroit River bridge — the New International Trade Crossing — reality. Yet he found a way to get around the corrupt Michigan legislature and make a deal with Canada.

Now, all that has to happen is for Washington to approve the $250 million customs plaza any international border crossing needs. Snyder's only real first-term failure was to get the legislature to pass any real new funding for our disgracefully crumbling roads, something he finally seems to be achieving in the current lame duck session of the legislature.

But what does he want with a second term? While the newspapers savagely beat up on Mark Schauer for not explaining how he would accomplish his goals if he were elected governor, few noticed that Snyder didn't have any.

So what does he hope to get done in a second term? Snyder would've looked like a true statesman had he announced that one term was enough — and that instead of wasting time campaigning, he was going to use all his energies to make sure the lawmakers passed road funding.

However, as so many politicians have learned, power is hard to give up. Old King George III of England, the one we fought the revolution against, was stunned when he heard that George Washington had quit the army and was going back to Mount Vernon when the war was over. "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world," the king said.

Rick Snyder is no George Washington. So he muddled through a re-election campaign, this time winning only 51 percent. He'll be governor again, but his political stock is likely to drift downhill. Indeed, the best day of Rick Snyder's second term is likely to be the first day. After that, he's a lame duck.

Actually, there are already plenty of signals that his feet are quickly becoming webbed. Snyder seems to have no interest in social issues at all, though he isn't above kowtowing to the right when necessary, on something like the motorcycle helmet law, or helping to hide the sources of campaign spending.

What he really cares about is things like helping businessmen get richer, which once in a while, means pragmatic steps that actually help people, too. For example, over the last three years, he has been trying to get our cowardly little legislators to find enough common sense and guts to come up with the money to prevent our roads from falling totally apart.

Now, it looks like they will approve significant revenue at last, though probably not enough to do the job right.

But when the lawmakers limped back to Lansing after the election, they first began squabbling, not about infrastructure, but about whether to extend Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect gay and transgendered citizens.

Outgoing Speaker of the House Jase Bolger said he could live with adding "sexual orientation" to the act ...

That is, so long as his fellow legislators passed a state "Religious Freedom Information Act." (As in, "my god hates gays so I don't have to hire you, faggot.")

Within moments, the ACLU had denounced both things, since adding "sexual orientation" to the bill would do nothing to protect transgendered Michiganders from discrimination.

Here's a tip: Don't bet baby's lunch money that the GOP majority is going to protect the rights of the transgendered.

Snyder, as far as anyone can tell, wishes all these pesky social issues would go away. But if he thinks this stuff is all going to disappear anytime soon, he's in for a nasty shock.

Not only is the incoming legislature more Republican than the old one, it is more chock full of crazies.

Snyder will have to work with a legislature studded with Tea Party fanatics and religious ideologues. Randy Richardville, the Senate Majority Leader who occasionally saw reason, will be gone, replaced by the uneducated DeVos tool, Arlan Meekhof.

Gary Glenn, the anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage fanatic, will be in the legislature, along with Todd Courser, who — based on a frighteningly deranged rant he delivered at a GOP state convention last year — really does believe he is on a mission from God. This lot is apt to keep things in turmoil over social issues, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court does whatever it will do on same-sex marriage.

Dealing with this stuff is something Snyder seems to enjoy less than the average man does a colonoscopy.

But guess what: He's going to have to. Many of his fellow Republicans couldn't care less how things work in practice. Ideology and half-baked religion are far more important.

Four years from now, our nerd may find himself viewed far more like Jennifer Granholm than he ever imagined, out of favor and out of fashion, but with one disadvantage:

She at least has a soothing voice to belt out her bullshit to ignorant cable viewers; his sounds like a cross between a Sesame Street character and a tungsten drill.

Ricky needs to hope Gateway stock is doing well in 2019.

Dangerous Tampering — Republican State Rep. Pete Lund isn't exactly a constitutional scholar; he runs a direct-mail firm. But he is pushing the legislature to tamper with the way Michigan casts its electoral votes in a way that could have the effect of both making the state irrelevant and destroying any remaining confidence in the way we pick presidents.

Nationally, the rules are clear. Whoever wins a state wins all its electoral votes. In what amounts to a giant board game, candidates try to put together a combination of states that adds up to 270. It's winner-take-all, except for two tiny states whose districts almost always vote the same way.

But Lund wants to change that to a hard-to-understand system that would give Republican presidential candidates a chunk of Michigan's votes even when they lose badly.

This is a bad idea; worse since nobody else is doing it. Winning ugly is one thing; trying to rig the game another. If Rick Snyder has any integrity, he should vow to veto this.