Wrong to recall?

Why efforts to boot Snyder may be pointless and counterprodcive

May 4, 2011 at 12:00 am

Thousands of citizens outraged by the Snyder administration's policies are now talking recall. In fact, a group has been formed that's making a serious attempt to do just that. Michigan Citizens United got petition language approved last week. They have a website, firericksnyder.org, and are taking donations and mobilizing for action. Their motto is that of the famous 18th century philosopher Edmund Burke:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," which is certainly true ...

Yet not the whole truth. There is an equally big truth, which every band of successful guerrilla warriors in the world has learned: Pick your battles. Yes, glorious defeats have sometimes inspired men and women to fight another day.

But all too often, losing has exactly the opposite effect. Illusions crushed, the disillusioned and dispirited melt away, turn off and drop out. That's what largely happened to the left wing in the 1960s and 1970s. The Kennedys were killed and Martin Luther King was killed and the cops smashed the protesters' heads at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in the summer of 1968.

Then Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew were elected, and boatloads of people went off to communes. When Nixon and Agnew fell, the best anyone could do was Jimmy Carter, whose most radical counterculture thought was turning down the heat and wearing a sweater.

After him came Ronald Reagan and the Bushes, interrupted only by Bill Clinton, who once described himself as an "Eisenhower Republican." I mention all this history for a reason.

We've got lots of people hot to oust Snyder, and everything I know about practical matters tells me they are going to waste a lot of energy and impale themselves on the sharp stakes of the process. Here's why: Just getting a state constitutional amendment on Michigan's ballot this year would take 322,609 valid signatures.

This number fluctuates a little, from election to election. But in practice, it is always very hard to achieve. Most who try fall short unless they have lots of corporate or special interest money behind them, and can pay people $1 a scrawl to collect signatures.

The rule of thumb is that a quarter of all signatures are always invalid. People sign twice or don't know what county they live in or aren't really registered to vote, so you have to turn in at least 25 percent more than the amount really needed to get on the ballot.

When Jack Kevorkian was riding high, he and his supporters tried to get an amendment on the ballot; he told me he thought he could get enough in a few days. They never came close.

And recalling a governor is much, much harder. Michigan Citizens United can't legally start collecting signatures till July 1. Then, they have to collect 807,000 valid signatures by Oct. 1 — well more than twice the number needed for a constitutional amendment. Practically speaking, they'd need more.

Many, many more. Citizens United estimates they'd have to collect 1.1 million signatures. According to their website, as I write these lines on May 1, the group now has $5,695 in the bank.

They would need a $1.5 million, at a minimum, to have a prayer. By the way, even if they succeeded, a recall election couldn't be called till next year. Legally, they now can hold a vote only at the next regularly scheduled election, and no sooner than 95 days after the recall petitions are filed. That means February 2012.

Plus, if they succeeded, Jesus would not become governor. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley would take over. You might want to read up on his voting record before you pull that ripcord, comrades.

Incidentally, getting a recall on the ballot does not automatically mean it will be successful. Some anti-tax fanatics did collect enough signatures to get a recall on the ballot for former Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, back in 2008.

Guess what. Voters said no. By the way, the state doesn't pay for a recall election. Every already-cash-strapped city and county and township has to bear the costs in their area.

(You don't have to take my word for any of this; look online, or call the Michigan Secretary of State elections division: 517-373-2540.)

Last week, after I said here and elsewhere that I was opposed to a recall, I was savagely attacked by a number of people, including one Regina Bruner Markowicz of Macomb County, who wrote to me that "your thinking is no longer impartial ... you are led by opinion rather than facts. You will soon become irrelevant ... our family cast its vote, and it is anti-Jack Lessenberry. You are not (any) longer our friend."

Well, hey, my dog Ashley still likes me, at least when he wants to play ball. However, I have just presented a whole lot of facts above.

But at the risk of being hated even more by the Family Markowicz, I would still be opposed to a recall even if I thought one could be achieved. (Full disclosure: I did not vote for Rick Snyder.)

I strongly oppose his cuts to education at all levels — though there are a lot of good proposals in his education policy itself.

I think ending the Earned Income Tax Credit (or EITC) for the working poor is not only socially and morally terrible, it is foolish, and will cost us all more in the long run. I also think ending tax credits for the film industry is a mistake.

Yet the voters of the state of Michigan elected Snyder by a landslide. During the campaign he said he was against the film tax credit and said he would give big tax breaks to business. He also said he was against raising the income tax to compensate. Did we really think he was going to balance the budget by finding a platinum mine under the governor's office?

Everyone should have seen this coming. However, there's another huge piece of this that everyone is missing. There is another, easier way to stop these policies. Contrary to popular opinion, Rick Snyder cannot pass laws all by himself. Matter of fact, he can't pass them at all. The Legislature has to approve any laws.

Recalling a legislator is much, much easier. You can get a recall election against just about any state representative by filing 10,000 signatures in their district. Knock off nine Republicans, replace them with Democrats, and Snyder has lost control of one house.

Would that be easy? Not very. But targeting all 20 seats the Repubs took from the Dems last November would be far easier than recalling the governor ... if not as exciting or sexy.

Davy Crockett left us all some good advice: "Be always sure you are right, and then go ahead." Avoiding getting trapped at another Alamo would be a good idea too.

Miracle League:
Now here's a cause anyone ought to be able to support. Nothing is more American than baseball, and the Miracle League of Michigan provides any children with physical and mental challenges the opportunity to play, thanks to a special rubberized, wheelchair-accessible field in Southfield.

Our old colleague "Hammerin' Vic" Doucette tells me they are in urgent need of volunteers and perhaps a few people with wallets to sponsor their teams — and hope to create teams for adults as well.

Find them on the web, e-mail [email protected], or just call him: 248-506-4604.