While looking for something nice (Fun!) to read, I came upon Ramona Grigg’s article, When the Cameras Leave Flint, Michigan Will Still Be Michigan. It’s a very good article — you should go read the whole thing. She takes us back to the first days of Rick Snyder’s administration. She’s right that Rachel Maddow was all over the story of Michigan’s “emergency manager” law that was basically being used to destroy local democracy in Michigan. I remember those segments because they reminded me of the old 60 Minutes, where stories actually had an effect. In this case, not so much.
In fact, as Ramona noted, in 2014, Snyder won re-election “handily” — by over 4 percentage points. I remember wondering how that could be. But then I remembered that Hitler would have won in a landslide in 1938 if he had had to run for election. As long as you are screwing over a small percentage of the people, and the economy is good: you are golden. The fact that turnout was even lower in 2014 than it was in 2010, didn’t help. And maybe it’s good to remember that in 2010, he won by over 18 percentage point. It was a small amount of progress.
The fundamental issue here is that democracy wasn’t curtailed in Michigan (or most of the other states where Republicans have control) by accident. The people of Flint were not poisoned by accident. I discussed this the other day, What Conservatism Means to the Republican Base. In it, I used Marco Rubio’s statement that no one wanted to poison the people of Flint. No one is saying they did. It’s like when I’m walking down the road: I step on and kill countless insects. I don’t want to kill them. It’s not my intent to kill them. But their deaths don’t mean anything to me compared to my goal of walking to wherever I’m walking.
That’s the Republican Party. It doesn’t want to hurt the poor (although I would say a good deal of its voting base does and the party uses this fact for political advantage). It just doesn’t care. Getting tax breaks for the rich, gutting regulations to make the rich richer, destroying unions to make the party stronger and the rich richer: these are the things the Republican Party cares about. If it means countless lives are destroyed because of lead poisoning, so what?! It only became a problem to the party when it became a political problem. It is as if the local paper started writing stories, “Frank Moraes Thoughtlessly Kills Insects on Walks.” That might just turn me into a Jain — at least in public.
But what I don’t understand is why this goes on. I don’t mean, “Why was Rick Snyder re-elected?” I don’t understand why he was elected in the first place. How did the people of Michigan think that he was going to do anything but what he did? It’s kind of like the Bill Clinton sex scandal. In that case, I think most people didn’t care because they knew when they voted for him, he was the kind of guy who would have a sex scandal. (Also: what a pathetic sex scandal!) So why is there any surprise when a Republican acts in a way that shows complete callousness toward everyone but their rich buddies?
Ramona is right: Michigan will remain. And the residents of the state will continue to be abused as long as they vote for Republicans. It’s an unfortunate side effect of democracy. In 2010, roughly 40% of the voters did not vote to have Flint’s water poisoned. But 60% did. Rick Snyder didn’t pull a bait and switch. And even if he had: he’s a Republican. He won’t necessarily poison your water, but it certainly wasn’t on his “Do Not Do” list. But raising taxes sure was. And that’s true all over America. I’ll quote Rashomon, “I just don’t understand.”