Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Democrats to Michigan -- buzz off

Tuesday afternoon, as Republican presidential candidates readied for
debate in Dearborn, Michigan, Democratic presidential candidates
withdrew from Michigan's renegade early primary. Edwards, Biden,
Obama, Richardson, Kucinich and Clinton believe in playing by the rules.

Although their interpretations differ slightly in this instance. The
first five will not participate in the primary; Clinton will keep her
name on the ballot. None of them will campaign in the state.

"Americans who play by the rules and work hard deserve health care, a
livable retirement and help sending their children to college." You
bet we do. Dems love to court us with this message. Beware though,
this moralistic "play by the rules" meme has a shadow side – negation
by the party powerful when you break the rules, which are not
negotiable in the realm of primary election procedure. Michigan,
give back the carrot and have a whack from the stick.

On September 4, Governor Granholm, a Democrat, signed Public Act 52
moving Michigan's primary to January 15. Citizens across Michigan's
political spectrum found a shred of hope that their beloved state
might end its free fall toward political, economic and cultural
irrelevance. In the midst of partisan budget gridlock, this was the
among the only bipartisan legislation in months. The bill gave
Legislators and voters a long overdue catharsis. Both parties
celebrated the new date expecting national examination of Michigan's
issues – our issues are America's issues, they said. They were only
half right.

Michigan's issues are America's issues: globalization's savaging of
American workers, soaring foreclosure rates, peak oil, global climate
change, CAFE standards, and a health care crisis to name a few. But
elections are about winning, not issues. Changing the primary date
breaks GOP and DNC rules. Parading through Michigan, the GOP seems
more comfortable functioning in an ethical gray area than Democrats
do. When it comes to elections, the GOP is a lean, mean, win-at-all-
costs machine. Spending time in Michigan, they're being pragmatic.

For now, Michigan citizens – not privy to back room party politics,
primary election procedure arcana, or the raw might of national party
leadership – will see one thing: the GOP showed up and the Dems did not.

Michigan's issues are the nation's issues. Count among them a
thoroughly broken electoral process.