Sunday, October 21, 2007

Recall efforts in context

Are recalls genuine grassroots activity among voters to express dissatisfaction with elected officials? Or are they a political strategy to distract, confuse and complicate the political landscape as the 2008 presidential primary draws near? Or could they be a blend of both?

Michigan Taxpayers Alliance threatened to initiate recalls against any legislator voting to increase taxes as part of the state's budget resolution. Immediately upon completion of the continuation budget process, the group named Democrats and Republicans whom they would target for recall. MTA has been consistent in its threat, but not consistent in its follow-through.

A relatively new website, targets Republicans and Democrats who supported the revenue portion of September's budget agreement. But the website doesn't threaten recall of all who voted in favor of the revenues. If these really were principled efforts, wouldn't they target all who voted to increase taxes? Doesn't their "no compromise" position on taxes require consistency in applying their sole criterion for recalling elected officials? In fact, they can only proceed in districts where voters can be persuaded to participate in this destructive activity.

The movement to recall legislators, while thoroughly distracting, doesn't represent the actual sentiment of a majority of Michigan citizens. In fact, numerous Republicans and Democrats have gone on record criticizing the effort as destructive to the well-being of our state now and in the future.

Here is a sampling of the conversation against recall efforts:
Phil Power wrote:

"Recalls result in loss of local control to fringe groups supported by lots of out-of-state money. Why is it that Leon Drolet, a former state representative from Macomb County, should have the power to pick legislators from all over the state?

Do voters in Warren (Steve Bieda), or Redford Township (Andy Dillon), or Northville (Marc Corriveau), or the Grosse Pointes (Ed Gaffney), or Muskegon (Mary Valentine), Norton Shores (Gerald Van Woerkom), or Brighton (Chris Ward), or Howell (Valde Garcia) or Holland (Wayne Kuipers) want to sign their rights over to Drolet?

All these folks picked their own representatives last November, and I see no reason why the choices of the Leon Drolets of the world should be more important than theirs were last November."

A Detroit Free Press Editorial from October 7:

"So recalls can have an impact. But first, they ought to have a legitimate basis.

Casting an unpopular, but fundamentally necessary and correct vote, is not. Letting recall backers set the tone for Michigan politics in the still-critical weeks ahead will be counterproductive and just plain wrong."

A Grand Haven Tribune Editorial from October 16:

"With the need to get the state in financial order, recall elections are the last thing this state needs.

Lawmakers shouldn't be punished for being willing to make courageous decisions.

In fact, the 10 legislators who are being targeted should be applauded for their willingness to support decisions that they feel will serve in the state's best interest.

We only hope that our governor and the rest of the Legislature show some courage in getting Michigan back on track."

What is behind the efforts to recall legislators? Divide and conquer. Grover Norquist, who lends his name to the MTA board, managed to make his way to the GOP Mackinac leadership weekend in September to urge our state GOP to re-brand as an anti-tax party. Apparently, they really didn't need much encouragement to move that direction, seeing as how the votes around revenues were cast nearly exclusively down party lines. And this isn't really very creative as political strategy. It is, however, time-tested and consultant approved. And in the absence of a really strong, vibrant state Democratic party, it might have legs.

Make no mistake, Michigan's misfortune and internal conflict are seen as opportunity by those who would further divide us for political gain. The recall effort is not fundamentally homegrown, grassroots activism. True, there are some participants who have been fighting taxes in Michigan for decades. But their passion is being cynically tapped by outsiders with other political objectives.

We who actually live and work and seek our happiness in Michigan need to take responsibility for our future and resist forces that would seek further to divide our house at the moment we most need to come together.