Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Michigan's primary pain

Our embarrassing primary saga appears resolved. The Michigan Democratic Party voted to endorse the January 15 primary as their method for choosing a presidential nominee. The state Republican Party continues to stand by the primary. Indeed, it was the Republican Supreme Court that overturned lower court rulings that would have stopped the election. And early this week it was the GOP controlled Senate that declined to act on legislation that could have restored Democratic front runners to the ballot.

This resolution would feel like a relief, if it weren't so disappointing. The process recapitulates the dysfunction we witnessed around the state budget crisis in September and October. Once again, after weeks of partisanship between an unfocused Democratic Party and an oppositional GOP we have an unremarkable result.

Posturing, grand standing, and intra-party bickering have created a primary that looks just as it did weeks ago: Senator Hillary Clinton will be the only democratic front runner on the ballot and the GOP field will be complete.

The early primary was to highlight Michigan's issues nationally and bring economic activity to Michigan. The only attention it has brought was from New Hampshire election officials waiting to determine their date -- their state law requires their primary be the first in the nation. Once Michigan's Supreme Court ruled, New Hampshire moved swiftly to set their date and national attention immediately moved back to candidate activity in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Michigan, take a number and get in line. Or was that get in line and take a number? The Democratic party seems to have less tolerance for bending rules than the GOP. After all, GOP candidates have not shot themselves or their party in the foot on principle to demonstrate conformity to party rules.

And what of Michigan's issues? The early primary was to bring national attention to Michigan's sorry economic state. Michigan is an intense example of the devastation wrought by financialization and globalization. Metro Detroit recently topped the nation for crime and has one of the highest residential foreclosure rates. The state leads the nation in unemployment. Job losses will continue through 2008. State finances are still not truly sound. But why should any presidential candidate care? Can any of them bring good news to Michigan?

Don't hold your breath. The presidential campaign is about one thing -- winning. Making things better for Michigan? That's Michigan's problem.