Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Don't Blink, Michigan Primary Offers Teachable Moment

Originally published January 2, 2008 at Michigan Messenger

As New Hampshire and Iowa race toward their early presidential contests, we in Michigan should brace for the national attention coming our way. Our presidential primary is less than two weeks away. Very soon, eyes will turn briefly toward Michigan. The state's primary election has been tainted by the withdrawal of Democratic candidates from the ballot and the punitive loss of delegates by both national parties. Our one remaining hope is a teachable moment for the next president.

This could be Michigan's poignant testimony in the spotlight -- a wrenching and heartfelt revelation of our truth. Our economic pain, receding manufacturing prowess and endangered middle class might enlighten the nation. Our struggle to transform a heavy manufacturing culture into a knowledge economy requires the magic that turns water into wine. Can we get a witness?

Michigan was the arsenal of democracy, the car capital of the world, the champion of workers' rights and a humane standard of living. Look now at the obsolete workers sloughed off as the Big Three slink away into emerging markets abroad. Look at the foreclosed homes, their prices collapsing after deregulation turned mortgages into poker chips. See the ranks of the poor, hungry and homeless grow.

Look into the mirror and see your country slip from greatness and goodness into a cold, new gilded age of anonymous private equity and private armies. Global corporations hopscotch the continents with holding companies to shield the powerful from responsibility toward fellow human beings. Local governments are at worst an annoyance, at best a handmaiden -- tolerated or usurped.

Michigan's primary election will come and go, but her economic trials will continue. Will the next president notice Michigan on the way to the White House? Can he or she afford not to?