Sunday, November 14, 2010

With Victory Comes Responsibility

For decades, although voting Democratic for the President and, more often than not, for the governor, Michigan has been a Republican-dominated state. Governor Granholm had a Democratic majority in the State House for only the past two years. Even with that, Senate Republicans stymied any meaningful Democratic initiatives. Assuming there were any....

One of the frustrations of living in Michigan is seeing the dearth of ideas for "fixing" the state's problems. Things started to go south before many of the state's sitting politicians were born, and have been on a serious downward track for decades, but it often seems like there's been no change in state "policy" - wait long enough and things will get better on their own. Yes, Michigan is attempting to subsidize its way into being a new home for TV and movie production, but even if that effort succeeds it will do little for the state's economy as a whole.

Now, with the 2010 election, Michigan has a Republican governor, a Republican House, a Republican Senate with a supermajority, and will have a Republican-dominated state Supreme Court. A friend lamented this state of affairs, and the inevitable gerrymandering that will soon occur to try to cement a Republican advantage into the state's electoral districts. And yes, if you're a Democrat, I can't say there's much to cheer in any of that.

At the same time, victory - and victory of a magnitude that it can really be called ownership - carries responsibility. I know that many Congressional Republicans hope to shirk that responsibility, sabotaging the Senate and the White House such that the government seems ineffective and they can gain additional power in the next election. But Michigan's Republican Party has no scapegoats, and is pretty close to maximum power. If it does not deliver, it is safe to say that it cannot deliver.

If the recession continues, or if Michigan remains in recession while the rest of the nation recovers, it will be perfectly reasonable for voters to hold the state's Republican Party responsible. After all, unless they're going to throw up their hands and admit that they have no solutions to the state's problems, they are implicitly responsible. And if they do make such an admission I'm not sure that it helps them, as it would effectively be an admission of incompetence. That is to say, in two, four, six years... however long it takes... if the Republicans don't deliver something they're likely to experience what G.W. Bush and the Republicans went through during the 2006 and 2008 elections. Gerrymandering may be enough to get some of their seats back if things don't immediately get better (as we just saw, nationally, with Democrats losing most Republican-leaning seats won during the prior two elections) but it won't save a party from a backlash against its ineffectiveness.

My friend asked, "But what if the Republicans succeed?" Um... well, then, no backlash. But I'll take a vibrant state economy over either the ineffective governance of the past decade, and certainly over the type of yo-yo elections that effectively just held the President responsible for his predecessor's incompetence. (Which isn't to say that, particularly in retrospect, there aren't a lot of things the President and the Democrats, particularly a self-serving, party-sabotaging faction in the Senate, couldn't have done differently to potentially avoid or diminish this outcome.) In simple terms, when you control everything there's nobody for voters to blame but you.

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