I really like this litany they say sometimes in African-American churches. “Lord, I’m not what I should be. I’m not what I’m gonna be. “But at least I’m not what I was.”
Michigan these days isn’t what it should be, and it isn’t what it was. But it hasn’t been getting better, not for quite some time. That’s bad. What’s worse is that our leaders really haven’t been talking to each other; they’ve been spouting rhetoric at each other.
Phil Power is hoping that his “think-and-do tank" called the Center for Michigan can do something about that.
Here is where he’s coming from. For almost thirty years, from his young manhood to middle age, we had three governors who were generally responsible, moderate and high-minded. Those men – George Romney, Bill Milliken and Jim Blanchard tried to govern from the reasonable center, and put together coalitions of supporters that sometimes changed from issue to issue. They weren’t blinded by dogmas. They all had faults and made mistakes. But they also had guts. They were willing to take chances and make hard decisions and put their careers on the line.
Today, when I look at our state’s elected officials, I am mostly reminded of William Butler Yeats’ famous line. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.”
Meanwhile, the state is drifting downhill. Phil Power loves his native Michigan. For years, he’s been trying to help protect this state’s environment. Last year he sold his newspapers, and now has the time and ability to try to do something for his state’s political environment. He wants to wake up the intelligent, sane, and sensible people of this state, and make them mad enough to come together behind some reasonable proposals, and force their elected leaders to fix things.
Something like this has happened in Michigan before, notably in 1961, when a citizens’ movement resulted in a state constitutional convention. People can come together to get some one thing done.
Hopefully, the Center for Michigan can have as much of an impact. What will be trickier is to see if it can have a positive impact over the longer haul. The hardest part may not be identifying solutions for our state’s common problems. It may be in getting the sanest among us to defend common-sense solutions with our own passionate intensity.