We’ll decide whether to have a constitutional convention, whether felons should be presented from holding office after they complete their terms, and decide a whole range of other offices. We’ll do all that Tuesday -- which is to say, a minority of us will. Unless Michigan defies a long-standing historical trend, fewer than half the eligible voters will vote in this election.
Looked at one way, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. We are facing a crisis of historic magnitude. The new governor and legislature will face a deficit approaching two billion dollars with no more stimulus money and absolutely no fat left in the state budget.
They can either raise taxes, which for today’s Republican Party pretty much amounts to a sacrilege, or they can slash funding to essential services, including higher education.
Everyone in either party who is well-informed knows that Michigan’s only hope is vastly increasing the education level of our workforce. Nobody can make decent living anymore with just a high school degree, and having a bachelor’s degree without a particular skill set isn’t worth much today either.
We’ve lost nearly a million jobs in this state, and kids are emerging into the bleakest job market since the Great Depression.
So, you’d think there would be great interest in this election, and in what competing solutions the candidates for governor were proposing to make life better for us all.
But the candidates, especially front-runner Rick Snyder, have gotten away with really not saying very much. We know that Snyder would replace the Michigan Business Tax with another tax that would add to the state’s deficit, at least in the short run.
We know that Virg Bernero is against outsourcing jobs to China, and that he’d start some form of state bank. But I haven’t much of a clue how either man would deal with the deficit.
They’ve been ducking questions, and the press has let them get away with it. Political coverage this year has been reduced to analyzing the campaign commercials, which range between totally false and largely irrelevant, and something even worse:
Obsession with the polls. Who is going to win? Is it too late for to close the gap? Whose negatives are up? Journalists who should be offering intelligent policy analysis instead sound like a bunch of characters around the betting window at a race track.
And what may be most disturbing is that the public doesn’t seem engaged either. To some extent, that’s surely because of the intellectual emptiness of this campaign.
But I’m afraid it is also because people have lost faith in the ability of politics and government to make a real difference in our lives. The men and women in Ann Arbor who half a century ago urged John F. Kennedy to start the Peace Corps were different.
They believed Kennedy when he said “one person can make a difference, and every person should try.” I’d feel a whole lot better if any of this year’s candidates made us feel that way too.