What happened yesterday was the largest midterm political earthquake in this state and nation since 1946. Republicans made massive gains almost everywhere, especially perhaps in the Midwest.
In Michigan, voters decisively indicated they’ve had enough and wanted something new. Now, they are going to get it. Republicans easily won every statewide race on the ballot.
They have a solid majority in the Michigan House and a super-majority in the state senate. Most people thought this would be a big victory for Rick Snyder, and that some Republicans might be swept in on his coattails. In fact, while Snyder led the ticket, it was a top-to-bottom GOP triumph, or at least a vote against the Democrats.
Turnout was somewhat lower than expected, though it is too early to say who the no-shows were. And Snyder in fact did slightly less well than John Engler did in his last two landslide elections.
But his party performed better at every level than it had when former Governor Engler was running.
Consequently, Republicans will have more of a free hand in running Michigan government than at any time since the Great Depression. That is, if they stay united. Thanks to the GOP’s new super-majority in the state senate, Democrats won’t even be able to prevent any bill from taking immediate effect.
Republicans have complete power in Lansing. But with that power comes responsibility. Rick Snyder and the new legislature are going to face huge problems when they take office in January. They are looking at an enormous budget deficit for next year, with absolutely no chance of any more stimulus money to fill the gap.
Hard choices are coming. Either the state has to raise new revenue or make what amounts to unimaginable cuts to education, services of all kinds, and the prison system.
This time, on the state level at any rate, Republicans will be unable to blame Democrats if they make a mess of things or have difficulty balancing the budget or satisfying the voters.
Yet the voters also indicated that this is also not the time for any more partisan finger-pointing games. Last night, former Gov. Jim Blanchard told me that as a practical matter, regardless of the size of his majority, Governor-elect Snyder will need help from some moderate Democrats. Joe Schwarz, a former GOP congressman and state senator told me the same thing earlier in the day.
And in fact, every resident of Michigan should wish Rick Snyder all the success in the world. Our state is in poor shape. Unemployment is thirteen percent. We’ve lost nearly a million jobs over the last decade. Even if all the domestic auto companies survive long-term, they never again will provide high-paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of unskilled and uneducated workers.
The state needs a new economic model. State government has been at least as dysfunctional, with a flawed budget process that is guaranteed to throw up a sizable deficit, every year.
Those are things that our newly elected leaders need to address almost immediately. We just had an election, after years in which Michigan has been sailing through a terrible storm.
We all need to hope that the crew we just elected can get us to calmer and happier seas.