Last month, Michigan voters overwhelmingly chose to legalize the use of medical marijuana. But there’s a catch… The law, which goes into effect today, doesn’t provide a way for patients to legally obtain the drug. James McCurtis is a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Community Health. Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry spoke with him.
Here’s something important to remember about this election. Barack Obama accomplished something in Michigan last night that Al Gore, John Kerry and even Bill Clinton failed to do.
Obama won the white vote. That’s right. Overall, more white people in this state voted for him than voted for John McCain. That was the first time any Democrat has done that since 1964.
Nationally, nearly two-thirds of those who voted for Obama were white, not black or Hispanic. Yes, he got record-breaking numbers and percentages of African-American voters.
But there aren’t nearly enough black people in this country to come close to electing a president. Early analysis of the results showed that for most people, this wasn’t about race at all.
It was about the economy, yes, and unhappiness with the current president. Yet it was about something more. People wanted a new direction. People were tired of the negativity and the nastiness that have characterized politics in this country for far too long.
The voted their hopes, rather than their fears. The day before the election, I watched an hour of television while doing laundry, and I saw a torrent of nasty commercials attacking Obama.
In the time it took me to fold my clothes, I learned that he was dangerously unqualified, had suspicious connections, that nobody knew who he really was, and that he was in favor of killing babies.
In the past, commercials like that have tended to keep people home. But all that backfired this year. Obama got far more votes, both in Michigan and nationally, than anyone in American history.
Similarly, there was a torrent of advertising directed at stopping embryonic stem cell research, ads that were designed to evoke fear and which were widely criticized as being false and misleading.
But they didn’t work either – the voters of Michigan approved embryonic stem cell research anyway, by a solid margin. They voted to try to have a future. And that is perhaps the most encouraging news of all.
We are facing scary and difficult economic times in this nation, and perhaps even more so in this state. There is no guarantee that any of the big three will survive. The effect the demise of any of them would have on Michigan’s already battered economy is hard to overstate.
The voters seem to understand that.
They know we need a new direction. They impatiently rejected a silly demand to recall Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon. They ousted a sitting Supreme Court justice who everyone said couldn’t be beaten. They voted to take a chance that new people could do a better job, and possibly lead our state and nation out of the mess we are in.
There are bound to be those who say Michigan’s best days are behind us and that there is no way we can revive our economy.
You are bound to hear that. And when you do, you might want to think of a skinny black guy who decided to go into politics with a ridiculous name and a very short and simple slogan. Yes we can.
As many pundits and political insiders expected Barack Obama won the presidency. However, here in Michigan, there were some surprising election results that came in last night. To help sort out all of the unexpected news Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry caught up with Chris Christoff. He is the Lansing Bureau Chief for the Detroit Free Press.
(We have been experience technical difficulties with this audio's playback. We hope to have this corrected soon.)
As I say these words to you, the highest and most sacred rite of democracy is taking place. An overwhelming and secret transfer of power. Thousands of Americans will vote in the few minutes it takes me to share these thoughts with you. By nightfall, something like one hundred and thirty million Americans will have chosen the next leader of the most powerful and perhaps most challenged country in history.
Theodore H. White captured the magic and the meaning of this day best, in his prose poem to democracy, The Making of the President, 1960. “It was invisible, as always,” he began.
“They had begun to vote in the villages of New Hampshire at midnight, as they always do, and all of this was invisible.
“For it is the essence of the act that as it happens it is a mystery in which millions of people each fit one fragment of a total secret together, none of them knowing the shape of the whole.
“What results from the fitting together of these secrets is, of course, the most awesome transfer of power in the world … all committed into the hands of one man.”
When Teddy White wrote those words, a white teenager in Hawaii had just gotten pregnant by her boyfriend, an exchange student from Africa. If the polls are right, the baby she would have that summer will be elected president today.
Forty years ago, when that little boy was going to grade school in Indonesia, a young man was being brutally tortured in a hellish prison. His limbs broken, his teeth knocked out, his head ducked in buckets of sewage. His fellow prisoners didn’t think he would survive.
But he did, and if the polls are wrong, he too may be elected president today. By the way, while we may think we know who is going to win, we really don’t. Our experts have gotten it wrong before, as Presidents Tom Dewey, Alf Landon, and Al Gore can tell you.
I know something about politics; I’ve been writing about them for thirty years, and have met five presidents. Thanks to all my expertise and insight, I was able to explain a year ago that only one thing was certain. The Democrats would never, in this year when they had a real chance to take back power, nominate a black man.
Much less a first term senator who had a name that sounded like that of a terrorist. Nominate a guy whose middle name is Hussain? Well, guess what. However it turns out, that man will get more than sixty million votes today.
Tomorrow, either John McCain or Barack Obama will go back to an important job in the U.S. Senate. And the other will face a national economic crisis that, for Michigan, may be the worst in our history.
As a state and a nation, we have one hell of a task ahead. For once, whoever wins, we really need to come together, and try our best to help the next President live up to the job.
Election Day is finally here. But, there are still a few unanswered questions, besides knowing who will win. Will the young voters we have heard so much about actually show up to vote today? Are the millions of early voters changing the landscape? Will there be a hidden factor we didn’t foresee? Vincent Hutchings is a University of Michigan political science professor. He recently published the book, Public Opinion and Democratic Accountability; How Citizens Learn About Politics. Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry spoke with him.
When it comes to voting, I have a profound disagreement with the Democrats. Party officials thought it was awful when the law was changed last year to require voters to show photo ID.
They think that’s outrageous. I think it is a reasonable requirement. Today, you need a photo ID to do just about anything, from renting a bike on Mackinac Island to buying groceries, as I did yesterday. So why shouldn’t I have to show it when I vote? In fact,
I don’t even have to show it, as long as I am willing to sign an affidavit affirming that I am who I say I am.
Now, I don’t remember the official reason the Democrats said they were against voter ID, but I know the real reason.
They think that requirement will tend to cause voters who are poorly educated, economically challenged, and who perhaps have had legal troubles, to avoid showing up.
These folks are often members of minority groups. They vote Democratic when they do turn out. But they tend to be wary of the system.
What the Democrats should do is spend time educating these folks. Help them get a state ID card, free, and explain that nobody can arrest them, no matter what, if they show up to vote.
However, Republicans have their own hypocrisy to deal with. While Democrats tend to want as high a voter turnout as possible, many Michigan Republicans want just the opposite.
They like the idea of doing what they can to prevent the people least inclined to vote for them from voting at all. That includes college students. Last month, in a nice little display of democracy, 66 of Michigan’s 83 county clerks deputized each other.
That was so they could help Michigan college students away from home qualify for an absentee ballot by presenting themselves in person at any county clerk‘s office.
Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, herself a Republican, said this was a fine idea.
But Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop did not. He claimed this was a clear violation of election law, and appealed to his fellow Republican, Attorney General Mike Cox.
Interestingly, Cox did not issue a formal opinion - possibly because he feared it wouldn‘t stand up in court. Instead he sent an advisory letter saying he didn’t think this practice was legal. The Saginaw County clerk said she intended to keep doing it anyway.
My guess is that Cox and Bishop aren’t really worried about voter fraud. They just know most college students aren’t voting Republican this year. Some of this, by the way, has to do with the fact that there is no love lost between the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. They may be running against each other for governor two years from now.
There’s something deeply unAmerican about vote fraud. But we should also do everything we can to make it easy for anybody who is eligible to vote to do so. That’s as American, in my book, as apple pie, marching band, and negative campaign commercials.
Tomorrow is Election day, and all indications are that there will be a record turnout. But, what if you have trouble at the polls? What if you forget your ID? And what if you found out this morning you have to go to Cleveland tonight for an all-day meeting? Chris Thomas knows the answers… he is Michigan’s director of elections. Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry spoke with him.
Last night I gave a lecture about the election and Michigan’s future at the public library in Novi. I wore a political button while I spoke, one my best friend gave me. But it doesn’t have anything to do with this year’s voting -- or maybe it does.
By today’s standards, it is a little odd. It shows a small face peeping out of a sunflower. The candidate was Alf Landon, governor of the Sunflower State of Kansas. He was a Republican, and at this point in the presidential campaign of 1936, was leading in the polls.
Leading by far more than Barack Obama is currently leading John McCain. On election day, Landon easily won Maine and Vermont. And that was all. He lost every other state in the union.
His defeat remains the biggest blowout in modern Electoral College history. Later, the pollsters of the day scratched their heads. How could they have been so wrong? The answer had to do with their methodology. They conducted their polls by using the telephone directory. Indeed, most people who had private telephones then did vote Republican. But this was during the Great Depression. The people who the pollsters couldn’t reach were overwhelmingly in favor of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even in the Sunflower state.
I wore that button to remind the audience -- and myself -- that you never can tell. Indeed, one pollster told me he thought the polls could be wrong this year. And wrong, once again, because of people with telephones. Many of these surveys don’t include people who, like all the thirty-year-olds I know, only have cell phones.
Young voters with cell phones seem to be overwhelmingly for Obama. If they actually vote, this may be a very one-sided race indeed. However, there are many more races on the ballot than the presidential one. What mystifies me is how most voters make up their minds in some of these contests. How does your average person know which candidate for probate judge is best?
I can tell you how most voters will make up their mind in the race for justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, where the EPIC-MRA polls shows a dead heat between Diane Hathaway and Cliff Taylor.
They will likely vote for Taylor, because it says right on the ballot that he is already a supreme court justice. That’s why incumbent judges almost never lose. After all, we’ve all grown up watching TV commercials, and the first thing a patriotic young kid learns is that you are never supposed to select Brand X.
But I can also tell you that on Tuesday night, somewhere, in some race, the pollsters will be proven dead wrong.
And whomever loses might think of this. Old Alf Landon didn’t get bitter when he lost. He went back to Kansas, lived a long and happy life and got to see his daughter elected to the United States Senate.
When he died, he was a hundred years old. In the end, the final victory may be all about living well.
Views expressed in the essay by Jack Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily
reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University
Yesterday, the Lansing polling firm EPIC M-R-A released its latest state polling data. And, some of the numbers may be surprising… Bernie Porn is President of EPIC M-R-A. Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry spoke with him about where many of the races stand.
What do Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney have in common? Apart, that is, from the fact that you probably have never heard of two or more of them.
They are all presidential candidates who have managed to qualify for the ballot in Michigan. They represent the U.S. Taxpayers Party, the Libertarian Party, the Natural Law Party and the Greens.
They all have something in common. They are all going to lose, and lose very badly, if the polls and historical trends are accurate. Thanks to the excitement over the major party candidates this year, I would be surprised if any of them got even one percent of the vote.
Their ideologies are very different. Chuck Baldwin thinks John McCain is too far left, and Cynthia McKinney thinks Barack Obama is too far to the right. However, the third parties do agree they are not getting a fair shake from the system.
I know this in part because my excellent assistant, Colleen Castle, discovered something called the Michigan Third Parties Coalition Website, where all these parties are attempting to make common cause in the interest of fairness.
Here’s an excerpt from their manifesto, all of it true:
Under the present Michigan election law, it is impossible for a new party to nominate any candidates for the ballot without spending tens of thousands of dollars on a statewide ballot access drive – an often impossible task for third parties (without) corporate financial backing … Minor parties that have been able to qualify for ballot access in Michigan are threatened each election with the possibility of losing (it). At the same time, the plurality voting system used in all Michigan elections leads voters to feel compelled to vote for one of the major party candidates … or else “waste” their vote.
What third parties would really like is something called “IRV,” for Instant Runoff Voting. That’s a system under which you would cast two votes, for your first and second choices.
If your first choice finishes out of the money, your vote would go to your second choice. Had this option been available nationally in 2000, two things would have happened.
Ralph Nader would have gotten more first-round votes than the two and half percent he in fact achieved, and the presidential election would have been won by Al Gore.
Naturally, Republicans wouldn’t have liked that idea at all -- any more than Democrats would have in 1992, when it might have reelected George Bush the First. Someday, I think it is conceivable that a third-party candidate could be elected president.
Theodore Roosevelt made a good run at it in 1912, finishing a strong second and carrying Michigan, among other states. But if a third-party candidate ever does win, he or she will almost certainly have to make common cause with one of the major parties.
Otherwise, they would never get anything through Congress. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, our two-party system of democracy is the worst there is. Except, that is, for all the others that have been tried.