Everybody, especially the so-called chattering classes of the media, knew that this election was already decided. The Democratic nominee was a little man who got the prize by accident.
The Republican was much better educated, far richer, and more accomplished in the “real world.” Democrats had been in power for a relatively long time, and times weren’t good.
So it was clearly time for a change. True, the Democrat was a plucky little fighter. He pitched his campaign at poor, working and middle class voters. Said he wanted to give them better lives --even if it cost the rich more in terms of taxes than now.
But the talking heads dismissed this as tasteless demagoguery. The Republican knew he had the election won, that the only way he could blow it was by making a mistake. So he mainly talked in vague generalities, and said he was against waste, fraud and abuse.
Now, you may think everything I’ve just said was about the governor’s race between Virg Bernero and Rick Snyder. And everything fits. But actually, I was thinking of the long-ago presidential race between Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey.
Everybody was so certain the Republican was going to win that newspapers set their headlines in type. The Detroit Free Press called on Truman to resign the day after the election so that Dewey could take office early. But guess what:
Truman won the election easily, in the greatest upset in American political history. Turned out people liked him, and didn’t confess to the pollsters their sneaking sympathy for the underdog.
Now I am not predicting that will happen here. History seldom repeats itself, and things are very different in this election. Nor am I any kind of Bernero partisan. In fact I have been exasperated by his endless and largely irrelevant China-bashing. He has also improperly tried to make abortion an issue, when there is no evidence Snyder would do anything to try to change abortion policy.
But by any measure, Bernero, who has been running for various offices for what seems like forever, clearly won this debate. Whether you agree with him or not, he presented a more specific picture about what he would try to do as governor.
The reporters asking questions were, I thought, harder on Bernero than on Snyder. Nobody asked the Republican candidate, a venture capitalist and former Gateway computer executive, how he expected to execute the complex task of governing when he has never served a day in government at any level.
Instead, he was asked if he could be “tough,” whatever that means. Mostly, Snyder spouted talking points, saying things like “we need an attitude of action,“ and referring viewers to his ten-point plan on his website, which itself is short on specifics.
The Lansing mayor also made what I thought was the night’s best and most thoughtful statement, when he said “we can’t afford to be ideologically biased. If (something) is working, we keep it.
“If not, we throw it out.” We could do with a shot of pragmatism in these troubled times. Now, we need to push both candidates to tell us honestly how they would close next year’s vast budget deficit.
Good luck with that.