If Michigan’s Republican Party didn’t exist, someone would have had to invent it as a perfect example of what Democrats lost when young people didn’t show up to the polls in 2010.
As a candidate, Rick Snyder defeated former congressman Pete Hoekstra and a handful of others in the GOP primary by posing as a nerdish alternative to the Tea Party fervor that was sweeping the nation. He then easily defeated his Democratic opponent and came into office with big majorities in the state House and Senate, who gladly cut taxes for businesses and raised taxes on pensioners while cutting spending on education.
Michigan — still in shock from the financial crisis and unsure if the auto rescue could work — mostly let Snyder go about his business, until they began to understand the scope of his new Emergency Manager Law, which ripped power away from local authorities and gave unelected bureaucrats the power to abrogate contracts and sell city property.
A “Recall Snyder” movement began, but without support from the state Democratic Party, it never put together enough signatures. The effort fizzled when the recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker failed.
In 2012, Snyder seemed to be veering toward moderation by rejecting a voter suppression law similar to one passed in Florida. The governor endorsed Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but never became a surrogate for the candidate. He mostly sat on the sidelines as the son of a former Republican Michigan governor who was born in the state lost Michigan by 9.5 percent. Michigan’s GOP lost five seats in the House and would have lost more if not for gerrymandering.
Also on the ballot were two measures that seemed to have infuriated the governor.
One would end the state’s Emergency Manager Law and the other would put collective bargaining in the state Constitution in a way that would have prevented the state from ever going “right to work.” Voters chose to end the Emergency Manager Law and not to protect collective bargaining.
In his press conference Tuesday, Snyder repeatedly insisted that the collective bargaining amendment was “divisive” and responsible for pushing the GOP to pass “right to work” legislation. It’s a convenient excuse. He’s suggesting that unions tested their power and lost. This sparked a backlash.
That might make sense if Michigan’s GOP weren’t also pursuing a laundry list of some of the most extreme legislation in the country, laws that would give tax credits for fetuses, let people carry concealed weapons in schools and — of course — fight Sharia Law.
Clearly, with a much less right-wing legislature set to be seated in 2013, state Republicans have decided that now is the time to reward their extreme backers — like the Koch Brothers and Amway founder Rich DeVos — who do business in the state under the cloak of groups like Freedom to Work, the Mackinac Institute, and Americans for Prosperity.