Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

Pouring on the Happy Juice

Nick, over at RightMichigan has his share of optimism, especially when it comes to the 75th State House District (Robert Dean):

This traditionally Republican seat is located entirely inside the city of Grand Rapids but has a growing urban population that’s trended it blue the last several cycles. Still, the political pros consider it a Lean-GOP district with a Republican base somewhere in the neighborhood of 54 percent.

Well that’s one view. The reality is that it has not been the total vote that has leaned D, but the base vote, as the results show:

Year R Share D Share D-Split


2006 37.5 45.0 54.3


2004 39.3 42.8 52.1


2002 45.6 36.4 44.4


2000 43.0 38.9 47.5

Not even close to the 54 percent base Nick relies on. Even if we throw out 2006 as an anomaly, the growth in the presidential years is unmistakable. The only (unlikely) hope is that the Obama vote does not vote down ticket – a slim possibility at this point.

Other changes in the city suggest that this shift to the D column is no fluke. While there continue to be plenty of middle class folks in the district, and some who do quite well, there are simply fewer of them. The shrinking Christian and Catholic schools both testify to this subtle shift. There are simply not enough anymore. The old stronghold of the 80s and 90s is no more.

And in comparison to the earlier years — the years of Kooiman, Byl, and Bandstra — the choice of issues certainly seems odd.

Tietema has chosen to run on an anti-tax stance.

Dan understands that raising taxes kills jobs and would have voted NO on the $1.5 billion in new taxes Robert Dean helped approve last fall.

More than that, Dan is on record calling for the abolition of the Michigan Business Tax and is a vocal supporter of the Michigan Fair Tax.

Now while there are places in Michigan that believe this — Allegan comes to mind — this is not necessarily the creed in the neighborhood. And it certainly is more radical than the path pioneered by the sainted Ronnie. When reality imposed itself, he opted to raise taxes. No, this is the kool aid territory of the True Believers, a far distance from the the covenantal conservatism of the Dutch (they’re every bit as fiscally conservative, but allot a wider role to governmental services.)

This insistence on framing the issue on tax-terms misses the one issue that unites the district: education. It takes different forms by neighborhoods, but go through the east side and you’ll find education is at the top of the list.

  • On the SE side, we still have the strong Christian School contingent, often making significant personal sacrifices to advance their children.
  • Also on the SE side are the African American neighborhoods who believe every bit as powerfully in the schools. They have been a reliable voice for improvement in GRPS.
  • And in the north end, we have the middle class communities that most reliably participate in GRPS. Go to the specialty schools and start looking at the zip codes: 49503, 49505 — the north end — dominate.

On all this Tietema is remarkably quiet. The anti-tax happy juice has left him blind.


Filed under: Elections, ,

One Response

  1. Peter Bratt says:

    Good post Bill. I’ve linked a map that I made for WMR this weekend with the 75th 2006 baselines.

    While these figures can’t alone guide campaign strategy, it does raise some interesting problems for a Tietema candidacy. First, as any person who studies the 75th for a while knows, there are some long-standing “core” neighborhoods within it’s boundaries: The African American core, the pre-1945 Dutch neighborhoods (that are quickly disappearing), the post-1945 Dutch neighborhoods east of Plymouth and Kalamazoo, the Catholic north-side (which is a unique mix of social conservatives with economic populists.

    Secondly, as you said in your post, this district has a long-tradition of neo-progressive GOP thinking over the past sixty years, and has never been a hotbed of anti-tax feeling. Tietema should have watched the miserable failure of the recall efforts this past year that showed the true limits of an anti-tax base within the city. This isn’t Cascade-its the east side of GR.

    I’m not privilege to Tietema’s campaign strategy, I do know that his campaign efforts are better suited to a low-density district that requires little ground game efforts. As Right Michigan mentioned in a later post, his campaign made 700 calls-which sounds great, until you realize that they called less than 1 precinct from the shelter of their GOP sandbox in Jenison. Campaigns are won hitting the pavement, and while Tietema is doing so with the GOP base, there just isn’t enough of them to guarantee a victory. Nothing from his campaign activities suggest that he is reaching out to the independents of this district.

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