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

Mapping the Future

MI76 : Gov 14 map This is a map that will drive many crazy in the GOP. As the red dots indicate, Gov. Snyder won decisively in the 76th District. Eleven precincts gave him at least a 20 point margin (and some came close to a full 40; a 70-30 split). The places where the party dominated on the SE side, the NE fringe (with the Riverside neighborhood tossed in) demonstrate why the district has the shape that it does. They were supposed to win in the off year, except, they didn’t. The gerrymander failed.

For party strategists, this map represents a what-if, a secret nudge of hope. But that partisan reading may miss the message. Take a look at the results for Winnie Brink.

MI76 14 mapPrecincts that were in the GOP column are now in her’s and what is more, they are there in decisive shape, with her winning with twenty percent margins (look at precinct 2-42, or precincts 3-77, and 3-59). Even in precincts where the Governor won big, the Brinks campaign tightened the margin (look at precinct 1-6).

One can look at this as a matter of hard work, that the campaign worked and earned the win. That is certainly the case. But this is also a map of hope, of a future.

Brinks strength even in the usually conservative neighborhoods points to the power of pragmatism within the City. The fact that both Brinks and Snyder win the same seats suggests a common persona, one of moderation, a look past the partisanship. There is surprisingly little of the Tea Party in this map (perhaps pct 1-21 or 1-23).

The Brinks campaign modeled this moderation as well, her’s was a campaign emphasized hard-work and pragmatic solutions. Where the term limits opponents had stumbled in the blue collar neighborhoods, Brinks won comfortably, sometimes even spectacularly.  And this was done without running away from her stance on abortion — a killer for most candidates a decade ago. Brinks again demonstrated that where one is moderate and hard-working, the questions on abortion can be handled.

As the City explores how it should continue to develop (that long conversation between the downtown and the left out), the Brinks win maps what a coalition might very well look like. Yes, we will always have the west side but most in the City want to see it succeed. And to do that, they are willing to cross lines and work together. It’s the sweat equity of hope.

And it bodes well for our City.

Note on the maps: The dots measure the size of the margin, from the lightest representing less than a one percent difference (a margin +/- 0.5 percent) to the darkest representing at least a twenty percent margin (60/40)

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

What’s Wrong with Brian Ellis

By all lights, Brian Ellis is a nice guy. Nice family. In fact he keeps reminding us of that constantly, his wife Joan, his three wonderful blonde daughters, his time on the EGR school board. And if the robocalls are any indication, his friends like him, too.

Ellis is running for Third Congressional District against Justin Amash, the enfante terrible of Congress, Dr. No, the libertarian scourge of all that isn’t pure, our own Savonarola on the Grand.

As Ellis defined himself on Facebook,

I am running for Congress because we deserve a representative who will work for solutions, reflect our values, and listen.

This word “deserve” is the give away. It promises nothing except perhaps a kind of entitlement. The laundry list that follows reveals that “deserve” is mostly about being nice and very little about working for solutions. Among the stances are the typical  ones, the sort that can be found from nearly any Republican candidate: balanced budget amendment, end Obamacare, more fracking and drilling, Second Amendment.

If this is all that “deserve” includes, then nearly any old Republican would do. And that is precisely the problem with Brian Ellis. Instead of separating himself on the basis of what he would work for (as opposed to merely oppose), he chose the safer route, that of simply being one of the many. That’s safe, but it is not likely to win at the polls today.


Filed under: Elections, Republican Folly, Uncategorized, , , ,

Singing from the populist songbook

This week Michigan Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) introduced a set of bills to in part,  prevent “censorship of our founding documents” (SB 120). Typical stuff . While that can be dismissed as the usual hot air of  political posturing, one of the other bills is  more substantive, one (SB 423)

establishes requirements for schools to incorporate teaching provisions of the U.S. Constitution, the Michigan state constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and would require the Michigan Department of Education to incorporate those subjects into standardized testing of students.

Left unsaid in  MLive, was that our Senator Mark Jansen stepped up as a co-sponsor.

It is a measure, in short, right out of the concerns (and playbook) of social conservatives. At its heart it wants to create an educational space for God, anti-Federalism, and free enterprise. It’s the standard issue stuff of old time southern populism, and not surprisingly, it can be found in ALEC’s book of model legislation. We’ve seen this before.

There is a healthy irony here, where otherwise education-skeptical, limited government conservatives stand up and mandate educational requirements. Then again, it perhaps unintentionally reveals a view of education in the conservative heart. Schools are seen as singularly powerful, absent the cultural considerations (poverty, race, etc.), so what is taught or not taught can then become the determiner of our social life. Education is not only ideological, but presently teaching the wrong ideology, the ideology of the elites rather than the presumed normative stance of the non-ideological, neutral stance of the average citizen.

So it is, that the recipe for fixing what is wrong in American education must turn about changing its ideological heart by teaching

America’s founding documents, including documents that contributed to the foundation or maintenance of America’s representative form of limited government, the Bill of Rights, our free-market economic system, and patriotism. (SB 120)

Yet even a cursory review reveals what’s missing: the total absence of any of the great national documents regarding African Americans. Well, yes, in politeness, they did leave off the bit about slaves being worth only 3/5 a vote in the original Constitution (that was white of them), but where is the insistence that children of this state learn about the Emancipation Proclamation? Or the Lincoln’s great Second Inaugural. Or for that matter, the Gettysburg Address? For a party that once championed, bled and died for these great truths, this is a peculiar omission.

And this provides the other head-scratching item: it would have been so simple, so obvious, such an easy play for shoring up Republican image before minorities. But that omission is not a flaw, but a feature of the underlying ideology. The southern populist view of education is forged in the Jim Crow era with the educational disenfranchisement of blacks, America and its schools were self-evidently for whites. In contrast, the educational vision of Michigan rooted in the Northwest Ordinance was always broader, bigger, bolder. Although Michigan residents could be every bit as prejudiced as the southern populists, the schools were shaped by the Federalist (not the anti-Federalist) vision of republican virtue and equality.

Filed under: Horace Mann, Republican Folly, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

What’s that in Bing’s eye?

Bing Goei’s announcement the other day that he would have a write in campaign for the 76th state house seat, the one fouled by Roy Schmidt, is certainly a move that challenges wisdom.

Perhaps his business is doing really, really well and he has money to cast around. Perhaps it really is a matter of pique.Or perhaps he has something else in mind.

Formally, it is hard to see how the race makes any electoral sense. With a strong Dem already on the field, there is little room to go and pick up the disaffected centrists. To do so, Goei would have to campaign against Brinks, and to date, there is little of that on the field. On the right of Schmidt (and Goei) is Keith Allard, who has been running a verbally aggressive campaign, staking out claims for right to life, fiscal conservatism, and actively drawing contrasts with both Schmidt and Brinks.

But if Goei cannot pick up the center and the right wing is covered, what’s left? Even assuming a total Schmidt collapse, there are not enough votes out there to make it work, all the more with the state and region sliding to the D side at the national level.

The motivation, apparently is the same as that of Schmidt (originally): the mayor’s office. And here, Goei’s campaign is anything but quixotic. The independent write-in campaign symbolically detaches him from the GOP (even if we all know where he stands), and gives him the the independent creds necessary for a non-partisan race.  Plus – provided that I’ve read the  law right —  money raised for the statehouse run can be transferred to another political campaign.

So for now, Goei rebuilds networks, gains visibility, raises money — all tools that can really help in a run for the Mayor’s office. His may not be on Lansing at all, but on Ottawa Avenue.

Filed under: Elections, Uncategorized, , , ,

New Year’s Catch Up

This is a holding post, if only to highlight some of the adventure that makes up our politics.

First, we have the Secretary of State working diligently to make our ballots “SAFE.” This will require more attention, but for now, let’s be clear that the problems at hand are those of book-keeping, or perhaps a fear of Zombie voting. More on this in a bit.

Second, there was the report Friday from the New York Times on the role high quality teachers make in educational outcomes. This only highlights the contradictions within the Republicans in Michigan, do they go for cheap or quality? Then again, considering this is the home of K-Mart, as well as  the first hypermarket (that’s you, Meijer), we probably already know the answer.

Then there is the “who, me dysfunctional?” act of Rep. Justin Amash. This too needs explication. While the forty percent defection rate from conventional GOP stances merits some recognition, it is one driven more by ideology, the difference is not that his party is too conservative, but not conservative enough.

Last on the local note, there is the departure of GRPS Superintendent Bernard Taylor. There was one story for the media but inside the stories are more that he was handed his hat. Meantime, there is a noticeable sigh of relief arising from the schools.

Filed under: Horace Mann, Uncategorized, Washington, , , , , ,

Rick Warren and the Big Show

Tomorrow is the show.  The Inauguration.  And with comes the controversy of Rick Warren.

The ins and outs of this controversy may already be fading, but before Warren stands up and prays, a few words ought to be said about what this means (or does not).  After all, in the land of the Windmill, Rick Warren does have some some standing.

Let’s start with the personal. To read Barbara Hagerty at NPR, there is a real bond of friendship behind the decision.  And as even die-hard partisans will admit, they often do have friends across the philosophical aisle.  So Warren is selected being a useful acquaintance, a friend.  And of course by doing so, Obama further cements the bond between them.

As to the politics, at its most basic, the Obama invitation has the marks of other actions, such as reaching out to Sen. McCain — it’s a way to bring  an outside group into the conversation.  After all, this is one of the real powers of his office, determining who gets heard.  And again, it is not that difficult to see the political goal he is aiming for: a defusing of the culture war.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped the social conservatives who are busily  trying to ramp up vision of Obama as an arch-abortionist,  one ready to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (aka FOCA) on a moment’s notice, independent of actual action by Congress.  Even while the fires of paranoia get stoked, Obama’s selection of Warren seems to side step the issue. Rather than contest the issue, Obama moves past it with an implicit “So?”

But it is not the battle over abortion that draws the ire from the left, but rather from the controversies over the role of participation of gays in society, and especially in the ability of gays to have their relationships recognized as marriage.

The great reversal

In the wake of Prop 8, those supporting marriage rights for gays and more broadly, full inclusion of gays in society have waged an aggressive push-back campaign.  Here, Warren’s support for Prop 8, together with his general Evangelical view of homosexuality have aroused political ire from the political Left.  What is distressing for those here in the land of the Windmill is that Warren’s views are not so separate from evangelicals generally.  Far from an exemplar of homophobia, his views are much more commonplace.   In much the same way that conservatives rail against “the homosexual lifestyle” or “godless elites” so now evangelicals get the favor returned. Susan Posner gives a sharp expression of the sentiment:

Warren represents the absolute worst of the Democrats’ religious outreach, a right-winger masquerading as a do-gooder anointed as the arbiter of what it means to be faithful.

The bitterness last month was palpable.  So where we have the President seeking to dampen the culture wars, progressives have found an issue on which to push even harder.

And for those of us who live int he shadow of the windmill, this animosity to evangelicals and religious faith generally is more than a little disconcerting.  It certainly challenges the path we have been taking.  But perhaps we should have seen it coming. Read the rest of this entry »

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Standing with GM

The future of Michigan and West Michigan politics is being decided not in our state, but in the corridors of Washington. For a few smart pols have seen the writing: now is the time to stand up for the state and yes, for the much maligned General Motors and the much-maligned auto industry. What is remarkable is the way that so many area and state politicians have become remarkably tongue tied about this. Some have not.

Bluntly, this is one of the most important issues to have faced our state. The enormity of a potential failure, the continuing impact of “successful” bailout can immobilize civic leaders.  The enemy at hand is the sense of helplessness, a sense that muffles our voice and dulls our imagination.

That silence is all to present. Where is Vern Ehlers? The last news on his official site is dated November 21. Is it too much to ask that we see him speaking out for jobs here in our community? Where is governor-wannabe Terri Land? Meanwhile Hoekstra has certainly said some things even backtracked, the better to protect his gubernatorial chances (of course, with the requisite, right-from-the-playbook swipe at unions).

Yet if some are tongue-tied, others are not.

Virg Benero speaks out eloquently, forcefully on the problem.

Grand Rapids City Commissioner David LaGrand has not only spoken, but is paying his way to lobby in Washington.  “Ten thousand jobs on the line” is how he puts it (and leaves you wondering about other leaders along the Grand)

And to be bi-partisan:

Gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Mike Cox has argued early.

And Thaddeus McCotter (CD-11) matches Benero for passion and forthright speaking.

This is a battle that will define Michigan politics for the next two years, and likely for far longer than that.  For those who aspire to real leadership in our communities they will have to stand up and be counted. Make not mistake, the battle for 2010 has already started.

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Gentleman’s C

News this morning is one more shot to the head, with Citi (“C”) receiving another $20 billion, because it was “too big to fail.” Somehow, here in Michigan this all comes across as a little too self-serving, another privileging of finance versus the actual manufacturing of stuff.

Last week we were treated to the theatre of political outrage over executives who flew down in jets. Obviously profligate. The loud protests are certainly familiar. What is the rhetoric here, except that of moralistic contempt for the old drunken working stiff: we won’t give money to you, won’t have programs for you because you’re a drunk, morally unfit etc. This was always the language of moral uplift, all the more for the progressive good government types who sniffed at the working class, terming them “machine politics”, boss-ism, ethnics and the like. Political morality with a class bias: that has been the way of the world for some time, especially in this democracy.

There are some counter weights out there, however.

First, in case one ever doubted it, Detroit is still very much in business, as Mark Phelan notes in yesterday’s Free Press, in 6 Myths About the Detroit 3 . Here on the west side, we sometimes conveniently forget this; since the opportunity of the all-purpose punching bag that is Detroit is too inviting. This weakness among the auto industry and its union has a hidden perilous side: in their weakness it is easy to pile contempt upon contempt, fueled as it is by its mixture of envy and resentment. What goes missing is that it is not just the auto plant and its union, but a linked series of industries, whose connections transmit the pain to all parts of society.

That was the point in today’s New York Times — the Big Three are more tightly wound into the American economic fabric than many of the too casual commentators realize.

Over the past three years, as the auto industry’s fortunes darkened, big banks like Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase helped the automakers sell more than $56 billion of new debt securities,

And of course, it almost goes without mentioning that the very uncertainty introduced into the system by the refusal to come to terms creates fiscal doubt at all levels in the supply chain and in the supporting communities.

So we’re back to the deal, and the ease with which $20 billion can be found for the financier and his edifice, but that other edifice, the one found in the factory towns throughout the midsection of the nation — those lives are less visible and so, sadly, less served. In 10 days we will have an answer, for the sake of our communities lets hope it’s more than the F for factory that so far has been the case.

Update.  The class/regional bias is not simply the ravings of a midwesterner.  Evidently, Time understands this as well.

Filed under: Economy, Uncategorized, , ,

Two Million Dollars Richer

No, it’s not Wall Street. The student count for GRPS yesterday showed a decline of only 600, not the 900 expected. So instead of losing $6.75 million, the schools lose $4.2 million. Although a hit, practically this means less of a budgeted loss. Or two million dollars back in the budget.

In that, there’s a vote of confidence. The growth in enrollment in the core city schools (Congress, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy) suggest a commitment by parents. It may be because of short term razzle-dazzle, or from longer term wooing, but the fact remains that the schools are earning some trust.

Politically, that trust reinforces the administration in the teacher stand-off. Voting with your feet, your children is a powerful tool here.

With that “vote,” also comes a responsibility and promise. It is not just the promise made at the start of every school year, but a promise that the image of change projected by GRPS is becoming a reality. On that, the jury is still out.

But for now, the money in the budget is a plus.

Filed under: Horace Mann, Uncategorized,

Thanks, Michigan Liberal

Two shout-outs in a row.  I’m flattered.  Thanks.

There’s one more post (well maybe two) coming on the Reform Michigan Government Now proposal.  For those of us in the West, this proposal has all the making of an electoral disaster.  More numbers to come, shortly.

Filed under: Uncategorized


May 2020