Windmillin'

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

All Politics is Local

Tip O’Neil’s words were never  more true. Particularly when it comes to resistance. In an era of erratic and likely increasingly autocratic government in Washington, the pushback will not wait until 2020. It starts at the local level, as Josh Marshall reminds us:

Resistance to Trump and anti-Trump activism is a critical precondition of turning back to Trumpite tide. But it is not a sufficient one. I appear to be considerably more confident than a lot of other people I know that Republicans may face a big electoral backlash in 2018. But if it happens it will happen because of grassroots organizing in red states and the red parts of blue states.

Of course, it will not simply be grassroots efforts, as if finding more Democrats will cure the ills. In the past, this has too often meant concentrating on the known players and motivating them to vote. As we saw in the last election, this was roughly the equivalent of the drunk looking for his keys under the street light because ‘that’s where the light was good.’

We might put into this same pot the danger of taking an anti-charter stand, as gratifying as that may be. What we forget with charters is that it is not simply the schools or their philosophy, but these are places of parents.

To go beyond our known voters and known friends will require issues that resonate with larger audiences. At their best such issues should be intuitively true — not unlike how Right to Life found the power of babies. Two suggest themselves: transparency and accountability.

Transparency. This is election reform by a different, neutral name. Rather than focus on limits to campaign finance, much as we want them (cf. reactions to Citizens United), we ask only that funding be transparent. Citizens have a right to know who is putting up the money in politics. Secret money is almost certainly corrupt money. This also puts the weight on citizenship, on empowering voters — a theme that often is heard on the Right. Well, it’s time to steal it.

Accountability. Again, accountability is a  theme found among some conservatives. Going forward the same theme can be applied especially to failed, Republican-driven policies. It’s not just Flint, it is fundamentally the flawed governance of charters.

In campaign finance and charter oversight, Michigan ranks at or near the bottom nationally. Two themes give us the path forward.

 

 

Filed under: Democratic Party, , , ,

Roy Schmidt’s four-fold path

As Nate Reens notes, the Schmidt-storm continues on the editorial pages across the state. Particularly brutal was the Detroit Free Press

No one in Schmidt’s district (maybe even in the state) can trust him at this point. He clearly believes more in his own political preservation than he does in the integrity of his office or the democratic process.

“No one can trust him…” That is not necessarily the death blow that the Freep assumes, more damaging is the blow to the image. As a brand, Roy Schmidt needs to rebuild, because the brutal electoral math is that Republican base or no, the district is won by the persuadables. Roy desperately needs to rebuild some trust. So what is a poor boy to do? Four paths suggest themselves.

Do the Hardiman.

It’s one of the better if shameless plays out there: when caught in an ethics lapse propose a reform to outlaw what you just did. For then Senator Hardiman, it was robo-calling against his opponent — calls without party identification. He was “shocked” even as he benefited. Robo-call reform became one of his calling cards. Of course this is shameless for Schmidt, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be effective. He stands with that vigilant defender of voter integrity, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to introduce new reforms to the registration process. In fact, for Johnson it could be win-win, with the new legislation confirming her as a fighter for integrity while distracting from her own campaign of voting restriction. And Schmidt doesn’t even have to really think what those reforms could be, turns out Stephen Henderson already has a list for him to borrow from.

Of course there are drawbacks. This has to be put forth sooner rather than later, since the notion is to replace a “he’s corrupt” narrative with a “he’s a reformer” one. That takes time and attention. Of course, it also needs the sign-off from the House leadership, and that’s the problem. The House Dems already have a set of reform proposals, so any Schmidt-led reform runs afoul of internal House politics.

Do the Amash

One of the hallmarks of our present Congressman, Justin Amash, is his ability to take seeming independent stands. The recent kerfuffle over a missing Right to Life endorsement would be one such move (overlooking the fact that his actual stand is to the right of the organization). So Schmidt could find a cause that he could immediately advocate, that separates him from the GOP while re-establishing himself as the “Roy we all knew.” Possible issues could be education, revenue sharing — but does Roy have the freedom for this move? Will the militant wing of the GOP really tolerate such a move? Already the rumbles on the SE side suggest that this path is not available. In an election cycle, it is even more difficult to see how such a strategy could be advanced. Were he re-elected, then perhaps. But as part of the campaign? Again, a difficult play, and so, not likely.

Do the Matt Davis

MLive commentator suggests simply toughing it out.

Judging from Kent County Prosecutor William A. Forsyth’s epistle, you would think that their effort was the precursor to Western civilization falling on its ear.
Piffle.

And there is something actually attractive about being so hard nosed. The proverbial, “So? What’re you going to do about it?” is rough on the good government folks, but it’s a nice stand-up style. As the saying goes, politics ain’t beanbag. Nonetheless, there’s a fly in this: to claim the tough guy stance you have to first win. The one outstanding feature of the entire Schmidt-storm is the basic failure of the plan. If you are going to play a dirty trick, you need first to carry it through. Instead, Schmidt hesitates, looks weak. The tough guy approach is basically an assertion of competence: sure I did it, I know what I’m doing. Obviously, that is not the case, here.

As tempting as doing nothing or being defiant may appear, it remains a declaration of unsuitability for office.

So what’s left?

Leave.

Indications are already in the air that this may be the path. The emergence of Bing Goei as an opponent is not mere opportunism, but a sign of distrust within the centrist GOP ranks — the very folks who would otherwise welcome Schmidt. With plenty of outrage directed at House Speaker Jase Bolger, the politically opportune move would be to cut one’s losses. Were Schmidt unable or unwilling to mount one of the other counter plans above, then the resignation looms as an easier option.

Of course, he could stay, and win the primary. That gamble rests on a more polarized electorate, closer to 2010 than any of the presidential years. But that very inactivity, that passiveness about his future simply pushes him into the role of “politics at its worst” and far from the Roy folks thought they new.

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

The Man who Can’t Get Love

That would be our own, Justin Amash.

First, it was Right to Life denying him the endorsement.

“Amash’s pro-life voting record is the seventh worst of all House Republicans,” Douglas Johnson, legislative director for national group, told the Christian Post last month. “With such a record, he is unlikely to rally pro-life support to his new flag – a flag that seems designed mostly to cover his backside back home.”

Well, maybe. Then again, it’s not like there is any backside at home to cover (where are those primary opponents?). And the reality of Rep. Amash’s position is clear, he may be principled, but when it comes to life issues, those principles are pretty striking:

Amash’s stance is that abortions should never be performed and he doesn’t believe in the exceptions for rape and incest to which many subscribe.

That clears it up nicely, the problem with Right to Life is that they are too moderate, too pragmatic, while Amash goes absolutist.

Interestingly, something like that same criticism emerges at The Weekly Standard. Michael Warren launches a snark on the young congressman, but the quotes get to the heart of the difference between Amash and the Regular Republican Party:

House Republicans call him the “black sheep” of the conference, and Amash does seem to have an unscratchable itch to buck his own party. Take a recent bill designed to restore the flow of water to California’s Central Valley. A court ruling in 2009 halted the flow under the Endangered Species Act—the irrigation system supposedly harmed a species of smelt. Ten moderate Democrats joined 236 Republicans to give the drought-ridden Central Valley access to its water supply, with Amash the only Republican opposed. There’s no explanation for this vote on his Facebook page.
“He is a well-intentioned guy with very different goals than most people up here,” said one House Republican aide. “He’s not interested in governing.”

At the end of the day, the itch to go his own way, this absolutism is a danger. It’s easy as the Hotspur heir apparent to Ron Paul to start letting that adulation seize his attention. When your audience is a bunch of cranky libertarians, it becomes all too easy to forget back home. That’s the danger to the local GOP as well. A congressman more in love with principle than pragmatics loses clout in Washington. “Doesn’t play nice with others,” is how Tea Party conservative Rep. Renee Ellmers puts it. And without visibility in Washington, local initiatives simply go under supported.

The longer the GOP persists, the more the case for a moderate Democrat increases. At least that person would build connections.

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

Making the most of Right to Life

You can’t battle for the Michigan State House District 75 without confronting Right to Life. The sizeable Dutch, Catholic, and Black communities make this issue. It’s just that Republican candidate Dan Tietema stepped up rather early in a recent postcard:

What many of you don’t know is that Dean almost lost (the Right to Life) endorsement for failing to show any leadership or initiative in advancing the Pro-life message, and for refusing to stand up against his Pro Choice Democratic friends.

Hard criticism, although the positioning yourself as the presumptive choice is politically smart. But what comes next kind of takes the cake:

It’s unfortunate that our most cherished beliefs don’t come as naturally to Mr. Dean as they do for us.

I really like that “for us” part. That pretty much summarizes the difficulties with any Right to Life campaign. Once we make it into Us v. Them, then of course we come to immediate righteous clarity. Yet being pro-life is far more than a few simple votes, or checking off the right box on a form. This naturally frustrates Tietema to no end; he complains on the card that Dean received the endorsement “on some technicality.” (More than a few Dems have muttered the same thing. Dan’s not alone)

I would submit that the test of pro-life lies more in how that concern permeates other parts of legislative agenda. Caring for the weak and the innocent certainly doesn’t stop at birth. This is the position that motivates Carol Hennessy, Brandon Dillon, Dave LaGrand, and yes, Rev. Robert Dean.

After the fold is the postcard.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Elections, ,

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