Congratulations, voters of Michigan. You’ve been duped. You’ve allowed a con-man with deep pockets and a slick marketing campaign to put one over on you and get elected Governor of your state. And now that he’s in power, his ‘moderate’ and ‘centrist’ veneer has been removed and his true money-loving, conservative colors are boldly shining through.
In a matter of mere months, Governor Rick Snyder has gone from the supposed “non-traditional political outsider” that he claimed to be in his campaign, to nothing more than another right-wing ideologue hell-bent on consolidating power, destroying unions, erasing the social safety net and transferring wealth into the hands of the few at the expense of the many. And somehow, amazingly, hundreds of thousands of Michigan voters never saw it coming. But for every angry protestor rallying in Lansing, for every Democrat who stayed home on election day, for every independent voter who decided to give Snyder a shot, for every moderate Republican outraged by his abuses, I have only one question…what did you expect?
Rick Snyder was elected Governor last November by easily besting the Democratic candidate, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Greater finances, nationwide anti-democratic fervor, an off-beat marketing strategy, liberal-voter apathy and Michigan’s displeasure with Jennifer Granholm’s previous eight years can all be claimed as reasons for his victory. Since he had no previous experience in politics, he was able to position himself as an outsider who could clearly navigate Michigan’s problems with a fresh perspective. He avoided focusing on traditional cultural wedge issues such as abortion, and by doing so, was able to pass himself off as a new kind of Republican. Success in the business world was his claim to fame and he was able to translate his resume into proof of his ability to revitalize Michigan’s struggling economy. All of this converged in a way that convinced thousands of independent and even democratic voters to completely lose their senses and cast a ballot for someone who never had their best interests in mind.
Since his inauguration, Governor Snyder has quickly set to work implementing his skewed vision for Michigan. These measures include creating new corporate tax breaks, slashing basic services, raising taxes on the poor and the elderly, cutting funding for education and most ominous of all, passing his “Emergency Financial Manager Law” which has the power to completely remove the voters’ rights to have a say over their own future. With an obedient Republican-controlled legislature at his command, enactment of these measures has been swift. But angry reactions from both those who opposed him and those who voted for him has been equally abrupt. Whatever popularity he may have once enjoyed has drastically begun to wane. The tide has turned in our State in a very short period of time and many are faced with feelings of ‘buyer’s remorse’. They thought they were getting a non-ideological decision maker with clever commercials. Instead, people all around Michigan have come to realize that what they got was a typical profit-driven corporatist with little concern for the welfare of his struggling constituents.
But why are we so surprised? Everything we needed to know about Rick Snyder was right there in front of us. Everything he represents, everything he believes and everything he desires was staring each person who voted for him right in the face and they were either too ignorant or too blissfully oblivious to see it. We elected a millionaire nincompoop who made his money running a giant, soul-crushing corporation to be the Chief Executive of our State. I’ll ask it again…what did you expect??
Rick Snyder sent his children to private school…did you really think he was going to be a big supporter of public education? Governor Snyder is an extremely wealthy man…did you really think he would have the ability to empathize with those who aren’t? While Rick Snyder was at Gateway, the company sent thousands of jobs overseas as a way to cut costs…did you really think he would be an advocate for Michigan’s working class? This is a man who made his name and made his fortune in a corporate culture where profits and bottom lines are the only things that matter…can you honestly say that you would expect him to run our State any differently?
Our Governor comes from a world where taxes are always too high, social services only encourage laziness, unions are the enemy and no one’s interests are more important than those of big business. It’s the same world that ALL Republican politicians come from whether they spend their time preaching about ‘family values’ or not. It’s a magical world where success is only determined by one’s own subjective drive and ambition and is in no way is ever influenced by the objective forces that exist around them. Michigan voters allowed this capitalist stooge to pose as a normal working-class citizen and completely ignored the world from which he hailed and the moral abyss that defines it. Men like Rick Snyder do not get to where they are without displaying the proper fealty to wealth and all the power that it represents. His actions thus far while in office are merely the inevitable outcome of a career spent seeking new ways to quench a thirst for profit.
So now, finally, everyone is starting to see Governor Snyder for who he really is. All across the State, angry citizens are busying themselves painting witty protest signs to bring to the Capitol and inventing new chants designed to whip rallying crowds into a frenzy. Some have even gone so far as to begin work to recall the Governor. Apparently voters in Michigan are just completely shocked that a Republican corporatist would come to power and do exactly the kinds of things that Republican corporatists always do. But what I’m curious to know, is where was all of this liberal civic engagement last year during the campaign? If everyone is so concerned about funding education, and taxing the rich and preserving the rights of unions, then why did Rick Snyder win so easily in November? The thousands that have continued to gather in Lansing to make their voices heard had plenty of opportunities to rally for their issues before the election. Snyder’s competition, Virg Bernero was perfectly clear about where he stood on all of the issues that are bothering everyone so much today. I find it hard to believe that everyone of these angry voters did all they could to make sure that Rick Snyder didn’t succeed.
Political winners like to boast that ‘elections have consequences’. It’s a way of saying, “We won, now we can do whatever we want”. It’s a dismissive and generalist argument, but unfortunately, it also happens to be kinda true. Governor Snyder won fair and square, so did all of his fellow Republicans in the legislature. Consequently, they are entitled to follow through on what they believe to be right. His plans for Michigan have justifiably raised the ire of citizens all across the state, but the time to do something about it was BEFORE he was elected. Recall campaigns are no doubt a valuable tool in the democratic process, but so are elections. Where was this dedication and passion from the left side of the political spectrum last November? Michigan voters were asleep at the wheel and now they are learning that indeed, elections DO have consequences.
Rick Snyder has not betrayed us. He is merely acting on the only ideology that exists in his small, selfish mind. We have betrayed ourselves. It is our own sloth, our own ignorance and our own fascination with all things shiny and new that put us in this predicament. What Governor Snyder has done and will continue to do should have been recognizable to all of us from the very beginning of his candidacy. Anyone who cares about public education, anyone who cares about the rights of workers, anyone who cares about putting corporate power in check and anyone who cares about helping those who lack the ability to help themselves should have been able to see the consequences of electing this man to be our Governor. As voters, we are too quick to forget the lessons of the past and we are too easily distracted to perceive the obvious warnings of what might happen in the future.
It is right and noble and admirable to cry out in protest over what Governor Snyder has planned for Michigan. But those voices should’ve been thundering all throughout the campaign and those voices should continue to thunder long after Rick Snyder has gone. People who believe in putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the privileged few cannot allow themselves to be fooled by politicians who quite plainly advocate for the opposite. Our frustration with Rick Snyder can only go so far. Our frustration needs to lie with the apathetic citizens who fail to get out and vote. Our frustration needs to lie with Democrats who allow their conviction and support to waiver. Our frustration needs to lie with independent voters who are too easily swayed by soundbytes and marketing. And our frustration needs to lie with Republicans who blindly vote while neglecting their own interests and needs. All of these people are responsible for what Rick Snyder is doing today. And if any of them are angry or frustrated or displeased with the results, I’m only left to ask…what did you expect?