8/22/19 Gov. Whitmer issues ultimatum to Repub. legislative leaders to produce a concrete FY 2020 budget plan that includes adequate funding to “Fix the Damn Roads,” but they seem unlikely to do so any time soon.
Dennis Denno and his wife, Raina, take an Alaska road trip where she runs her 49th marathon in her 49th state, and discovers Alaska has a far worse budget crisis than MI, much of it created by gubernatorial campaign promise. Interview with T.J. Bucholz, CEO of Vanguard Public Affairs. Sponsored by www.vanguard-pa.com and www.deadlinedetroit.com.
Little question that the epithet “dark money” is a pejorative to describe “hidden” financial support, usually in large quantities, for political causes and/or candidates.
But why is “dark money” almost always applied to conservative or pro-business or Republican entities? How do most outlets in the mainstream news media (MSM) and the political “reform” industry handle evidence of dark money that supports liberal/progressive or Democratic Party causes?
The data showing the prevalence of pro-liberal/Democratic dark money is hiding in plain sight, but reformers and the MSM look the other way rather than report and debate it.
For instance, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Common Cause of Michigan, and the League of Women Voters of Michigan have for many years been heavily subsidized by the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation. That’s the Foundation on whose board of directors Barack Obama once served, pre-presidency, back in his community organizing days. Each of these organizations has developed a niche as part of its Joyce-funded political “reform” collaborative.
Let’s focus on the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN), which researches political money and crusades about the dangers of “dark” money, yet reports very little about the influence of dark money behind Voters Not Politicians (VNP) in the the latter’s 2018 campaign to amend the Michigan Constitution to “reform” Congressional and legislative redistricting.
The VNP campaign raised $16 million in direct contributions and another $4 million in in-kind contribution. Only seven contributors accounted for over $13 million of that total. In fact, just two contributors accounted for more than $11 million.
Let’s examine VNP’s top three contributors and the three stories that MCFN has somehow missed:
VNP’s top contributor, accounting for a staggering $6 million, is the innocuously named Sixteen Thirty Fund. Apparently, neither MCFN nor the Detroit Free Press editorial board has ever heard of the STF if one goes by the lack of coverage these two “watchdogs” gave to VNP’s top contributor, which was the Sixteen Thirty Fund.
The Sixteen Thirty Fund is a Washington, DC-based 501 C (4) that in its IRS annual form 990 disclosed in 2017 that it brought in $79 million and ended the year with $43 million in assets. Its mission is cryptically worded “promoting social welfare including, but not limited to, providing public education on and conducting advocacy regarding key policies.”
In other words, STF bankrolls liberal groups from a network of large individual donors and like-minded non-profits.
STF is managed by Arabella Advisors, a Washington, D.C., philanthropy consulting firm run by Eric Kessler, who also founded and runs the Sixteen Thirty Fund. The Fund has raised $1.6 billion in total revenue and has spent $1.1 billion since 2013.
Eric Kessler once worked in the Bill Clinton White House on environmental issues. Kessler later served as national field director for the League of Conservation Voters before launching the Sixteen Thirty Fund. The connection to the League of Conservation Voters remains strong. STF reported in its 2017 990 filing that it provided the League of Conservation Voters for that one fiscal year with a grant of $3,850,000.
In its 2017 990 filing, STF disclosed contributions or grants to three Michigan organizations — $400,000 to Michigan Time to Care, a corporation in Royal Oak; $221,500 to ProgressNow; and $15,000 to ProgressNow’s 501 C(3) affiliate in Lansing.
In 2018, the same year that STF gave $6 million to VNP in Michigan, STF also disclosed in filings with the District of Columbia Consumer Agency that it was the fiscal sponsor of Demand Justice and 45 other organizations that lack tax-exempt status or do not exist as separately incorporated entities. Those organizations’ IRS disclosures are run thorough the Sixteen Thirty Fund’s 990 filings. After the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy two years ago, Demand Justice launched a website called “Ditch the List,” referring to a list that had been put together by the Federalist Society of possible Supreme Court nominees who had the Society’s seal of approval during the 2016 presidential campaign.
After the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Kennedy was announced, Demand Justice is credited with assembling a brigade of protesters to attend the public hearings before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination. One protester after another shouted out protests against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Each protester would be removed by capitol police from the hearing room only to have another protester disrupt the hearing and be removed. Some 200 protesters were expelled from the room over the first three days of hearings.
Might there be a Michigan protest connection to VNP’s third largest contributor, one Kathryn Murdoch of New York City? She contributed $500,000 to VNP. Murdoch is President and co-founder of the Quadrivium Foundation along with her husband, James Murdoch, the son and perhaps ideological opposite of his 88-year-old father, Rupert Murdoch, the mogul of the media empire that he built.
Quadrivium Foundation has five focus areas: democracy, technology and society, scientific understanding, climate change and ocean health. Quadrivium states on its website that “democracy” is the foundation for progress on every issue it cares about. On the same website, Quadrivium reports that it has worked with an organization called Represent US to support efforts on redistricting and “automatic voter registration.” Represent US launched initiative petition drives this past decade to provide public financing via “voter vouchers” in municipal elections in cities such as Seattle, WA, and Tallahassee, FL. A similar initiative in Michigan’s capital city of Lansing, funded by Represent US, failed to get on the ballot in 2013 when the city clerk ruled it ineligible under the city charter.
Then, in 2018, Represent US in July placed full-page newspaper ads in the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and in Lansing’s tabloid City Pulse attacking the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and its chairman and executive committee members. These attack ads used the members’ names, photographs, and the identity of their private companies, denouncing them because of the Chamber’s support of litigation challenging the VNP proposal that was then before the Michigan Supreme Court. According to the Detroit News, those attacks included threats of violence, boycotts and calls to harass the Chamber’s volunteer leaders.
The second largest contributor to VNP was the Action Now Initiative (ANI) with direct and in-kind contributions totaling $5,002,580.59. ANI is a 501 C (4) started by Houston, Texas, billionaires John and Laura Arnold. John made his fortune as a hedge fund manager trading in natural gas. Arnold started his own firm, Centaurus Advisors, in 2002 after his former employer, Enron, went bankrupt. Arnold retired a billionaire in 2012 at age 38.
ANI’s focus has been on pension reform; obesity; supporting local taxes on soft drinks; and political reform. ANI supported a ballot question on pension reform in California in 2014 and ranked choice voting in Maine in 2016 and 2018 that succeeded in electing a Democrat even though he didn’t finish first.
In 2018, the ANI contributed over $5 million to VNP in Michigan, $1 million to a redistricting initiative in Missouri, $1 million to a redistricting initiative in Utah, and $600,000 to a redistricting initiative in Colorado.
Liberals/progressives are quick to use the label “dark money” to demean their opposition. VNP says it started out as a Facebook post. Its petition drive, it boasts, was purely grassroots-driven. Those claims might have been true at the outset, if not later, but VNP insists it has always been “bipartisan” and that the 13 commissioners called for in Proposal 2 will employ criteria that will produce three “fair” redistricting plans (110 State House districts maps, 38 State Senate districts maps and 13 congressional districts maps).
But that number 13 is the same number as the 13 contributors who made contributions of $100,000 or more to VNP to sell Proposal 2 to Michigan’s voters:
Sixteen Thirty Fund: $ 6 million
Action Now Initiative: $ 5,002,580.59
Kathryn Murdoch $ 500,000
Stacy Schusterman $ 500,000
SEIU-United Healthcare Workers $ 500,000
Seth Klarman $ 250,000
National Democratic Redistricting Committee $ 250,000
Beckwith Constitutional Liberties Fund $ 150,000
National Education Association $ 125,000
Green Advocacy Project $ 100,000
Michigan UAW-CAP Council $ 100,000
Open Society Policy Center $ 100,000
Jonathan Soros $ 100,000
Are these contributors simply looking for non-partisan or bipartisan good government?
Or will they be sorely disappointed if Proposal 2 doesn’t deliver what they expect — a reincarnation of the 1972 Hatcher-Kleiner Democratic gerrymander of Michigan’s Congressional and legislative districts?
The attempt by the Oakland C. Board of Commish to replace the late Brooks Patterson as Oakland Co. Exec. continues. Gov. Whitmer and state Senate Majority Leader Shirkey cope with perception that they may not be able to work out an agreement on the FY 2020 state budget by the start of next fiscal year.
MI Civil Rights Commission says it is standing by its decision to keep Director Arbulu in the wake of demands by Gov. Whitmer and some two dozen legislative Dems that he resign in the wake of inappropriate comments he has made “objectifying” women. Interview with Derek Bajema, director of the MI Soft Drink Assoc. Sponsored by www.vanguard-pa.com and www.deadlinedetroit.com.
8/9/19 Oakland Co. Executive L. Brooks Patterson dies at age 80, provoking battle to replace him. Not many races in MI’s primary election, which produces few surprises, little campaign spending, and skimpy voter turnout.
Dems mount recall campaign against beleaguered state Rep. Larry Inman, but if it appears petitioners may gather enough signatures, might state House of Reps expel him instead? Interview with Mike Kowall (R-White Lake), former state Senate majority floor leader now employed by office of Oakland Co. Executive. Sponsored by www.DeadlineDetroit.com and www.Vanguard-pa.com.
Just a quick note to let everyone know that copies of the Almanac of American Politics 2020 are now officially back from the printer! You can get a 10% discount on your order by ordering at https://www.thealmanacofamericanpolitics.com/ and using the discount code LOUISANDFRIENDS.
THE BALLENGER REPORT has no skin in the game on this offer, just an interest in making sure all Michigan political junkies know it’s out there and they ought to take advantage of it. As you know, THE BALLENGER REPORT has run excerpts from the book on this website. So have a few other publications in other states — usually the state overview chapter, and in some cases the gubernatorial profile as well. Here are links to the chapters that have been re-published to date:
The Nevada Independent https://t.co/pTGZLwMROe and https://t.co/HDO3prd8T7
The Saporta Report (Georgia) https://t.co/odit9eRc1Z
Maryland Matters http://bit.ly/2KuifLn and http://bit.ly/2K8w6Xs
Tennessee Journal https://t.co/7jd2SsOliY and http://bit.ly/31l9nyf
The Ballenger Report (Michigan) https://t.co/Cx3A5OvFEP
The publisher has a few more excerpts like these in the works in a variety of still more states.
This book is the best, and you’ll never get a better deal than this one!
It appears the late conservative icon William F. Buckley is about to get validation, from an unexpected source, of one of his most famous “bon mots.”
Buckley said he’d rather be governed by people picked at random from the Boston telephone book than by the Harvard University faculty.
There is good reason to believe Michigan’s new independent commission charged with redistricting Congressional and legislative districts after the 2020 census will be composed of citizens, chosen lottery-style, who won’t meet the criteria promised in Proposal 2 approved by the state’s voters last November.
At least one influential critic claims that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s application form (to be a commissioner) falls far short in seeking demographic information from those who want to serve.
More demographic categories must be added to the application to achieve a redistricting commission that actually mirrors Michigan’s diversity, according to a “public comment” submitted to Benson by longtime attorney/election law guru Bob LaBrant.
Here are LaBrant’s comments in their entirety:
“The Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission was established when voters adopted Proposal 2 on the November 6, 2018, statewide ballot. The Commission will consist of 13 individuals, who within the last six years have had no partisan governmental or political experience or have any close family relatives who do.
“Those 13 individuals are to be randomly selected by the Secretary of State using “accepted statistical weighting methods to ensure that the three pools (Republican, Democratic and no-party affiliation) of applicants as closely as possible mirror the geographic and demographic make-up of the state.”
The constitutional amendment does not detail what specific demographic questions will be asked on the application. The text of the proposed amendment only says the Secretary of State shall make applications available to the general public no later than January 1 of the year of the federal decennial census (January 1, 2020).
“Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson claims that, under the 2018 amendment, she is not required to ask for public comment on the draft Commissioner application that is posted on her department’s website, but in the interest of transparency she will accept public comment on her proposed Commissioner application until August 9, 2019.
“Although not specifically addressed in the 2018 constitutional amendment, a case can be made that the Secretary of State is not exempt in her limited redistricting role, as the Secretary of State, from the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act (rulemaking, notice, comment, judicial review). Is she suggesting that choosing which demographic characteristic to select or omit from the Commissioner application is subject only to her whim? Hard to believe that, as a former law school dean, Secretary Benson would maintain that the inclusion or exclusion of a question is not subject to judicial review, since the U.S. Supreme Court recently reviewed a legal challenge to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s attempt to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census form under the federal Administrative Procedures Act. Her decision in this draft application to prohibit all precinct delegates and their close relatives from submitting Commissioner applications may or may not be correct, but that prohibition should be subject to APA rulemaking.
“The 2018 constitutional amendment says the Commission should be made up of Commissioners who reflect Michigan’s demographic and geographic diversity.
“The 2018 redistricting amendment does not specifically define “demographic.” Absent a definition in the text of the constitution, the Michigan Supreme Court says to look to the term’s ordinary meaning, including its dictionary definition.
“Demographic information refers to the statistics that describe a population and can be used to divide that population into different groups. Examples of demographic information include age, gender, race, income, marital status, educational attainment and political preference.”
“Secretary Benson’s draft application is extremely thin on questions asking about the demographic characteristics of an applicant — limiting them to just four categories: age, voting address, gender and race. These categories are so thin that it fails to meet the constitutional requirement that the Commission “should mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state.”
“The Commissioner application as currently written does not meet the test of ensuring diversity because the draft application fails to ask at all about such demographic characteristics as educational attainment, income, veteran or disability status.
“The demographic questions currently asked in the draft application would permit all 13 Commissioners to be millionaires or, in the other extreme, all 13 Commissioners could have incomes below the poverty level. Without having a question on educational attainment, all 13 Commissioners could have Ph.D.’s or all 13 Commissioners could be high school dropouts.
“Secretary of State Benson should revise her draft Redistricting Commissioner Application. In revising the application, she need not look any farther than the U. S. Census Bureau’s Michigan Electorate Profile and use the same categories found in that profile based upon the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey. Using those same categories, here is what the Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission would likely look like:
% of the Michigan Electorate
Male 48.65% Six Commissioners
Female 51.35% Seven Commissioners
18-24 years 18% Two Commissioners
25-44 years 26.2% Three Commissioners
45-64 years 35.9% Five Commissioners
65 years and over 19.9% Three Commissioners
Race and Hispanic origin
White 79.3% Ten Commissioners
Black 13.9% Two Commissioners
Other One Commissioner
American Indian 1.2%
Median household income (MHI) $52,492
Higher than MHI At least Six Commissioners
Lower than MHI At least Six Commissioners
Income below the poverty level 13.3% Two Commissioners
Bachelor’s degree or higher 28.3% Four Commissioners
Less than a college degree 71.7% Nine Commissioners
Veteran Status 7.2% One Commissioner
Disability status 14.5% Two Commissioners
Political Party allocation required in the 2018 amendment:
Self-identified Republicans Four Commissioners
Self-identified Democrats Four Commissioners
Self-identified as having no party affiliation Five Commissioners
Wayne, Oakland, Macomb Counties Five Commissioners
Thumb, Genesee, Saginaw, Bay,
and surrounding counties Two Commissioners
West Michigan-Grand Rapids, Muskegon,
Holland, Kalamazoo, Benton Harbor, etc. Three Commissioners
Mid-Michigan- Ann Arbor, Brighton, Two Commissioners
Lansing, Battle Creek, Mt. Pleasant, Jackson, Monroe
Northern Lower Michigan & the U.P. One Commissioner
“Modeling the Commissioner application to reflect the same categories found in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Michigan Electorate Profile would ensure a Commission that is a true reflection of Michigan’s diverse population.
“The two optional questions included in the draft application (1) Why you politically identify with a party or do not?, and (2) Why you want to serve on the Commission?) are unfortunately irrelevant because those subjective personal “essays” have no constitutional basis in a strictly random selection process. The only rationale offered for these two essays is to give the four legislative leaders something to consider when each leader gets to blackball up to five semi-finalists out of a field of 200 applicants who have survived the statistically weighted random draw.
“We need to remember that, unlike the California Independent Redistricting Commission, the 2018 Michigan redistricting amendment (Proposal 2) does NOT require anyone to have experience, training, education, specialized skills or expertise. Selection as a Commissioner is based entirely on an applicant’s geographic residence and the demographic characteristics they possess.
“Under the 2018 redistricting amendment, an applicant does not ever have a face-to-face job interview. This is in sharp contrast with a thorough personal interview process that Independent Redistricting Commissioner applicants have in California, but that was the choice of the drafters of (Michigan’s) Proposal 2 to make Commissioner selection purely random.
“The draft application DOES make a non-binding attempt to get applicants to pledge in their application (1 e. and 1 f.) that he or she will, if selected, act impartially, with integrity, and will work collaboratively with their fellow Commissioners to reach a consensus. Again, there is no constitutional basis for those non-binding pledges in the application, and they should be deleted in favor of adding more demographic categories to the application.”
Michigan’s rookie Democratic Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, is rated in the “surviving” category with seven other just-elected governors, according to Lou Jacobson, writing in GOVERNING magazine.
Jacobson writes about Whitmer as well as the history of Michigan politics and government in the about-to-be-released 2020 edition of the Almanac of American Politics.
The Almanac has long been considered “The Bible of American Politics.” The Almanac covers all 50 U.S. governors. In GOVERNING, Jacobson rates 11 freshmen governors as “thriving” and only one — Alaska’s Republican CEO — as “struggling.”
Here’s how the Almanac describes Whitmer’s performance so far:
“Whitmer seems to enjoy the job and has been consistent in trumpeting her main campaign promise — “Fix the Damn Roads” — which was to hike the gas tax to pay for a $2.5 billion transportation package annually for the next decade.
“Meanwhile, despite early veto threats, Whitmer signed an auto insurance rate reform bill that eluded resolution for years. It earned unanimous Republican support while splitting Democratic legislators. The downside risk for Whitmer is that if differences over the gas tax persist, it could push the state to the brink of a government shutdown.”
Beyond Whitmer’s job performance, here’s a sneak preview of the Almanac’s “state overview” of Michigan’s political climate:
Michigan, though politically competitive in state-level races, hadn’t voted Republican for president since 1988–until 2016, when Donald Trump won it by three-tenths of 1 percent. It was one of the three states, along with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that enabled him to win the presidency by a healthy Electoral College margin, buoyed by a surge in blue-collar voters in declining industrial areas and apparent indifference from the Hillary Clinton campaign. But the state swung back in the 2018 midterm elections, flipping the governorship, the attorney general and the secretary of state–a shift that underlined how crucial the state will be in the 2020 presidential election.
Nearly 200 years ago, when the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville wanted to visit the American frontier, he boarded a boat and steamed across Lake Erie to visit the Michigan Territory. Tocqueville was not the first Frenchman to travel there. In the 17th century, French explorers and missionaries sailed the Great Lakes and slapped their version of Indian names on the landscape, which is why Michigan’s ch is pronounced like sh and why Mackinac is pronounced with a silent final c. (But Michiganders don’t carry it to extremes: Detroit ends with a robust English oit.) Michigan was not effectively occupied by the United States until 1796 and was bypassed in the initial westward rush into Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. In 1831, Tocqueville was still able to travel through virgin woods occupied by Indian tribes. But later in that decade, Michigan was settled in a rush by Yankee migrants from upstate New York and New England, who cut down trees and built farms and orderly towns complete with schools and colleges. Politically, Michigan was full of Yankee reformers who hated slavery, manned the Underground Railroad, promoted temperance and in 1855 gave Michigan a constitution that banned (as its successors have done to this day) capital punishment. Michigan was one of the birthplaces of the Republican Party, which held its first official meeting in Jackson in 1854, and up through the 1920s, Michigan was one of the most Republican states in the nation.
After the Civil War, Michigan developed an industrial economy. Its Lower Peninsula was mostly covered with trees, and lumber was the first boom industry on which Michigan relied too much. (Even today, half the state’s land area remains forested, supporting a popular hunting culture, though one that’s declining as baby boomers age.) Forests were clear-cut or swept by blazes such as the 1881 fire that burned out half of Michigan’s “Thumb.” In the late 1800s, huge copper deposits were discovered on the Keweenaw Peninsula, which juts from the Upper Peninsula into icy Lake Superior. (The state includes 40,000 square miles of the Great Lakes, making almost half of Michigan water.) Immigrants from Italy and Finland, Cornwall and Croatia found work in the mines. Then came the auto industry. A combination of accident and shrewdness–the prickly genius of Henry Ford and the willingness of local bankers to finance auto startups–ensured that America’s fastest-growing industry for the first 30 years of the 20th century was centered in Michigan. Detroit became a boomtown — the nation’s fastest-growing major metropolitan area after Los Angeles, which was then much smaller. The three-county Detroit metro area zoomed from a population of 426,000 in 1900 to 2.2 million in 1930, more than half the 4.3 million it has today. The auto industry drew labor from outside Michigan, from southern Ontario, and from the farms of Ohio and Indiana. It attracted Poles and Italians, Hungarians and Belgians, Greeks and Jews. During World War II and the two following decades, it attracted whites from the Kentucky and Tennessee mountains and blacks from the cotton country of Alabama and Mississippi.
This influx of a polyglot proletariat eventually changed Michigan’s politics. The catalyst was the Great Depression of the 1930s and company managers’ desire to use machines efficiently, treating employees as extensions of machines and with great distrust. That culminated in the 1937 sit-down strikes organized by the new United Auto Workers. Management and labor fought, sometimes literally, for pieces of what both sides feared was a shrinking pie. The UAW won and organized most of the companies after Democratic Gov. Frank Murphy refused to send in troops to break the illegal strikes. In the years that followed, autoworkers became more militant, and more militantly Democratic. Michigan politics became a kind of class warfare, conducted with a bitterness that split families and neighbors. The unions mostly won, because demographics benefited the Democrats: Autoworkers and post-1900 immigrants were larger in number and produced more children than did outstate Yankees or management. After Walter Reuther’s election as UAW president in 1946, voters elected young, liberal G. Mennen Williams as governor in 1948. By 1954, Democrats, closely tied to the UAW, seemed to have become the natural majority in the state.
As growth continued, economic issues turned less bitter. By the early 1960s, class warfare had dissipated; in 1964, Henry Ford II joined Reuther in backing Democrat Lyndon Johnson for president. Republican George Romney, the former American Motors president elected governor in 1962, and his successor, William Milliken, accepted the social welfare policies endorsed by the UAW leadership and the Democrats. The state government was one of the nation’s most vigorous, and not just for the poor and the unemployed. It supported one of the nation’s most distinguished and extensive higher-education systems, built state parks and recreation areas, and pioneered efforts to end racial discrimination.
Michigan grew faster than the nation as a whole from 1910 to 1970, and successive censuses and reapportionments increased its House delegation from 12 to 19. But in the four decades from 1970 to 2010, Michigan grew less than one-quarter as fast as the nation, and its House delegation fell back to 14 in 2012, with a decline of one more seat projected after 2022. Since 2010, the state’s population has grown by only 1.2 percent. A key turning point may have been the changes in the domestic auto industry. After the UAW’s strike against General Motors in 1970, the union won its central demand: “30 and out,” retirement after 30 years on the assembly line. That, in turn, led to demands for costlier retiree health benefits on top of those negotiated for active workers. The assumption was that the Big Three–General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler–would continue to dominate the U.S. auto market as they had for decades and would be able to afford top-shelf benefits. The reality turned out to be different. Foreign competitors began producing better and cheaper cars that were more responsive to changes in gas prices and consumer preferences, first in Europe and Japan and then in nonunion plants in the United States. Auto sales plummeted during the oil shock and recession of 1979-82, and Chrysler was saved from bankruptcy by a federal bailout, while GM and Ford foundered.
The auto industry became more high-tech, with fewer unionized workers and higher skill requirements. Just-in-time production methods encouraged subcontractors to stay in Michigan near big assembly plants, and the state boasted the nation’s highest per capita concentration of engineers. Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and the northern and western Detroit suburbs fared well. The great exception was the city of Detroit, whose population fell from 1.8 million in 1950 to 713,000 in 2010. Starting with the 1967 rioting, crime rates in Detroit remained intolerably high for 25 years, and much of the city simply vanished–houses were abandoned or burned down, commercial frontage had nearly 100 percent vacancy rates, and the downtown was a beleaguered fortress surrounded by vacant square miles. Detroit’s crumbling architecture helped give birth to a subgenre of photography called “ruin porn.” Detroit began rebounding in the 1990s. Crime and welfare rolls were down, new sports stadiums and even some new housing were built downtown, and old theaters were refurbished. But the decade that began in 2000 halted Michigan’s economic progress. The Big Three, desperate to generate cash to pay huge costs for workers’ and retirees’ benefits, squeezed their subcontractors into bankruptcy, and GM and Chrysler followed in 2009; Ford managed to stay afloat only by mortgaging almost all its assets in 2007. Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat elected in 2002 and 2006, encouraged redevelopment, arranged for tax breaks for new facilities for the automakers and provided tax breaks to filmmakers.
While Detroit and Flint remained two of the nation’s most impoverished cities–the latter afflicted with a manmade water-contamination problem–Michigan did recover along with the rest of the nation. The Big Three resumed making profits, and GM and Chrysler began buying back government-owned stock. Detroit spent several years in the biggest municipal bankruptcy in the history of North America, but in April 2018–following a “grand bargain” with the state’s GOP leadership and several years of budget surpluses — the final financial restrictions were lifted, leaving the city entirely free of such oversight for the first time since the 1970s. In 2017, the Detroit area welcomed its first new vehicle assembly plant in a quarter century, to build off-road vehicles for the Indian company Mahindra Group; this followed local automotive-sector investments by other Indian and Chinese companies. Western Michigan, meanwhile, has been experiencing a quiet prosperity, with Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Muskegon increasing their economic output past pre-recession levels, thanks to a more diversified manufacturing base and lower wages.
Still, the scars on the manufacturing industry were lasting: Although the state’s manufacturing workforce rose by 44 percent between the depths of the recession and late 2018, it still ended up at only 70 percent of the level it was in 2000, due in part to robotics. Other worries on the horizon include Trump administration tariffs, which raised the price of steel, and innovations such as hybrid cars and autonomous vehicles, which Michigan’s automotive sector has been slow to embrace.
Michigan’s population would be smaller without a steady influx of immigrants; the foreign-born now constitute nearly 7 percent of the population, more than half of whom are citizens eligible to vote. Michigan leads the nation in residents with Arab ancestry, thanks to a nearly continuous influx since the late 1800s. Arabs now account for an estimated 2 percent of Michigan’s population, centered on Dearborn and other neighborhoods in the Detroit metro area; the Lebanese, Iraqi, Palestinian and Yemeni communities are well-established. In 2018, Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian, was elected to a Detroit-based House seat. Michigan has historically ranked high nationally in refugee resettlements, although the number plunged after Trump became president, mirroring the trend in other states.
Politically, Michigan was heavily Republican from the 1850s through the 1920s, then developed a partisan equipoise during the 1930s and has mostly maintained it since. A typical result in the class-warfare era was John F. Kennedy’s 51%-49% victory in 1960–Kennedy carried metro Detroit, 62%-38%, while Richard Nixon carried outstate Michigan, 60%-39%. The Grand Rapids area, with its large Dutch-American population and many Christian conservatives, is usually the most Republican part of the state, though the city of Grand Rapids is more liberal; the area is home to the DeVos family, which founded the multi-level marketing behemoth Amway, became major Republican donors and promoted conservative policies, notably school choice, the signature issue of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos. Industrial Flint, Saginaw and the Bay City corridor, with their blue-collar heritage and recent economic struggles, have generally voted heavily Democratic, as have the more highly educated areas around Lansing, the state capital, and Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan. The Upper Peninsula, historically Democratic, followed the patterns of rural America, turning increasingly red.
In the relatively prosperous 1990s, Michigan leaned toward Republicans in statewide contests; in the tougher 2000s, the state moved toward the Democrats. In 2010 and 2014, Republican businessman Rick Snyder won the governorship as a self-styled “one tough nerd.” Just four years after Obama won the state by nine points, Trump won by less than 11,000 votes out of the almost 4.8 million cast. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein each won more votes than the difference between Trump and Clinton–173,000 for Johnson and almost 51,000 for Stein. The most crucial shift was in Macomb County, the ancestral home of “Reagan Democrats,” which Obama had won by four points but which Trump won by 11; Trump’s margin of victory in Macomb was north of 48,000 votes.
Then, in 2018, the state that sealed Trump’s victory snapped back. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer won the gubernatorial race by nine percentage points, winning roughly twice as many counties as Clinton had. Whitmer built on Clinton’s vote share in traditionally Democratic counties, while also flipping Kent County (Grand Rapids), Eaton County (suburban Lansing), Bay County (Bay City), Saginaw County (Saginaw) and, perhaps most importantly, Macomb, by three points. Whitmer nearly matched Clinton’s statewide vote total, while her Republican opponent, outgoing Attorney General Bill Schuette, underperformed Trump by 420,000. The Democrats swept the key statewide offices and seized two congressional seats, though the party’s gains in the state House and Senate weren’t enough to flip the heavily gerrymandered legislature–a result that might be affected by the easy passage of a redistricting reform ballot measure.”
This year’s Almanac contains the same sort of analysis for the other 49 states and all their governors, freshmen or otherwise. It also offers in-depth profiles of every governor, Senator, and House member; vital statistics on Congress data tables; campaign finance data for all Senators and House members; analysis of voter turnout in each state and Congressional races in the 2018 elections; lists of statewide elected officials in each state; and updated voter registration data.
TO PREORDER THE ALMANAC, VISIT WWW.ALMANACOFAMERICANPOLITICS.COM