Question 1): Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued an apology last Wednesday regarding her intoxication during the Michigan-MSU football game on Oct. 30 in East Lansing. Nessel imbibed two Bloody Mary’s and became drunk and ill during the game. She was encouraged to leave to prevent her from, in her own words, “vomiting on her constituents.” She was escorted out in a wheelchair to prevent her from stumbling in the parking lot. She got home safely thanks to a designated driver. There was a predictable backlash by her political opponents that has come out against her behavior. How unusual was this incident, and is it likely to have negative repercussions for Nessel in the future?
Answer 1): Nothing like Nessel’s performance in East Lansing has ever been displayed in public by one of Michigan’s top four elected officials, going back to the 19th century. That said, people will be forgiving and cut her some slack. Most people are reluctant to pile on and want to give someone a chance to recover.
However, the late timing of Nessel’s public apology — 11 days after the event — is problematic. When she did finally come forward, she handled it in as good a way as she could have hoped for. She put some of her characteristic sardonic humor into it — maybe a little too much — but on the whole she dealt with it smoothly. But it was so late, and maybe under pressure that it would be exposed without her volunteering an account.
To sum up, she’ll have a hard time shedding memories of this incident. It’s going to be hanging over her even if it’s in a sub rosa context, meaning it will be on everybody’s mind. Every time Dana Nessel does or says something, you can be sure her political enemies will refer to it directly or indirectly, saying ‘How much did she drink before she made this decision?’ This incident may never totally “go away” and it may affect how she makes public comments — in press releases, social media or otherwise — that have been her trademark. Hard to believe she can be as snarky as she has the reputation for going forward, when any person or organization she disparages may look relatively benign to the public compared with Nessel’s own behavior.
How much will this affect her next year for the November 2022 general election? Hard to say without knowing what her actions and public rhetoric will be in the coming months. The video of her that has now gone viral is the only record the public has seen of Nessel’s day in East Lansing. She had better hope that is the sum total of it. God knows what else may be out there.
Question 2): . Rep. Shri THANEDAR (D-Detroit) says he’s interested in running for Congress. It’s likely his opponent would be U.S. Rep. Rashida TLAIB (D-Detroit). Would you expect Thanedar to be considered the favorite to win such a contest?
Answer 2): No, he wouldn’t be the favorite, and the odds against him will be long. Actually, Shri Thanedar is one of the most interesting Michigan politicians to come along in quite some time, and he’s got potential. However, what has set him apart from other politicians more than anything is personal wealth, which he was able to parlay into election to the state House in a multi-candidate Democratic primary for an open seat. The media has done a poor job of describing how well he’d done as a state representative after his obvious preference was to be governor, which he ran for in 2018. Thanedar’s biggest challenges right now are that he doesn’t even know what the new 13th District will look like — there is still a long way to go in the redistricting process — and he doesn’t know how much of it will be in Rashida Tlaib’s current CD or in his own state House enclave. He also doesn’t know how many other candidates will pony up for this seat in 2022, and specifically how many African-Americans, because they will constitute at least a plurality if not a majority of the district’s make-up. Thanedar is not black, and neither is Tlaib, who was originally elected only because a huge field of African-American Democratic candidates divided the black vote and allowed Tlaib to slip through on the rail with a skimpy plurality. Thanedar will need that kind of luck, and a huge backlash against Tlaib because of her antics with “The Squad” that have made her an ineffective outlier in the Congress and in her own constituency.
Question 3): Gov. Gretchen WHITMER beat everyone else to the punch week before last when she called on the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) to deliver “refund checks” to every Michigander with auto insurance. How big a political win was this for her? Huge? Moderate? or Minor?
Answer 3): It was a huge win for Whitmer, at least in the short run, less so in the long run, especially if the MCCA reveals that the amount it’s willing to rebate to motorists turns out to be paltry. How the Legislature’s majority Republicans, who were the politicians who made auto insurance rate reform happen, let Whitmer get out front with this announcement, followed by the MCCA’s response that the agency would comply with her demand, can be described in two words: Political Malfeasance. How inept can GOP legislators be to allow this to happen? Whitmer continues to run rings around them.
Question 4): Has the Benton Harbor Water Crisis eliminated the Flint Water Crisis as a campaign topic Democratic candidates can use?
Answer 4): It should, but there’s no overestimating the shamelessness of the political class. Somebody will try to — already Democrats are claiming the difference between Benton Harbor and Flint is that the former is a “clean-up” while the latter was a “cover-up.” Actually, Michigan voters are smarter than the political hacks and news media who have labored relentlessly to demonize former Gov. Rick Snyder and Republicans in general over the Flint Water Crisis. Fact is, no politician except Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, a Democrat, has paid any price for what happened in Flint, and that was half a dozen years ago. Walling was defeated by another Democrat, Karen Weaver, who herself was later ousted. Democrats haven’t been able to parlay any of their ‘poisoned city’ rhetoric into electoral success even in Genesee County, where Republicans are slowly gaining strength with every election.
Question 5): What would it take for Michigan’s Redistricting Commission to be considered a success?
Answer 5): To be deemed a success, the Commission would have to accomplish the impossible — satisfy every single political party and candidate and special interest group, including racial ones, that it did a perfect job. Will that happen? Of course not. The only question is whether, when the maps are finalized (probably late next spring by a state or federal court), will the commission itself be able to withstand an attempt to abolish or change it at the ballot box? Yes, it probably will, because all the actors will be petrified by what any alternative might be like in 2031-32. All the aggrieved parties will decide they will just have to live with it.