Question 1): Despite rampant inflation driving up gas prices, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week vetoed legislation that would suspend for six months Michigan’s 27-cent-per-gallon excise tax on fuel. Earlier, Whitmer had noted that, because the bill’s effective date would be delayed until 2023, “this misguided proposal does nothing for Michiganders facing pain at the pump right now.” Of course, the reason the bill was not given Immediate Effect by the Legislature was because Whitmer’s Senate Democrats withheld the votes necessary to give the measure the 2/3 majority it needed for IE. Instead, Whitmer and the Dems proposed a separate gas tax relief plan that would suspend the 6% sales levy on gasoline — saving drivers a measly 24 cents per gallon on a $4 gallon of gas. The governor also has asked the federal government to suspend its 18-cent-per-gallon fuel tax even though she herself is unwilling to do the same here in Michigan when she has the power to do so. What’s going on here? With polls showing roughly two-thirds of Michiganders support suspension of the state gas tax, could Whitmer and the Democrats really be this politically tone deaf?
Answer 1): Maybe it’s not a partisan thing. Maybe it’s a clash of the modus operandi of two branches of government — executive vs. legislative. For example, The Tennessee Journal noted that gas prices in the Volunteer State have reached a record $4.13 per gallon, an 85% increase over a year ago. So minority DEMOCRATS in the Tennessee House of Representatives proposed exactly the same remedy that majority Republicans had in Michigan — a moratorium on the state’s 27.4-cent tax on each gallon of gas. But Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a REPUBLICAN, said he had “no definitive plans” to support such legislation should it reach his desk, and majority Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature have yet to take action on such a bill. Perhaps there is something about governors, of either party, that compel them to be skeptical of such efforts while legislators are more likely to embrace them. After all, governors are supposed to be “the grown-ups in the room,” as opposed to the news media’s favorite whipping boys, legislators, who are apt to include at least a few members who are more sensitive to public opinion on hot button issues but sometimes more irresponsible in recognizing the budgetary ramifications of doing so. Whatever the reasons, Michiganders are unlikely to get any relief at the pump from Lansing politicians, and the GOP will make every effort to ensure that Whitmer and legislative Democrats get the blame for it. On this issue, at least, Republicans have a rare winning hand.
Question 2): Judging by his rally in Macomb Co. this past Saturday, Donald Trump certainly thinks the April 23 Michigan Republican Endorsement Convention in Grand Rapids is important. But will it be so contentious (due to battles between candidates endorsed by Trump and those he doesn’t like) that the GOP will be too divided to win next fall?
Answer 2): Democrats and most of the news media will certainly do everything they can to play up the divisions within the Republican Party, which are real. Democrats will get a pass from the MSM on their own internal strife. The major statewide incumbent officeholders are all Democrats, and they will have an advantage in November over any Republican nominee no matter who he or she is — no Democratic incumbent AG has been defeated for re-election in seven decades, and no Democratic SoS since Richard Austin in 1994. This doesn’t mean Democrats can expect “crossover” votes from Republicans — the sitting Dems are too despised by the GOP for that to happen. It will all come down to how independents and ticket splitters vote and who turns out. If this year turns out like 1986, when Republicans simply didn’t show up at the polls because they didn’t like their gubernatorial nominee, Bill Lucas, Nov. 8 will be a long night for the GOP. Republicans can guarantee not just a defeat, but a massive defeat, if they don’t hold their noses and turn out to vote for their party’s nominees, whether those candidates are endorsed by Donald Trump or not. Maybe RINO will take on a new definition — you’re a real Republican if you vote no matter what, you’re a RINO if you don’t.
Question 3): Are November 2022 voters going to care much whether or not a GOP candidate claims Donald Trump really won in 2020?
Answer 3): Certainly, some voters — maybe as many as one out of five — will care. The big question will be how it affects their voting behavior. We’re talking about Donald Trump Republicans here. They may be bitter and disgruntled about 2020, but they are going to be even more bitter after 2022 if they bail out and don’t participate in the electoral process, and they’ll have only themselves to blame.
Question 4): There’s an old saying: ‘What goes around comes around.’ Former Gov. Rick SNYDER is being dragged through the Genesee County courts over the ‘Flint Water Crisis. Will something similar happen to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and/or Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson if the Republicans take over in 2023?
Answer 4): It may happen whether Republicans take over or not. Remember, Snyder was targeted for prosecution when Republicans controlled ALL of state government, and a GOP Attorney General led the charge. Everybody in Michigan ought to be concerned about the precedent that may be set in the Flint litigation by criminalizing policy decisions by state officials. It’s a time bomb that may explode on top politicians at any time in the next few years if it isn’t taken seriously.
Question 5): If high gas prices continue to be a top issue the rest of 2022, will the Democrats’ position on closing down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac become politically untenable?
Answer 5): If Whitmer and Nessel persist in their efforts to close down Line 5, and if high gas prices continue unabated through the rest of this year, yes, it’s going to be a huge problem for Democrats from top of the ticket to the bottom. NOTHING gets Michigan voters riled up like high gas prices, NOTHING!, and the Democrats, from President Joe Biden on down, are going to get the blame on ANY issue tied to that phenomenon, including Line 5 and Democratic votes in the Legislature against suspending the gas tax for six months and Gov. Whitmer’s veto of same. Democrats are now trying to shake this albatross by supporting a suspension of the sales tax on gas but that is a very meager alternative that voters can easily see through. Incredibly, Whitmer and Democrats are urging Congress to suspend the federal gas tax when they themselves are deliberately passing up chances to do something far more helpful to motorists. The public is not amused. Why Democrats are sticking with this policy approach is a puzzle — it’s almost like they have a political death wish.
Timothy Kevin Sullivan says
Nice and interesting article as always, Bill. I wish to comment only on #5 as my response may be a wee bit on the long side (before self-editing). Much of what various politicians cited in the article are doing is hoping the masses confuse activity with accomplishment, and that their friends in the media will let them get away with it.
You seem to be looking at closing Line 5 as a political or economic issue (which it is) but not the way the Governor and her supporters do.
Closing Line 5 is a religious issue for them. Just as the right has its market cultists who look at the “Market” as divine and treat Adam Smith, F A Hayek and Milton Friedman as some sort of holy trinity, there are those on the left who treat climate change and all its prior manifestations (global cooling in the 70s, depletion of the ozone layer later on then global warming) as a religion. And opposition to it is treated as heresy (most lenient reaction) or apostasy (least lenient) and they treat it accordingly. As a religious issue, dissent is sin and must be opposed.
By their thinking, shutting down Line 5 helps “Save the planet”, so it is good and a moral obligation on all of us. The resulting higher gas and energy prices that are the consequences of this are the penance we sinners must pay for our environmental mortal sins. And since most of us lack excess money, we cannot be like the environmentally conscious celebrities who lecture and hector we the great unwashed while they travel to global warming conferences on private jets and the like (looking at you John Kerry and Leonardo DiCaprio), purchasing the secular equivalent of plenary indulgences through speeches, planting trees, etc.
It also enables them to encourage increased oil production in Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to bail them out of a political and economic mess while restricting it here (they sin, we don’t); encouraging us – through policy – to buy electric cars we cannot afford, ride what passes for mass transit or do without; and to feel guilty about wanting to be warm in the winter, cool in the summer and being able to travel.
And this is where your analysis is correct. There is no rational political or economic reason for it. The ONLY reason there can be for their seemingly silly policy positions in the executive offices in Lansing is climate change and its attendant issues IS a religion to them.
As for the GOP opposition, it is because the “Market” is their religion. Heaven forfend they raise taxes to fix what they know is broken (roads, bridges, sewer lines and the like), or that there is a role for government beyond cutting taxes. Doing that is heresy.
So we have religious fanaticism masquerading as policy. And if we are lucky, the AC/DC song “Highway to Hell” will not be our final result.
David L Richards says
Your comment relies on at least three unwarranted assumptions with respect to shutting down Line Five. The first is that it is crucial to gas prices in Michigan, which it isn’t, despite the Enbridge propaganda. Most of its product goes to Ontario, and Michigan gas supplies do not depend on line 5. The second is that there is no risk to the tourist industry in Michigan in leaving it under the Straits of Mackinac, despite an extensive history of spills, including by Enbridge in Michigan, that were supposed to be impossible. The third is that climate change is a hoax, or at least is not real. Perhaps the large number of scientists are wrong in suggesting it is happening, but we had better hope so, or our concerns over the price of gas will seem quite petty. Having these things in mind does not make you a member of a cult, as they are backed up by the most reliable information available.
John C Stewart says
So appreciate your questions and analysis. I still can’t get over the “bad-mouthing” of Meijer-the Dutch pronunciation and Cong. Peter Meijer by EX-POTUS. You just don’t come into Michigan and “bad-mouth” Meijer or Ford, for that matter. They are an intricate part of our lives.
Clearly, Meijer has done so much for the people of Michigan-this cheap shot by Ex-POTUS is over the line.
Matt Crehan says
Cheap shot? Not hardly!! Keep in mind that Meyer, Meier, Myer, or how ever the hell he spells his name came into congress as a fresh face without any baggage, and just like that he spills the vegetables on the grocery store floor by voting to impeach DJT. How incredibly STUPID!!! He very easily could have voted no, with a simple explanation, to-wit:
“Since DJT will be leaving office in less than a month, beginning the impeachment process now would soon become moot, and distract from far more substantive issues that the new congress must concern itself with”.
But no. His amateur idiocy has surfaced, and now he will be labeled as a RINO forever. When you have the luxury of painting your own canvas and instead tear it to shreds, it reveals a serious character defect, not to mention a severe lack of pragmatism.
His true colors clash with the furniture in his district. (Grand Rapids being known as the Furniture City) So its time we FIRE MIRE!!
Barbara Bradford says
Appreciate your educated thoughtful analysis of issues
dan murphy says
Environmentalism has been hijacked by Progressive ideologues, who under the guise of “saving Democracy” , seek a a more authoritarian rule by government . Their geopolitics is rapidly transforming Free Enterprise into a Chinese top down authoritarian driven economic system . Biden’s “war” on domestic fossil fuel production is a prime example.