Spending Money Wisely - or, In Defense of the MDP

With the success of Wisconsin Democrats' recent efforts to recall Republican lawmakers and replace them with Democrats, a number of progressives in Michigan have called on the Michigan Democratic Party to seek to recall Michigan Republican lawmakers.

The MDP's recent request for support in defeating recall attempts against Democratic lawmakers provoked the ire of one blogger on Blogging for Michigan. What follows is my response to his post, which I have chosen to repost here.


Frankly, I remain unconvinced that the MDP should be spending – rather, wasting – members’ hard-earned dollars on the remote possibility of electing Democrats just months before the entire State House will be up for election anyway.

There will be something in November 2012 called a ‘general election.’ If a Republican can’t be ousted in November 2012, they probably couldn’t be ousted in a recall election either.

Of course, many of us believe that in those rare cases in which a recall SHOULD be attempted, the petition-gathering stage of such an effort should be done on as grassroots a level as possible. Whatever your views on that, let’s be practical here: Is it worth it for the MDP to spend our (members’) money on getting petition signatures just for the ever-so-slight possibility that someone might be recalled in a couple months and possibly – just possibly – be replaced by a Democrat six whole months (i.e. 1/4 of a state House term) later, and just before the term is to expire anyway? Especially when it would take eight successful recalls just to bring Republicans down to 55 House seats?

Now if we had a recall system like they do in Wisconsin, I would be more likely to support MDP involvement in the petition-gathering stage. Consider the differences between Michigan and Wisconsin: There, once the petition is filed, the countdown is on for a general election to be held between the two major-party nominees (and if needed, a primary takes place beforehand). And that election can take place within a couple months. Here, OTOH, after petitions are filed, the next step is for an election to determine whether the person should actually be recalled in the first place. THEN there’s a primary, THEN a general election after that which would take place six months after the original recall vote (and about nine months after petitions are turned in).

Suppose petitions to recall a Republican lawmaker were turned in tomorrow. The recall vote would happen in February, which is not an ideal time for Democrats, since that is the date of the Presidential primary (in which most voters will be Republicans, thus likely shellacking a recall attempt against a Republican by a wide margin). In the highly unlikely event that the lawmaker IS recalled, the primary to succeed him/her would be May 8. The general election would be August 7 - also not ideal since Republicans will have another statewide primary that day, this time for US Senate. Whether or not many Democrats vote will depend on whether or not Democrats have competitive primaries for different races in that state House district. Not to mention how confusing the ballot would be for those unfamiliar with the primary process - "Okay, so I could only vote for Republicans in that section of the ballot, so I guess I'll have to vote for the Republican in this state House race too." In the unlikely event that a Democrat is elected in August, guess what will happen just three months later? The general election.

Oh, but the MDP doesn't have the money to keep them in office or to help carry Michigan for Obama. Thus they who were elected in August lose just three months later. Plus we're stuck with President Perry, Senator Durant, and the scorn of Michigan once again being the scapegoat in the Democratic Party. All because the MDP was spending money trying to get people recalled so others could replace them for three months.

Suddenly, it seems pointless for the MDP to be spending all that money, doesn't it?

Now if the MDP had enough money to throw around, maybe it would make more sense for MDP leaders to support the petition-gathering stage. But as we all know very well, the DeVoses are not Democrats, and the MDP is not the richest entity known to humankind.

As to fighting Republican attempts at recalling Democratic lawmakers? Republicans are infamous for using every dirty trick in the book to get Democrats recalled. Witness (1) the 2007-2008 recall campaigns against lawmakers who voted to raise the income tax; (2) the tricks used to get Wisconsin Democrats recalled; and (3) the effort to get the affirmative action ban on the ballot in 2006. In all of these cases, deception was used to get signatures from people who wouldn’t otherwise support their efforts.

If any of these campaigns against Democratic lawmakers are able to get the necessary petition signatures, guess when the recall election would be? February 28. I already mentioned above that most of those who vote on February 28 will be Republicans, who would be much more likely to vote ‘yes’ on a recall question against a Democrat. Result? These Democrats would be VERY likely to get thrown out of office. In other words, this (the petition-gathering stage) IS the election, so to speak. Whether or not folks like Brandon Dillon stay in office for the rest of their terms could very well be decided more by the success or failure of the Republicans’ petition-gathering efforts, with the February 28 election being a formality.

That’s why this needs to be fought NOW.

As an MDP member, I expect Party leadership to act in ways that will help us elect Democrats and keep current Democratic elected officials in office. Every dollar that is spent on an effort that is highly unlikely to succeed is a dollar that cannot be spent helping to re-elect our President, re-elect Senator Stabenow, and take back the US House, the State Supreme Court – and, by the way, the State House.

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