Bits of Tid: March 31, 2011

  • Guess who wants Wisconsin State Senator Randy Hopper recalled? His wife.

  • It looks like Tim Pawlenty is on the cusp of running for President. He and Huckabee may be two of the more formidable challengers for Obama - Pawlenty, perhaps more than Huckabee. Neither of them have much (that I know of, at least) that could be used against them. At least not on the order of Romney's flip-flopping, Gingrich's many scandals, and Bachmann's extremism.

  • For those of you complaining that Obama shouldn't spend time filling out his bracket, with all that's going on in the world: (a) Even the President needs a break - especially Obama, given all he's had to deal with; (b) Don't tell me you wouldn't fill out a bracket if you were President; and (c) Explain why you (most of you, anyway) voted for this guy:

  • For those of you complaining about Obama being in Latin America while ordering airstrikes in Libya: It's the 21st Century. Everything the President needs to make these decisions is easily accessible when he's traveling abroad.

  • We don't know all the details about Libya (as much as some of us think we do). But I do know that after 8 years of You-Know-Who, it's good to have a thinking President again.

  • Don't you just hate it when government butts in and tells us what kind of internet service we can and cannot get?

  • Will someone PLEASE stand up for those downtrodden, overtaxed big businesses?

  • Perhaps Hillary should reconsider not running for President again: 66% of Americans view her favorably.


Cue the Buyer's Remorse: Bernero would likely beat Snyder today

So says Public Policy Polling. The press release is in PDF form and it won't let me copy and paste, but here are a few highlights:

  • Of poll respondents who didn't vote, Bernero leads 37-32%
  • 47% would back Bernero, 45% would back Snyder
  • Snyder's approval rating is 33% (with 50% disapproval)
  • Collective bargaining rights are favored 59-32%; a constitutional amendment to ensure these rights would be backed by 49-37%
  • Snyder's EFM power grab is opposed 50-32%

What does this tell us?

  • Now that people know who Snyder is and what he stands for, they don't like him. No surprise.
  • People have said that turnout was a big factor in the disastrous results. Well, this shows that it was. It also shows that with better turnout, Bernero wouldn't have had to persuade that many independents and others to vote for him in order for him to win.
  • We didn't have to lose the 2010 election. The only reasons we did were because of bad turnout and the lack of funds needed to define the campaign on OUR terms, as opposed to their terms. (Hiring more paid staffers would've helped too, had we had the $$.)

That last point is important because it speaks to an issue I've noticed among many Democrats in recent months: The lack of a 'Yes We Can' attitude toward getting things done. I heard someone say as early as May 2009 that we wouldn't win the governorship. That attitude prevailed throughout the entire campaign, despite the fact that Michigan is a Democratic-leaning state. The reality is, if more people realized that we could have won... we might've won. People were happy to jump on board the campaign of Barack "Yes We Can" Obama, but who would want to volunteer for a campaign that they thought would be impossible to win? And more importantly, why did so many Democrats feed that mindset?

Another example: There was a mindset being pushed by many of the House Democrats that said, "Hey look, we're not going to win the State Senate, so support us instead." I asked a House Dem operative to elaborate on why he thought we wouldn't win the Senate, and all he could say was, "The numbers just aren't there." Turns out, the numbers WERE there. Had we kept the Senate seats we lost, we could've won back the Senate with LaGrand, Hopewell, Valentine, and Law. And with better turnout, we would have won the Senate. Instead, thanks to a fragmented campaign, the other side ended up with a 63-47 majority in the House when many people thought it impossible for Republicans to even get 56 seats. What a damn shame.

Yet another example: There is a YouTube video that was very popular among many of my Facebook friends and that was shared very widely, called "Michigan is screwed." That video was of a Rachel Maddow segment about the EFM bill. MSNBC had their own video of that segment, but the title didn't allude to us being 'screwed.' Someone I hadn't heard from in a LONG time posted the "Michigan is screwed" video on my FB wall, and before long I found the video on quite a few of my friends' FB pages.

I was even invited to an 'event' called "Michigan is F**ked." Yeah, really.

I could go on, but all I'll add is that what's going on now would not be going on if Democrats had done better in November. And Democrats would have done better if more of us had a better mindset - a mindset of doing what it takes to win, rather than a mindset of tearing down fellow Democrats and conceding an election long before it even takes place. But I mention all of this because the 2010 election has many lessons to offer us, and it is critical that these lessons be learned.


Dear Abby joke

Bet you won't expect the punchline to this one:

Dear Abby,

I am a resident of Los Angeles. My parents live in a suburb of Miami. They have recently been arrested for selling crack cocaine to a kindergarten class and are currently dependent on my other two sisters, who are prostitutes in Miami. I have two brothers, one who is currently serving a non-parole life sentence in Texas for murder. The other is currently in jail in Alabama on charges of incest.

I have recently become engaged to marry a former prostitute who lives in Los Angeles and indeed is still a part-time "working girl." We intend to marry as soon as possible and are currently looking into the possibility of opening our own brothel with my fiance utilizing her knowledge of the industry working as the manager. I am hoping my two sisters would be interested in joining our team. Although I would prefer them not to prostitute themselves, at least it would get them off the streets and hopefully the heroin.

My problem is this: I love my fiancee and look forward to bringing her into the family and of course I want to be totally honest with her. Should I tell her about my cousin who is a strong Scott Walker supporter?

Worried About My Reputation


Coming Soon to a Ballot near you, Part II: Proposals

Welcome to Part II of a post-2010 election, pre-2012 election miniseries here on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott, titled "Coming Soon to a Ballot Near You." Part one, on candidates who may make a comeback, can be found here.

Michigan residents have voted on 19 statewide ballot proposals since 2000. These proposals have legalized medical marijuana and stem cell research; banned gay marriage and affirmative action; and restricted eminent domain, felons serving in office, and pay increases for lawmakers. Voters have also blocked mandates on education funding, mourning dove hunting, the elimination of the 'straight-ticket' voting option, and school vouchers.

Despite Michigan's recent history with controversial ballot proposals, the two that appeared on the 2010 ballot garnered very little attention - and the results of each were decisive. Proposal 1, the proposal for a Constitutional convention which appears on the ballot every 16 years, was defeated by a 2-1 margin, while Proposal 2 passed by a 3-1 margin, thus preventing certain felons from holding elective office until 20 years after their conviction.

The lack of controversy from last year's ballot proposals may have contributed to the low turnout in this year's gubernatorial election. Nearly 570,000 fewer voters showed up at the polls in this year's gubernatorial election compared to 2006 - despite nicer weather and the fact that an unusually high number of seats were open.

But with the 2012 campaign starting to warm up, activists on all sides of various issues are getting ready to collect signatures to put various proposals on the 2012 ballot. Debate surrounding ballot proposals often influences the debate surrounding offices on the ballot. Recall, for instance, the considerable debate surrounding Bush, Gore, and vouchers in 2000, as well as Bush, Kerry, and gay marriage in 2004.

With 3,226,088 people having voted in the 2010 election for Governor, a ballot proposal would need the following number of signatures to get on the ballot, depending on the type of proposal:

  • For a Constitutional amendment: 322,609 signatures

  • For an initiative statute: 258,088 signatures

  • For a referendum on a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor: 161,305 signatures
So the bar has been set a little lower due to the low turnout in the gubernatorial election, meaning this could be the best chance supporters of a certain issue have to get a proposal on the ballot. Result? 2012 could be the busiest year, proposal-wise, that Michigan has had since 1996.

What issues could be the topics of ballot-proposal discussion in 2012?

Mining: Supporters attempted to get a proposal on the 2010 ballot that would have severely restricted mining in Michigan. They say they will try again for the 2012 ballot.

Healthcare: Opponents of President Obama's healthcare law failed to get a measure on the ballot that would have apparently stopped the healthcare law from taking effect in Michigan. A similar measure passed in Missouri last year.

Term limits: This is one of those that is often talked about, but hasn't been on the ballot since the current limits were enacted in 1992. Since then, individuals have been eligible to serve three 2-year terms in the House and two 4-year terms as a State Senator, Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, and Governor. Petitions were circulated in 2010 to eliminate term limits, but it didn't make it to the ballot. A group is trying to get it on the ballot in 2012; their proposal also calls for the elimination of the state Senate.

Rights of state employees: The same group attempting to get the term limits/get-rid-of-the-Senate proposal on the ballot is also pushing for three ballot proposals that would curtail the rights of working Michiganians. These proposals would ban collective bargaining by our hard-working state employees; make Michigan what I call a "Work for Less" state; and repeal the Public Employment Relations Act. The Legislature is considering bills that would do these things, thus possibly making these efforts irrelevant. However, if such bills are passed and signed into law, don't be surprised if labor groups unite to force these issues onto the ballot via referendum.

Casinos: Following the passage of Proposal 1 in 2004, new casinos may only be opened following a statewide vote to approve such casinos. If the group Michigan Is Yours gets their way, we could have seven new casinos opening across the state after the 2012 election.

(Historical fun fact: Another provision of the 1992 proposal had limited members of the US Congress from Michigan to six 2-year terms in the House and two 6-year terms in the Senate; however, like other term limits laws affecting members of Congress, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to invoke restrictions on serving in Congress beyond what is already in the Constitution (being of a certain age, living in the US a certain period of time, and living in the state you wish to represent in Congress).)

Government reform: In 2008, a number of Michigan Democrats tried to get a detailed proposal on the ballot that was called "Reform Michigan Government Now. Among other things, the proposal would have reduced the number of state lawmakers and judges; curbed state lawmakers' retirement benefits; mandated a paper trail for all elections; prohibited election officials from being involved in campaigns for elections they directed; and established a commission to conduct redistricting. Each of these issues could be placed on the 2012 ballot separately, although the one on redistricting may wait until later in the decade.

So what should progressive Democrats like us do?

Given that Republicans control the entire Legislature, there may be a lot of bills passed by the Republicans in Lansing that end up being both bad politics and bad policy. In addition to the anti-worker efforts mentioned above, there is also a bill to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit. Forcing these laws onto the ballot by referendum could prove to be a very worthwhile strategy.

Ah, but there's a catch. See, any bill that includes an appropriation of some sort is not subject to a referendum. That was the reason the state Supreme Court blocked a referendum on the controversial concealed weapons law of 2001. If referenda on destructive Republican legislation are prohibited by such appropriations, we could still reverse these laws through the initiative process.

Either way, promoting our stances on issues via ballot proposals is an effort Democrats should definitely undertake. Win or lose on the proposal itself, this strategy would give otherwise apathetic voters - many of them Democrats/Obama supporters - a reason to vote.

And if 2010 taught us anything, it's that they sure do need a reason to vote.