I have lived through more elections than I would like to be reminded of, and I have survived in Michigan through two midterm elections and a Presidential election prior to this one. But I have never encountered anything like what I have seen this year.
Michigan is, of course, a battleground state. The polls suggest that Mitt Romney may win here, and the Romney campaign evidently thinks that he has a real chance, for in the last couple of weeks we have been inundated with calls. Mitt Romney has called. So have Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Pat Boone -- and the list goes on and on. On Sunday, they left us alone, but on Saturday there was a robocall every other hour. Were I not persuaded that this is a crucial election, I would be voting for Barack Obama out of resentment that my day had so often been interrupted by Romney's campaign. The Romney people evidently have more money on hand than they know what to do with.
I do not have a working television, so I cannot say anything about the political advertising to which my fellow Michiganders are being subjected. But my bet is that both sides are spending like drunken sailors, and I would guess that nearly everyone here will breathe a sigh of relief when the damned thing is over.
I do, however, have a mail box, and in it I get one political advertisement after another. This has, of course, happened in the past -- but never on this scale. As I mentioned in an earlier post, entitled What About Michigan?, we have as our governor a Republican businessman who thought that all would go well if he placated the unions. Sensing that he was a weakling (which he is) and that he has divided his own party (which he has), they are now going for broke.
Their aim is to get a series of amendments written into the state constitution forcing home-care workers into the Service Employees International Union and denying the state the right to limit in any way the sphere of collective bargaining for the already existing public sector unions. The radical environmentalists want to do the like with an amendment forcing the public utilities to provide "at least one quarter of their annual retail sales of electricity from renewable energy sources," such as "wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower," and to deny those utilities the right to pass on the cost to their customers.
Not to be outdone by the unions, an unscrupulous businessmen in league with the unions (who owns a bridge linking Detroit to Canada) wants to write it into the state constitution that Michigan cannot spend any money building another bridge that might compete with his without a referendum. The left is also attempting a judicial coup d'etat by running three radical feminists for the Michigan Supreme Court, each of whom are conducting demagogic campaigns against the sitting justices. On the radio, one hears advertisement after advertisement. One's mailbox is inundated. There is a very ugly fight going on.
The local polls, for what they are worth, suggest that all of the ballot initiatives are likely to go down to defeat. I would find this gratifying if they did not also show that the worst of these command support from 40% of my fellow citizens. I am also dismayed that Debbie Stabenow, who may be the least intelligent member of the United States Senate, seems poised for an easy victory. I have not received in the mail a single item from her Republican opponent.
From all of this I conclude that, in the last four years, there has been a dramatic change in American politics. Barack Obama has ushered in a new style of political confrontation -- one in which the aim is to shut down opposition, silence criticism, and crush forever those who think that the public sector's only justification is the service it supplies to those who work in the private sector. The tone in Michigan is not as ugly as it was the last couple of years in Wisconsin. But it is ugly enough, and I suspect that the same is true in Ohio. I am not persuaded that Barack Obama has succeeded in setting rich against poor. But he has clearly succeeded in setting the labor aristocracy that works in the public sector (and most of the time controls the legislature) against the rest of us. We have entered, I fear, a new political era, and the leading figures on our side (such as Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan) are not prepared for the fight that is required.
What's it like where you hang your hat?