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Stir It Up: There's reason for hope for Michigan Democrats in 2016



I'm trying not to be depressed about the results of last week's elections.

Gov. Rick Snyder didn't even have the bankruptcy decision to wave around and say, "I wrenched power from those pathetic losers in Detroit and saved them from themselves."

He apparently didn't need it in winning the election and helping to increase the conservative Republican rule of Michigan for the foreseeable future. Whoever did those polls showing Snyder and Democratic candidate Mark Schauer in a dead heat was apparently very wrong. I guess it doesn't matter much to them; they got paid.

At least Schauer was a candidate who looked and acted like someone who could be governor. In the 2010 cycle I thought Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero was a cartoon character of a candidate they found sitting at the little kids' table. Regardless of the image he projected, Schauer lost to a governor who is not the most popular guy around, based on taxing pensions of retirees and signing an anti-union right-to-work law, which shows just how bad things are for Michigan Democrats.

Detroit and Wayne County, which is pretty much Democrat Central in Michigan, have been busy rooting out the corruption of its minimally effective leadership. Labor, which has been staunchly in the Dems' corner, was routed on the right-to-work issue. Mayor Mike Duggan was nominally behind Schauer, but didn't seem to be working up much of a sweat on the campaign trail. From my perspective, he knew he was going to have to continue working with the governor and didn't want to strain relations.

Like I said, I'm trying not to be depressed about this.

At least I don't feel as bad as I did after the 2004 elections, when President George W. Bush slid in for a second go-round. After that, I couldn't pay any attention to politics for nearly two months. That's not happening this time. It only took two days for me to pull my head out from under the blanket. Maybe it's just that these are midterms and don't carry the gravitas of a presidential election. And to be real, it's not like things have been going great in southeast Michigan and we've suddenly changed directions. This is pretty much right in line with the crappiness we've been experiencing around here.

It's not much better across the country. National politics are redder than ever with Republicans taking the majority in the Senate to control both houses of Congress. At least Michiganders bucked the trend by sending Gary Peters to the Senate, but that wasn't nearly enough. Even with two Democratic senators from Michigan, the upper house in Washington flipped to a 54-46 Republican advantage.

Now, that's a questionable honor, as a 2013 Public Policy poll found that Americans had a higher opinion of things like hemorrhoids, dog poop, and toenail fungus than Congress. A CNN exit poll on Election Day found that eight out of 10 voters disapproved of Congress. Hmm ... did I hear a chorus of amen out there?

Unfortunately, regardless of how unpopular they are, they are running things. I'm wondering when the first bill to repeal Obamacare will be introduced.

That's a do-nothing initiative and that seems to be what the Republicans are up to. Regardless of the issues any individual ran on, there doesn't seem to be any overarching theme that Republicans are riding on. For most of the past six years, it's been the "we hate Obama" party. Maybe now we find out what they really want to do. So far I've heard a call to arrest the president.

But I'm trying not to be depressed. With a little effort, I can be a glass-half-full guy. I can find the silver lining, the light at the end of the tunnel.

Politics are volatile. The losing side can always go back to the drawing board and chart a new course for success. You can fill up that half-empty glass with hope for 2016 — oh yeah, we gonna get you next time, sucka. In two years, Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats and Democrats defending 10. That means the chances of flipping this back the other way aren't that daunting.

Especially in view of the CNN exit poll that showed something very weird. Only 44 percent of voters have a positive view of Democrats, slightly better than the 40 percent who have a positive view of Republicans. People don't even seem to like the folks they're voting for. Unless things change really fast, it's not hard to imagine the Senate looking really different in two years.

It could happen in Washington, but Lansing is going to stay very Republican for a long time. They increased their stranglehold majority in the state legislature, and there seems to be no end in sight. The little light in this tunnel is that voters elected Peters over west Michigan Republican Terri Lynn Land by a landslide (54 percent to 41 percent). So it's not like a Democrat can't get elected in this state. It just helps if you're running for a statewide seat against Land, who was outright embarrassing to her cause. She was so bad on women's issues that she ran commercials to remind folks that she's a woman.

But let's look at the bright side: In Michigan, six of the 11 cities that voted on marijuana decriminalization supported those initiatives. That was pretty good. However, the five that lost marked the first time any of these has gone down at the ballot box. The problem is that no matter how much you smoke, after the air clears the Republicans are still sitting there with their smarmy grins, secure in the knowledge that they have power well in hand.

As they say, misery loves company. I found something to make me feel better — someone else's misery. As I trolled the Internet, I came across something to make my glass half full. I should be thankful that I don't live in Mississippi or Nevada.

That's because I came across Opportunity Index scores the nation, states, and counties based on a number of economic, educational, and community scores that measure the opportunity for people who live in these areas. And did Michigan come in last? Hell, no! We're number 36. The last two places on the opportunity index were held by Mississippi and the dead last Nevada. On the political spectrum, those are red states. Apparently, being Republican does little to improve your opportunity when it comes to education and economics.

As I dug through the index with cheers of "we're number 36" echoing in the back of my mind, I found out that, despite all the claims by our smiling nerd governor, that things are getting better around here; our standing on the opportunity index has dropped a few notches in the past four years. We used to be 33. Maybe Snyder's magic is that he slowed down our slide toward the bottom.

Is that glass half empty? Half full? Or is the damned thing broken?

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