Where would you go, someone asked me recently, if you had a time machine? Back to see what really went on at the founding of one of the major religions? The Texas School Book Depository on a November afternoon in 1963? Marilyn Monroe’s condo on an August night the year before? No, no, none of that. Not even Diana Rigg’s dressing room when she was doing The Avengers.
Nope. I would go back no further than this very April 1. Having arrived, I would sell my car and my dog, then cash in all the money — $59.42, I believe — that I have carefully and prudently saved for retirement or senile dementia.
And I would go directly to Las Vegas and bet it all that the Detroit Tigers would be in this year’s World Series. Which would mean that today I would be at my estate in Charlevoix, fending off calls from Republicans desperate for money.
Here’s what you have to say about what happened with the Detroit Tigers this year, which is that it was simply fantastic. Baseball is really some kind of an odd metaphor for life, or life in America, and it has an appeal and a meaning even people who normally loathe sports often understand.
Nothing else produces anything as stunning or poetic as the Tigers’ totally unexpected rise from the ash heap to triumph. The final game, won by that two-out, three-run home run in the ninth inning, was something more like literature than sports. Earlier in the playoffs, I saw someone standing along the sidelines with a sign saying, “Leyland for Governor.”
That cracked me up. I rolled my eyes, or at least the one good one, and snorted for a while … until I suddenly realized that this crazy sign made more sense than most of the political ads I’ve seen this year.
Here’s why. The day after the pennant, there was a story in The Windsor Star (a vastly improved newspaper over the last year or so, by the way) in which manager Jim Leyland said: “I knew we had good players. We didn’t have a good team.”
That’s what he did: He made the Detroit Tigers a team, who worked together for a common goal. They all had egos and individual goals and things they wanted to accomplish. But they put the team first, because he led them to see that was for the good of everybody. Late this summer, for whatever reason, they started screwing up. But when the playoffs began, and it all really counted, suddenly they were a team again.
That’s exactly what we need as a state and a society.
Michigan — and Detroit — need leaders who will tell us the truth about what shape we are really in, and make the majority of us want to get involved in working together to try to reinvent our economy. We need to invest in the future and make things better — for us, but more especially, for our children and those who will come later. That’s one of the oldest of all American traditions: wanting life to be better for our kids.
You see very little of that in politics today. Jennifer Granholm occasionally refers to a better tomorrow, but her first term was disappointing and incoherent. She didn’t stand for any clear agenda. (Merely trying to avoid being quite as bad or as mean-spirited as the Republicans doesn’t qualify as enlightened leadership.)
Dick DeVos, her Republican rival, is largely incoherent personally, as anyone who has seen the debates knows. But DeVos has a very coherent message, which is to give business a huge tax cut, starve social services, let our great research universities wither, and let the chips fall where they may.
He’d also prevent or deny any funding for embryonic stem cell research, and encourage the teaching of “creation science” nonsense in science classes.
Over time, that’s all bound to make Michigan a backwater. Where we go from there isn’t hard to figure out. I have actually been in places somewhat like the Michigan those policies might create. The few rich lived in locked and gated communities, and vast armies of poor lived in corrugated tin shacks. That’s how it is in Bogotá, Colombia, and Lima, Peru, and throughout a lot of what you aren’t supposed to call the Third World.
What we need is somebody who, like Franklin D. Roosevelt or Jim Leyland in the dugout, has the genius to get us to see we are all in a mess and that the government has to give us a push and a hand to get ourselves going again.
Naturally, I don’t know if Leyland is a Republican, a Democrat, an anarcho-syndicalist or favors the Romanov dynasty. He does seem to be a supporter of big tobacco, but nobody’s perfect.
However, given that Leyland seems to tell the truth and care about the general welfare of the people he is responsible for, he probably isn’t a Bush supporter. I won’t say how I plan to vote, but if Leyland were to say he wanted the job, both parties would be out standing in a minor league field.
What’s wrong with the Democrats: More and more pundits are agreeing the Democrats will win a majority in the House of Representatives next month, and may even come close to taking the Senate.
Yet if this does happen, it won’t be because people are voting for them. People will be voting against the horrible, immoral, unwinnable war.
They also will be turning thumbs down on the culture of corruption and incompetence that stretches from Jack Abramoff to Tom DeLay and Hurricane Katrina to Mark Foley, the hypocritical pervert in charge of protecting kiddies from e-mail predators. (You really couldn’t make this stuff up, could you?)
But they won’t be voting for the Dems, because … well, what is there to vote for? The Democrats are, I think, blowing a big opportunity. I think they could win by larger margins than they are going to — and win a victory that they could really do something with — if they only stood for something.
Part of the problem is that Howard Dean, the Democratic national chairman, is simply not as bright as Newt Gingrich was a dozen years ago, when Republicans took control of Congress for the first time in forever.
Ol’ Newt came up with this brilliant notion called “A Contract with America,” and got his candidates to agree to it. They posed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, and made a pledge to the American people that they would fight together for change. Never mind that many of their ideas were bad. People saw that they stood for something, and they stunned the experts and took over Congress.
So why don’t the Democrats make their own Pledge to America?
How about a Pledge to America that they will put us and our jobs first? That they will honor our rights and human rights, and never forget who the American people are and what our Constitution stands for? How about a pledge to fight for fair, not just free, trade? And a promise that this nation will never again start a war we can’t win in a nation that is no threat to us?
This needs refining. Yet even my hasty effort might inspire more people than the Democrats’ present platform, which, so far as I can tell, consists simply of this profound metaphysical statement:
“Uhhhh … like, Bush is worse.”Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org