If some Michigan liberals have their way, the Wolverine State’s governor, Rick Snyder, will be the next Scott Walker.
“Governor Snyder is bad for Michigan. Our citizens cannot afford to wait another two years to get rid of this corporate monster; the recall will chop off its head,” said Jan BenDor in a statement. BenDor serves as an election specialist for Michigan Rising, the group that’s working to gather 1.1 million signatures to remove Snyder. (Only around 800,000 are needed, but the group wants to make sure that it has enough to withstand many being thrown out).
Unlike Wisconsin, in which state a bill that sought to limit collective-bargaining powers was the reason behind the recall, there seems to be no single issue behind Michigan Rising’s recall rationale. Instead, BenDor offers a laundry list of complaints in her statement.
“Governor Snyder has abused the children of Michigan,” she said. “He cut thousands of children off food aid. He robbed $400 million from the School Aid Fund, and then slashed school payments. This forced children into crowded classes. Then he signed more laws that privatize services, attack teachers and blame unions.”
Matt Frendeway, the state GOP’s director of communications, dismisses the recall as a purely partisan stunt: “I think what’s driving them is their frustration he’s succeeding,” he says.
Greg MacNeilly, a Michigan GOP strategist, argues that it’s ridiculous for the group to claim they’re driven by school cuts since former Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm also slashed education funding. Instead, MacNeilly contends, it’s Michigan’s emergency-manager law — which Snyder signed into law last year — that’s driving Michigan Rising. The law is despised by the Left (liberal magazine Mother Jones headlined a piece about it “Michigan’s Hostile Takeover”), in part because it allows union contracts to be broken. Although Michigan law had previously allowed the state to intervene when localities were in desperate financial straits, permission to break union contracts was among the new additions to the bill Snyder signed.
“The biggest thing that the Democrats have coalesced around is this emergency-manager law,” says MacNeilly. “But in Benton Harbor and in Flint and in a few other cities, Snyder sent in an emergency-manager and one of the things they get to do is abrogate contracts. So all the union contracts were zeroed out and they started over. They fixed Benton Harbor in 18 months and that had been a city that had been in and out of the verge of bankruptcy for 20 years.”
The repeal is not the only tactic being employed against Snyder. A separate effort to put repeal of Snyder’s emergency-manager law onto the November ballot is underway, and the real energy seems to be behind that measure — not the effort to recall Snyder. Also competing for attention is an effort — backed by the United Auto Workers union — to add an amendment to the state constitution that would make it unconstitutional for Michigan to pass a right-to-work law.
“There’s a sliver of the Democratic party that believes its only route to power is through repealing elected officials. They’ve tried before in Michigan and failed. They’re trying again this time, even more isolated from reality,” says Frendeway.
“The Democratic party hasn’t embraced them,” he adds. “Their allies in Big Labor haven’t embraced them. And they’ll fail again, because to do so would require them to campaign against Michigan’s successes. Our unemployment is the lowest it’s been in almost four years.”
MacNeilly muses that even Michigan Rising, which constitutes the second effort to recall Snyder — the first, last year, didn’t collect enough signatures — may not seriously believe that enough Michiganders are mad at Snyder that their effort will succeed. “What this and the other attempt to recall him really are, in my opinion, is a list-development project. It allows for Democrat operatives to go to a variety of events and get the names of very hardcore Democrats and append their voter file,” he speculates.
Furthermore, Snyder — who calls himself “one tough nerd” — has tried to avoid unnecessarily rankling Democrats. “If you juxtaposed him and Chris Christie, they’re on the opposite end of style and approach,” says MacNeilly. “He’s low-key and very moderate and civil in his tone, which keeps the bases on both sides from getting too riled up.”
Furthermore, Snyder’s popularity has been increasing in recent months; according to Marketing Research Group, based in Michigan, his approval ratings shot up to 50 percent in March, a 12 point increase from his September approval rating.
Snyder’s office brushes off the recall effort.
“We’re going to keep working in a collaborative, positive manner to move Michigan forward,” e-mails deputy press secretary Ken Silfven. “The people of Michigan put their trust in this governor because they knew he’d do what’s best for this state. Their confidence is paying off. He’s made the tough but necessary decisions and has implemented true fiscal discipline. Numerous indicators show that that Michigan is indeed on the rebound, and our success story is being noticed nationwide. So we’ll stay focused on doing what’s right for Michigan and its families.”
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.