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Trying To Get A Handle On "Rick Michigan"

As anybody who's read this blog knows, I don't have much love for the right wing or most things Republican. But lately, when considering the Michigan governor's race, I've been dogged by a weird sentiment that I'm starting to find a little scary: I think I actually like Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder.

Don't get me wrong. I still don't know if I can vote for the man — Dem candidate Virg Bernero is a solid progressive and I like that he chose a smart black woman, Brenda Lawrence, as his running mate  — but I'm having a tough time zeroing in on much about Snyder that I can say is distasteful. (I'm glad the candidates are finally going to debate.)

I mean, first off, the candidate dubbed "Rick Michigan" packaged himself as a "tough nerd" early in the campaign season. I may be little more than a "'hood intellectual," but I'm still an intellectual dammit, and I appreciate a politician willing to put smarts and reason at the center of his campaign. I've seen some question Snyder's true "geek" credentials, but I still prefer him selling himself this way as opposed to him pimping his religious fervor or some needlessly divisive, third-tier "cultural issue" like transsexuals and driver's licenses.

There's also the fact that the tea baggers refused to back him in the GOP primary, a sure sign that Snyder's at the very least sane.

And I have also been impressed by his continued insistence on the importance of Detroit and other urban centers to the success of any state turnaround. (And the fact that he said it to crowds in places like Grosse Pointe and Grand Rapids during the GOP primary campaign is just as key.)

“For Michigan to be a great state, Detroit needs to be on the path to being a great city again. And we all need that attitude regardless of where we live in the state. We need to provide an environment where our young people want to stay and can stay and have careers in Michigan,” Snyder said.

Maybe this type of talk doesn't play well in other parts of Michigan, but I think it's absolutely true, a long overdue admission from the right and a refreshing change from those in the Michigan GOP who want to pretend the state's largest city doesn't exist.

Now, do I have my problems with Snyder? Oh, sure. If anything bothers me about the guy so far, it's his running-mate choice (Brian Calley strikes me as a bone Snyder's tossing to the anti-abortion choice crowd) and Snyder's incessant "CEO" talk. In the first instance, I'm pro-choice so there's no getting around the fundamental disagreement there. And in the second instance, I'm wondering when We The People are going to stop falling for this b.s. notion that, because a guy ran a big private company, he's capable of governing.

Exactly which part of the track records of recent "CEO politicians" — from Bush to Bing — are we supposed to find so impressive?

Snyder's success at Gateway does not automatically guarantee that he can turnaround one of the most economically moribund states in the country. In fact, given recent history, his having been a CEO might even be a strike against him in my book. That said, however, he's easily smarter than Bush and probably far more resolute than Bing so I'll withhold judgment on the CEO thing for now.

I think my biggest issue with Snyder, though, is that I don't really know much about the man, and he probably wants it that way. Do I like him because of what he's shown really — or do I just not dislike him because he's played his cards close to the vest? Jack Lessenberry got at this same issue recently:

Right now, Snyder, a venture capitalist from Ann Arbor who has never before run for office, is able to be all things to all people. His views on many topics are so little known that people with widely differing views are able to believe he is on their side.

His ideas, while presented reasonably and inoffensively, strike me as fuzzy and a bit bland (but then so has much of this entire guv's race). I've read Snyder's white papers on issues like urban renewal, and his proposals strike me (and others, too) as long on rhetoric but short on detail. Yeah, I don't disagree that the "cool cities" concept was seriously lame, but what specifically does Snyder have planned? I can't really tell. (I also can't say I'm crazy about his plan to replace the Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent corporate tax on businesses.)

Still, in an era in which so much of the right seems marked by sheer lunacy and raging hatred, I'm compelled to admire Snyder's willingness to embrace moderation. He's been cordial even to Bernero, and the two appear to have found some political common ground on some issues.

Again, none of this means I'll vote for Rick Snyder. Being a "decent guy" is about as essential to running this state as being a "CEO" as far as I'm concerned. And I'm sure it won't be long before one of my progressive brethren hits me with some information on Snyder's politics that will force me to reconsider this entire post. (Leave it to Michigan Liberal to get me re-thinking even as I'm researching and trying to wrap up this post...)

So sure, Snyder could turn out to be a GOP kook in moderate camouflage. But I haven't seen a lot to suggest that. For now anyway, Snyder presents himself as an admirable model of reasoned political thought and intellectual flexibility. Mike Cox and Pete Hoekstra he ain't. Hard not to be thankful for that at least.

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  • 1

    Open-mindedness is good. Ditto balance, perspective and fairness.

    No surprise to get a nutritious taste of that food for thought right here. Wouldn't expect a hood intellectual to serve up anything else by piling it on just one side of the plate.

  • 2

    I find him interesting as well Yet I have reservations about White Elites with little history with Black folks...Unlike Virg who did include Brenda in the soup I have yet to observe much from Rick other than the obligatory Black pc soundbites...

  • 3

    I used to be proud of being a Republican. Especially the fact that the party got going here in Michigan and stood for the freeing of the slaves. And I grew up very close to the last stop on the Underground Railway. (Few Blacks know this).

    For a very long time Blacks were Republican.

    But then City life intervened and hard times hit and it took some very masterful thinking to solve the tremendous problems of that time.

    There was a huge rotation politically and it was based upon logic and reason and intelligence.

    Yet I continued with my upbringing and the little town with two Democrats who taught at WSU.

    But then came the Peace Corps Speech and the civil rights movement and you may hear or read some of that soon.

    And then also there was carrying the flag at Commencement and reading the Great Society Speech over LBJ's shoulder and working for the Oakland County Planning Commission and later the Michigan State Housing Development authority.

    There, I was given two appointments by Governor Milliken and was very proud of that.

    But having seen some very nasty things I began to rotate too.

    So when Governor Milliken bought the full page Ad in the newspapers indicating that he felt that W was not operating properly I was so proud of him.

    And then not too long ago he spoke up about what a great leader Coleman was. No truer words were ever spoken. Of course I was proud of that too.

    But one has to reflect about all the horrible things that have been vested upon us by Republicans... an awful lot of very nasty stuff.

    So can one sweet appearing guy who could not make his Computer company sing turn me around again?

    I think not.

    Sweet, gentle words will no longer beguile me.

    Geek? Nah... just a slick advertising slogan.
    You know by whom.


  • 4


    Psst..We know more about us than you do...Just sayin

  • 5


    Sometime I have you show me the Barn and the tunnel.

    That way I'll know that you know more about yooz guys.

    But you are a tryin to slick us that you are so damned different.

    Now I'm not talkin bout Denard. He's definitely different.

  • 6

    As a lifelong Democrat I understand your conflict about Snyder. As someone who looks at this urban area as the Detroit - Windsor metropolitan area, the downriver bridge project (DRIC) is very important to me. What Matty Maroun has done to throttle travel between the two urban areas for his own personal renumeration is unconscionable. Snyder is for the DRIC downriver project, Bernero is not and Bernero has accepted campaign donations from the Marouns so that gives me a great deal of pause about Bernero. Remember, also, the Republican party was founded in Jackson, Michigan, as an anti-slavery party, with Michigan having a strong moderate Republican element since, witness William Milliken. Also, while the skills to run a corporation are significantly different than a mayorality or governorship, which is a principal reason Iacocca did not run for president, Michael Bloomberg has done a remarkable job as mayor of New York City, reputed to be the 2nd toughest political office in the United State and he is a self made billionaire founding a leading corporation. So some business leaders do have transferable unique management skills. It is very important to our political system that there be at least two viable political parties so it might be worthwhile to encourage moderate Republicans as a foil to the Rush Limbaugh - Sara Palin - Jim DeMint crazies. At this point I'm leaning Snyder despite the issues you have raised, which do give me pause.

    • 6.1

      I like your point about Bloomberg. The difference between Snyder and your regular old CEO is that he didn't get there by being a corporate yes man. He's a venture capitalist who has to have vision and a plan. Sure there are a lot of non-transferable things that go with CEO politicians but this guy can assess a situation and come up with a logical plan and that will be invaluable to the state.

      There could be other downsides to this guy I don't know about but a far as the business background - I see it as a positive. Especially if you want to grow entrepreneurship in the state - talk about on the ground experience.

  • 7


    When you can't come up with any ideas to distinguish your product and inspire the users, you turn and sell your product to some hapless Chinese investor and that makes you a genius nerd.

    My arse!

    Dam, the Republicans have been mesmerized into dull stupidity by Rush and that Slimey Newt.

    Obama saved Detroit because of his respect for Dave.

    I used to dislike people with Bernero's style but then I see that he knows what the hell he is talking about...

    Republicans are about robotics to eliminate people and drive them into poverty.

    That is why the horrible phone situation now exists with all the dumb robotic operators.

    Republicans simply do not stand for a better America they stand for boosting their rich buddies.

    That's Bobb's agenda as well.


  • 8


    Psssst! Thrash.

    I know something that you don't.

    We are virtually the same...You might have some better colors here and there.

    I know because I peeked.


  • 9

    How many decades have Democrats been in charge of this state and various cities? How's that working?

    Liking that someone is Black-or not liking because someone is White is just plain dumb. How about liking that a person is best qualified for the job. This state needs people experienced in running a business. Successfully. That is what this job is about. An economy.

    Stop thinking that because someone chooses to believe life begins at conception they are evil. Any person who has bought or used a condom knows when life begins. The laws regarding abortion are not going to change.

    BTW: It is the Taxed Enough Already Party, not a sexual term.

    • 9.1

      Michigan has had a Republican Governor for 32 of the last 50 years. For whatever that's worth.

      As far as "what this job is about," I couldn't disagree with you more. Too many politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, think their job is about fixing the economy. It's not.

      At least at the state and local level, the job of government should be about providing the basic services of government. That means paved roads, public transportation, effective K-12 and public university education systems, police/fire protection, parks, sanitation, etc.

      These are things governments, including the early American governments led by our Founding Fathers, have been doing since the dawn of time.

      Conservatives have valid arguments about streamlining the state's public sector workforce benefits. However, in Michigan we aren't "taxed enough already" to pay for the essentials.

      Is there "waste, fraud, and abuse" in government spending? Probably. But certainly not enough to cover the cost of fixing Michigan's third-world roads. Roads that cost Michigan drivers more than $500 a year in extra maintenance costs.

      To some people, potholes are just part of the free market. And the “George Soros-funded” radical advocates of pavement are just looters, bent on punching Hank Rearden in the face.

  • 10

    I met with Rick 4 years ago for a long lunch in Ann Arbor. I have known him for many years. Most of the lunch was about political issues. At the end of the lunch, I asked him which party he would run on if he ran, and his response is something I have never forgotten. He said it really made no difference to him because he would run on ideas. It seems to me that he has done just that. One thing to be sure, no one owns Rick Snyder. And we all know Virg is bought and paid for by orgainzed labor. If Michigan is ever to move forward, organized labor certainly deserves a seat at the table, but if the own the room we are dead!

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