Betsy DeVos is on Michigan’s ballot in November.
Michigan is a leitmotif (1) of America’s electioneering. This the state where money, not experience and record, speaks. It's my home state.
This is ‘Michigan in the time of DeVos.’
“I knew she was going to win,” my friend texted me at 10:15 pm, August 2, at the news that Trudy Dixon, who was endorsed by DeVos and ‘posturely’ by Trump (2), was declared winner of the Michigan Republican Gubernatorial Primary.
I mumbled “yeah,” sighed, and ruminated on a different takeaway.
Though she beat her nearest challenger by more than 10 points, Dixon, the primary winner, was not so removed from her opponents in this regard:
not one Republican candidate for Governor of the thirteenth largest state in America could claim legislative, judicial or public administrative experience. Dixon, along with her opponents had never before served the ‘common good.’ None could claim a career commitment to serving public welfare and mission. (2)
In Michigan politics money talks. ‘Experience’ apparently, not so much.
Betsy DeVos is on the Michigan Ballot in November. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who is seeking reelection, has cause for alarm. Trump will encourage the crazies to ramp it down and let Betsy and her media dollars run the video clips. Incumbents are vulnerable on curated video replay, even in Michigan where the last incumbent Governor to be defeated was in 1982.
For Dixon, ‘there are no second acts in politics, if you piss off the donors.’ So far Dixon has toed the line between…election denial and ‘conspiracy think,’ falling into the “we’ll never be sure, will we… ‘and more ominously, ‘(we’ll) never let election 2020 happen again’ tropes
For DeVos, the tipping point and why she quit the Trump team in December 2020 was Trump’s strident conviction that he won the election in the face of unanimous legal decisions that his allegations were false. DeVos is savvy, a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party. She will let Dixon navigate these waters, but not too far into conspiracy harvesting. Tilling past ‘hurts’ does not focus voters on four more years of Whitmer.
Rather watch for Dixon to trade on her inexperience: ‘it’s a new day in Lansing.’ She is the hook to set up the down ballot votes. Michiganders in the past “split votes” between party candidates. Think voting for an incumbent Governor and voting for candidates for Republican State Senator and House member, county judges.
On the campaign circuit look for an emphasis on tone, not record, appearances, not substance. Look for nastiness coming from ‘out-of-state.’ Think Matt Gaetz pitching Michiganders that Whitmer is a cross between Eva Peron and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Dixon is the ‘fill in the blank’ partisan candidate up against a seasoned rationalist.
Watch for Dixon blaming Whitmer for acting decisively during the pandemic — precisely what Michigan independents are divided over. Of the state Governors in 2020, Whitmer stood out and stood up against Trump, who to boos from the MAGA mob, called her ‘that woman from Michigan.’
In 2020 two years into her term as Governor, Whitmer had medical teams cull the hourly incidence and transmission data from Michigan hospitals and rural clinics. She was on the phone with former Federal Crisis Advisor, New York State Governor Cuomo daily, trading figures, seeking advice. She locked down Michigan, containing COVID-19, saving thousands of lives. And she got the President of the United States, who at the time played down the COVID-19 spread, to release stockpiles of PPE for Michigan health care workers.
This is not a normal election in Michigan and not a normal election in a host of states. ‘Down ballot’ in Michigan is two 2020 election deniers running for AG and Secretary of State. (3) Both candidates will be trading on their Trump/MAGA endorsement.
Also, down ballot will be a women’s reproductive rights amendment, which would, if passed, decriminalize abortion and contraception.
In Michigan voters will choose between a First Lady of appearances and a Governor of resistance.
America’s political horizon 2022 in a nutshell.
On another news cycle in another town in America, one finds the image of DC Capitol Police survivors of the January 6 Attack on the Capitol sitting in the J6 Committee Hearings — a visual sub-text to where America finds itself ninety days before the “midterms.” These survivors did not come to exhibit recrimination, scoff at witnesses, demand counters. They came as part of their job, to see the event reckoning through, to provide a physical record by their presence.
The future-oriented among us can reflect with these ‘survivors.’ Much as we spend time influencing and changing the course of America’s institutions, we respect outcomes and struggles.
But this destruction of democracy: will there be anything left to fight for?
Smiling gamely and gasping while recalling her six-year old’s promise to beat with a stick the “bad guys” coming after his mom, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday. She and other Secretaries of State were asking for federal dollars to protect poll and election workers from harassment, intimidation and violations of privacy. In short protect the people who are protecting our institutions: the Capitol Police in election administrative cloth.
Her message was two-fold, praising the ‘courageous work’ of poll and election workers and reflecting on the threat to election administration in a democracy.
America has circled back to where it all began, life before the Big Lie, before the Republican Party abandonment of democracy, before November 8, 2020.
“If we had the largest voter turnout in Michigan of any Presidential election in Michigan’s history… if these candidates who deny that the election was fair and just, then why are they running for office?”
1- “A recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.”