I have observed politics in Detroit for more than 30 years. And this upcoming election next month appears to be taking its cue from the movie Titanic.
Despite having a good shot to unseat Gov. Rick Snyder, the Democrats are determined to repeat the disastrous campaigns of Howard Wolpe in 1994, Geoffrey Fieger in 1998 and Virg Bernero in 2010.
Not one powerful Democrat in the state, including Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Congressmen Sandy Levin, John Conyers and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, has been aggressively pushing their party ticket.
With all kinds of issues on the table, like bankruptcy in Detroit, the emergency manager law, right-to-work legislation, taxing retirement pensions, and the fire sale of Detroit’s land, you would think Democrats would be eager to jump on gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer’s bandwagon.
I believe the party bigwigs have a gut feeling that a Schauer-led ticket is going to get swept by the Republicans. And some of them are reluctant to parachute to the deck of a sinking ship.
Their only saving grace is Congressman Gary Peters, who is running for Levin’s senate seat against Terri Lynn Land. Land has proven she is not ready for prime time.
You can say that Peters is the Jennifer Granholm of this campaign. Granholm, in 1998, running for attorney general, was the only Democrat on the Fieger ticket to win statewide.
This election cycle could also be the swan song for Sandy Levin and Conyers. I don’t see either of them running for re-election again. Although somebody may need to tell Conyers that his time is up in two years.
Mayor Duggan, who has three former state chairpersons of the Michigan Democratic Party working for him, is quietly putting an organization together to run for governor. Why would he want Schauer to win? I don’t call Duggan’s few token appearances with Schauer at a few events in the city campaigning. I’d bet the house that Duggan wants to run for the top spot in four years.
What about County Executive Mark Hackel of Macomb County? He has been invisible as well. And he’s probably thinking the same thing as Duggan, that he wants to be governor.
And there is Mark Schauer’s Detroit problem, one that could derail the ticket in November. His party’s most loyal base is falling apart. People are split into different factions. Just look at who supported whom in the county executive race in the August primary.
Many party loyalists have told me that they see no point in going to the polls.
Many of their elected officials have been rendered powerless.
Detroit’s Lansing delegation is weak. The Wayne County commissioners are invisible.
And many disgusted black voters say they are unwilling to blindly follow the dictates of a political party that routinely ignores them until election time. Schauer will need a huge Detroit voter turnout. And he is not going to get it. It is obvious he has taken a play out of the Democratic Party book on black voters.
I remember speaking to the late Sam Logan, who was publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. He recalled the 1994 gubernatorial race between Democratic nominee Howard Wolpe and Gov. John Engler.
Logan said Wolpe wouldn’t even give the African-American newspaper an opportunity to sit down and discuss with them the issues of the campaign. Meanwhile, he said, Gov. Engler met with the editorial staff of the Chronicle several times at its office in Detroit.
The Chronicle, along with the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News endorsed Engler as the best candidate to lead Michigan. At the Mackinac Conference that summer, the governor held up the three papers indicating he had scored a trifecta. It was a great picture that resulted in huge press coverage.
Democrats freaked out. Wolpe was beside himself. He called Logan while on a trip to the African continent.
Logan said Wolpe screamed at him like an adult would yell at a child. Wolpe just assumed that he had the Chronicle endorsement. He didn’t feel he needed to convince them.
Logan’s story illustrates how the Michigan Democratic Party views African-Americans in Michigan. And they still don’t get it.
The people I talked to everyday feel left out of the mix. They see a Detroit renaissance that doesn’t include them.
Despite what some polls are claiming, Rick Snyder has beat out Schauer.
When was the last time anyone can remember a Republican governor opening a campaign office in Detroit? George Romney? William Milliken?
It doesn’t matter that the governor might get only six percent or less of Detroit’s vote. Schauer might only manage a six percent turnout in Detroit.
Adolph Mongo is a political consultant.