Column: GOP putting itself in minority

Steve Mitchell

Based on what has happened in Michigan since Gov. Rick Snyder was elected with Republican majorities in both houses in 2010, Republicans should be poised for success in this year’s elections. The tough decisions they made brought Michigan from the bottom 10 states in the U.S. in attracting jobs to one of the top 10 states, ranking No. 1 nationally for the creation of new manufacturing jobs. Our unemployment rate is the lowest in 17 years and the debts built up in the past are being paid off.

Unfortunately, when one party has been in power for a long time, there is a tendency to forget how and why they have been so successful. The Republican successes resulted from the ability of Snyder, two Senate majority leaders, three speakers of the House and their members to work together to pass the legislation that made Michigan the “Turn Around State.” But, then came the override of a Snyder veto last month.

For those of us with a historical perspective, watching Republican legislators rejoice about overriding a Republican governor’s veto was a sad spectacle. The Democrats had to be especially happy about watching their GOP colleagues in both the House and Senate stand in a circular firing squad.

For me, it was reminiscent of watching Democrats in the 1980s when they had all the levers of power and managed to blow it. Now, the Republicans are upping the ante and doing even more to assure they will serve in the minority a year from now.

I heard all the arguments about how this was going to be a big tax cut and that it was really necessary. In fact, every Democrat in both Houses voted for the override and only one Republican, a state representative, voted no. For those Democrats who voted to override, it had to be an especially happy time.

Democrats put on record that they were for cutting taxes — a great campaign issue for them, they were able to “stick it to the governor” — an even better campaign issue for them —and best of all, they got to watch Republican unity, which has been unraveling all year, become even more unraveled, the best thing that could happen for them.

Since term limits took effect on the governor in 2002, every eight years we have switched from Republican to Democrat to Republican. History would tell us that the next governor will be a Democrat. Couple that with the fact that the national winds are not blowing in the Republicans’ direction and you have a perfect storm coming for the GOP in Michigan.

According to a national Rasmussen Poll, President Trump at the end of his first year had the same job approval that President Obama had at the end of Obama’s first year. And how well did that work out for Democrats? The following year, 2010, the Republicans gained more seats in the U.S. House than any party had gained in one election in 76 years and they swept into control.

In Michigan, Snyder won the governorship, the GOP retained control of the Senate and they won control of the Michigan House. Now, they are putting the likelihood of still being in charge of all three of the levers of power in jeopardy.

When the GOP took control of the Michigan Senate in 1983 after two Democrats were recalled and replaced by two Republicans, a GOP senator told me he never knew how irrelevant he was in the minority until he became part of the majority party. Well, the Republicans took a big step in making themselves part of the minority party and becoming irrelevant when they voted to override Snyder’s veto.

Back some years ago, a GOP woman won a very close special election to serve in the state House. Soon after she was elected she was faced with an override vote. It was an issue on which she took a strong stand in the election. If she voted against overriding a Republican governor, she would be going against her own stand and she would be putting her next campaign in peril. She said, “Oh, no, I will never vote to override my governor.” And she didn’t.

She may not have been experienced, but she was certainly wise. Republican legislators who voted to override Snyder made a huge mistake. If Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and Speaker Tom Leonard don’t start to work together with Snyder, all of their successors in 2019 will likely be Democrats.

Steve Mitchell is CEO of Mitchell Research & Communications, Inc.