Bankole: It’s now up to Governor Whitmer

Bankole Thompson

The cavalry isn’t coming to save us. That’s something every Michiganian should know by now. And just in case, you don’t know or have not been reading the tea leaves, look to Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care Of Our Own,” for the blueprint. In that song, Springsteen sought to remind every patriot of the obligation to their people as he poetically noted, “There ain’t no help the cavalry’s stayed home. There ain’t no-one hearing the bugle blown.”

The task of taking care of our own begins with Democrat Gretchen Esther Whitmer, who will be sworn in Tuesday as the 49th governor of the state. Whitmer will begin a four-year term in which she will have to fulfill her campaign promises of dealing with the many and diverse challenges facing Michigan.

That includes fixing the bad roads, addressing a woefully underfunded public school system, fighting urban poverty, improving education and skills training, cleaning up our drinking water, making healthcare more affordable, and the list goes on.

No one is better prepared to directly take on this gigantic task than Whitmer herself, a seasoned lawmaker who understands the nuances of lawmaking and what it will take to get things done in Lansing, where Republicans control the Legislature. Her victory over Republican Bill Schuette was a very instructive mandate from voters about who they most trust to get things done and who will do so without excuses. 

“I am incredibly, incredibly humbled that you put your trust in me to be your next governor. We may have all gone to the polls for very different reasons, but today we as Michiganders came out because we all love this state and because we want a Michigan that works for every one of us,” Whitmer told supporters during her victory speech on Election Day.

Making the state work for everyone, especially those whose voices are frequently missing at the table of opportunity, is where the problem lies because there are many competing interests and visions about what the Whitmer era should look like.

But Whitmer should stick with the campaign promises that got her elected. She should make it clear in unmistakable terms that her first obligation is to those who legitimately bestowed on her the title of "Madam Governor."

Too often, political leaders get into office and forget about the constituents who elected them. They end up being an ambassador or a spokesperson for every other interest group outside of the electoral base that swept them into power.

As governor of a key Midwestern state that is expected to play an integral role in the 2020 presidential election, the Whitmer administration’s strong performance on a variety of issues in the coming year will also determine whether this is a state that is delivering practical and life-changing solutions to the problems that gave rise to the blue wave.

That is why it is important for Whitmer to move quickly and with determination, and begin to register some achievements and demonstrate that she is a governor who can deliver results. The team she assembles will be key to her success, and  she is making all the right moves based on several people I have spoken with who are close to the transition team. Her cabinet appointments have been stellar and diverse.

I’m told she is taking her time and doing a very careful examination before naming the administration’s poverty secretary because of its novelty and the enormous responsibility that individual will have in dealing with the mountains of injustice when it comes to inequality in the state.

The governor’s office is a powerful platform as well as a bully pulpit to drive systemic change in how the state responds to the needs of people. But change only comes about based on who occupies that office and the willingness and courage to do whatever it takes to hold government accountable.

That is why Whitmer was elected. Her success in office is all of our success regardless of where you call home in this state.

Gretchen Whitmer gives her acceptance speech after being elected the next governor of Michigan, in Detroit, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. The Michigan Democratic Party held its election night event at the Sound Board Theater at MotorCity Casino.

As she noted in her victory remarks, “At a time where we see too many people who want to divide us through building walls, I think we in Michigan need to get back to building bridges.”

That message is reassuring and couldn’t be more clear in this toxic climate of hate and division.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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