Bankole: In budget debacle, Whitmer proves an ally to none
Welcome to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's world, where promises are meant to be broken, and where people and vulnerable communities are used for political stunts in front of the lights and cameras.
That is what the budget debacle in Lansing has shown. More importantly, it shows that the governor is not an ally to anyone but to herself. She will do whatever makes sense for her own political survival, but nothing concrete to help the folks she used as props during the campaign.
I wasn’t shocked to see Whitmer use autistic children in the tug of war between her and the Republican leadership over the direction of the budget. Budgets are a moral statement about your priorities and values. They reveal what you stand for, and what you perceive as irrelevant.
The fact that Whitmer is willing to remove a $1 million line item on the budget that helps parents with autistic children says a lot about how far she will go to prove a point.
And autistic kids are not only in the suburbs. There are many parents with autistic kids in Detroit and Wayne County who like their counterparts in the suburbs equally benefit from the Autism Navigator, the hotline that provides counseling for families which the governor deemed necessary to eliminate as a power move against Republicans.
The elimination of the Pure Michigan campaign was also ill-advised. I recall when former Gov. Jennifer Granholm unveiled the Pure Michigan campaign on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Since then it has been an effective and popular effort to boost the state’s tourism.
Whitmer’s series of missteps in her first year shows she wasn’t ready for the job. She was not ready for the kind of prime-time leadership the governorship requires. She talked tough during the campaign and touted her legislative skills as a former Senate minority leader, saying they qualified her to work with both Republicans and Democrats in Lansing.
It's now apparent those legislative skills were hyped. On some of her proposals, she couldn’t even sell House Democrats. Added to that conundrum is the fact that she walked away from the negotiation table with Republicans earlier on — more the mark of a petulant child than a skillful negotiator.
At this point, nothing surprises me about Whitmer. The question is, how many campaign promises will she leave unfulfilled?
After all, this is the governor who told hundreds of poor and unsuspecting black Detroiters during a 2018 Democratic gubernatorial forum on poverty at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School that if she was elected, one of her first appointments would be a cabinet-level poverty secretary to deal with the crisis of economic inequality. To date, she has woefully failed to deliver on that promise.
Did she lie to voters at a high school named after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who made poverty a central theme of his civil rights crusade?
Her unwarranted intervention in Benton Harbor, insisting on shutting down the only high school in that poor and economically disenfranchised black city in the southwestern part of the state with the full backing of the white liberal Michigan Education Association, shows that Whitmer lacks an educated understanding of how to address urban poverty and the crisis of racial inequality.
It is a dumb move for any governor to begin losing allies in the first year in office, and that is what Whitmer has done. And If the governor’s advisers think that jetting into a few churches in Detroit on Sunday for a photo-op is the urban agenda, she is headed for more trouble.
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at 11:00 a.m. weekdays on Superstation 910AM.