Finley: Dems make sure bet a crap shoot

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

A consistent truth in Michigan politics is that when handed a golden opportunity, the state Democratic Party will do its best to squander it.

This election season should be easy street for Michigan Democrats. Not only is President Donald Trump electrifying their base, but for a half century Michigan voters without fail have ousted the party in power when its term expires. That makes 2018 the Democrats’ turn.

And so what did they do at their state endorsing convention last weekend? They walked out of Cobo Center with an all-white slate of candidates that make the party’s vaunted big tent look like a bed sheet.

Every candidate the Democrats endorsed is white.

And while nearly all are women —Gretchen Whitmer for governor, Jocelyn Benson for secretary of state, Dana Nessel for attorney general and Megan Cavanagh for state Supreme Court — and that could pay off if the #metoo movement motivates women to the polls, most are from outside Metro Detroit, the richest vein of Democratic voters.

Democrats promise to patch their diversity problem with the lieutenant governor pick. The consensus is that the No. 2 spot on the ticket must go to an African-American male from Detroit.

Delegates had a chance to add some color to their slate by picking Pat Miles, an African-American from Grand Rapids, as their attorney general choice. The UAW backed Miles, which usually is a deal clincher.

But Nessel, the attorney credited with overturning Michigan’s gay marriage ban, rallied thousands of her supporters to Cobo to clinch the endorsement.

It’s the decision Democrats are most likely to regret before November. Nessel is from the party’s far left, and pushed her more moderate opponent in that direction during the campaign. If she does the same for the slate as a whole, Democrats will find it harder to attract independents, which now make up the state’s largest voting bloc.

It would be smart for Democrats to position themselves closer to the middle with mainstream candidates and positions.

That’s not Nessel. She’s openly hostile toward men, and while they may be out of fashion this season, they still vote. Her campaign ads note that most of today’s messes were created by men and that she is the only candidate “without a penis.” Combine that with the Democrat’s anti-gun platform and you’ll see a lot of men clutching their privates and voting Republican.

Some Democrats are urging Miles to stay in the race in anticipation Nessel will do or say something to disqualify herself as a viable candidate before the formal nominations are made in August. If she remains the nominee, it could give many Democrats a reason not to vote straight ticket in November.

At the top of the ballot, Gretchen Whitmer’s shortcomings have been well vetted by the party’s power base. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and others spent most of the winter trying to lure alternatives into the race, without luck. Her dearth of accomplishments has party leaders worried how she’ll fare against a more experienced and campaign savvy GOP opponent.

Republicans are wearing the Donald Trump anchor. That should give Democrats a significant advantage. But once again they’ve taken a sure bet and turned it into a crap shoot.

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