The past two years have been a rerun of my adolescence for the Rust Belt. Big steel and the US auto industry take it on the chin with too much capacity, too many legacy costs, skyrocketing fuel costs, and a dollar that’s worth ninety cents in Canada. Is the sky falling?
No, it’s just the 1970’s and 1980’s again. Only instead of Jimmy Carter bailing out Chrysler and Ronald Reagan pimping free trade and a Cold War-fueled defense industry, we have the single most incompetent president in history scratching his head.
We’ve been hit pretty hard in Ohio. Ford’s downsizing had roughly the same effect on Cleveland as dropping an atomic bomb. But it’s Michigan, epicenter of the US auto industry, that’s really suffering. The surprise here is which candidates addressed the issue this past Tuesday: John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Well, those names actually shouldn’t be surprising. McCain enjoys broad independent appeal, which lets him speak to labor’s woes in ways the Huckabees and Thompsons of the world cannot. Romney should not surprise anyone either. His father once headed American Motors back before it was known for the Pacer and the Gremlin. So while I’m no fan of Mitt, it doesn’t exactly come as a shock that He of the Perfect Hair has a soft spot for Detroit.
Many die-hard Democrats will think I’ve just committed blasphemy, but there’s a problem. And you can lay it directly at the feet of the Democratic Party’s leadership. See, the Democrats are snubbing Michigan this year. Why? They moved their primary up to mid-January, between New Hampshire and Super Tuesday. And that’s bad because… Um…
Paging Howard Dean. You wanna explain this one to me? Do you want to explain why I had to hold my nose a moment ago to praise Mitt Romney, a candidate I generally find as real and sincere as a late-night infomercial host?
The only candidate running in Michigan for the Democrats was Hillary Clinton. All the rest pulled out because the DNC got pissy about Michigan moving up its primary. No Barack Obama. No John Edwards. No Dennis Kucinich for the pure liberals. Just Hillary.
What sort of message does that send a badly depressed Midwest?
“Screw you,” comes to mind.
Basically, where the party fubarred the whole thing is by penalizing Michigan for the most dubious of reasons. If you’re going to complain that Michigan is too early, then Iowa and New Hampshire should also be punished. Do you think Iowa represents the rest of America? Or New Hampshire?
But no, someone in the Democratic Party decided to blow off the Rust Belt, blow off not only the automotive industries, but the unions that represent their workers. Someone in the party leadership decided to blow off the party’s base.
So my question to the DNC is:
Why do you want to hand this election over to John McCain?
I don’t mind John McCain, since I’m an independent. Besides, a Democratic Congress might do very well if it has to work with a GOP president who not only reads books, but has actually written a few. (Come on, George. You can read a newspaper. The New York Post even likes you. Or used to, anyway.)
But why in the hell do you guys want Michigan (and probably Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois with them) to go to the Republicans?
Might you want to rethink your strategy?
Don’t worry. I’m sure the people of Michigan will rethink it for you.