The Michigan primary results are rolling in on my television, and the talking heads keep saying that Michigan doesn't matter. I know, I know... what they really mean is that Michigan's state Democratic party is being spanked by Howard Dean and Co., resulting in the loss of delegates to the Democratic National Convention (horrors!) and thus rendering useless the Democratic primary results in the Great Lakes State. Candidates Obama and Edwards even pulled their names off the ballot -- Hillary bucked the boys and stayed in, though she didn't campaign.
So what was the reason for Michigan's Democratic primary woes? Well, it revolves around the national party's complicity in maintaining the supremacy of two tiny states in the nomination process. Two states, I might add, that are not even remotely representative of the rest of the country (sorry Iowa and New Hampshire, but I gotta speak the truth). Now, I know that Michigan was scheduled to take place after the tradition-bound, snow-bound, Caucasian-bound first contests, but it didn't matter -- the national party couldn't afford to let any state buck the election scheduling system -- and therefore had to really thump anyone who didn't walk the party line. How dare Michigan (or Florida, for that matter) set the date for their own primary? What nerve to show such independence! If we let them do it, other states will do it, it'll be anarchy!! THUMP. Still, there was a rather fervent game of election-day musical chairs, as various states tried vainly to be relevant in the process. But each time a precocious upstart made a move, Iowa and New Hampshire simply leapfrogged them to stay in first place -- New Hampshire state law, in fact, mandates it.
I believe the Democratic party and its candidates were disappointingly myopic in passing on this golden opportunity to dialogue with a group of voters who is not only diverse, but facing some of the most pressing problems in the nation. Michigan is essentially in a one state recession. It has the highest unemployment rate in the country. It's the only state with a net loss of U-Haul trucks leaving the state. It's ground zero for the subprime mortgage disaster and foreclosures are at an all time high. Sound familiar? Across the country, folks are worried about a tanking economy, jobs swimming overseas, ballooning inflation and lagging incomes that don't keep pace -- these are all headaches that the next president is not only going to be saddled with, but MUST tackle in the next four years. Unfortunately, Michigan is already there -- and the rest of the country will follow if we don't do something and pretty damn quick. But, the Democrats took a rain check until November on the chance to get up close and personal with the people living it everyday. WTF? We had a microcosm of the nation at our fingertips, a chance to hear stories from real people and discuss possible solutions, (and for the more cynical pols, voters ripe for testing messages and honing policy plans) in a state that typically goes blue but by narrower margins as union power wanes. And what did we do? We let an internal party scramble for king of the hill keep us from capitalizing on the silver platter Motown was willing to pass our way. Shame on us. We'll pay for it, of that I'm sure. I just don't know what the cost will be. I do know, however, that Michiganders are already hurting.
You know, if the Democrats are truly willing to let just a few states be such critical drivers in the presidential contest, here's a thought. No president has ever been elected without winning Ohio (by hook or by crook, right, W?). Maybe we just oughta let Ohio voters go to the polls and save us all the trouble -- they seem to take the country's pulse right on the money every time. And I'm not just saying that cuz I'm a Buckeye.
NOTE: The Republicans didn't handle Michigan's machinations like the Dems... they stripped Michigan of half its delegates and duked it out, letting the Michigan voters speak their minds. Though one could wish those same voters had not chosen to prolong the cardboard, Ken-doll agony of Mitt Romney's campaign by finally giving him a gold medal -- but to each his own.