Sunday, September 9, 2007
This past weekend I attended the first-ever Michigan Policy Summit, which was sponsored by a host of progressive organizations interested in creating a Democratic ideal machine. It was great to see a great number of people who are seriously interested in preserving our state's priorities and fiscal health in an age of economic change.
For those friends of mine who do not follow Democratic politics closely, this is an era of transition for the Democratic Party. As detailed by Matt Bai in The Argument, since the 2004 election, various groups of Democrats, sometimes known as the "netroots" have been working with other wings of the party to create an intellectual machine that can match the Republican friendly institutes such as Cato, Heritage, Hoover and the American Enterprise Institutes. In Michigan, momentum has been growing to create a progressive think tank similar to the libertarian Mackinaw Center for Public Policy and the Acton Institute. It is about time for the left to build this infrastructure within our state. Part of the Democratic timidness in this current budget battle in Lansing is due to a lack of fresh ideas that legislatures can push for.
Our state party has long lived in the shadow of "Soapy" Williams (in the photo above) Democratic Party, which thrived in the years of labor peace and prosperity that a manufacturing economy brought from 1945 to 1967. Over time the party has splintered along suburban-urban and regional lines, and the Republican Party has exploited this numerous times. A new Democratic Party is slowly emerging, and it may already be present in 2010, when 31 of 38 State Senators, 46 of 109 of State Representatives, and all the executive officials of the state (the Governor, Secretary of State, and the Attorney General) are forced to step down.
As Rick Perlstein notes in his perceptive The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo, majorities are built over decades, not within an election cycle. A wise Democratic strategy would address the decline of Michigan's suburbs, and work on providing serious land-use reform that would serve both our central cities and suburbs, much like the Michigan Suburbs Alliance is doing. Any Democrat would be wise to read Charles Ballard's Michigan's Economic Future, which addresses the structural problems facing Michigan's economy and budget. The solutions in this work, while jarring, are an effective mixture of cuts, government restructuring, and tax code reform that would help reform Michigan's sorry budget process. These two steps might help Michigan emerge from this period of economic stagnation and thoughtless Republican governance.
1962 represented the high water mark of the William's Democratic Party. Let's hope that the Michigan Democratic Party began walk forward to this moment again this past Saturday