COVID, budgets, impeachment. Nancy Wang on future ballot initiatives

February 15, 2021

Michigan Policast for Monday, February 15, 2021

  In this episode:

  • COVID-19 updates
  • Sen Mike Shirkey. What a mess.
  • Federal & state budgets
  • Nancy Wang with Voters Not Politicians
  • Michigan and the Trump impeachment
  • Michigan Q-GOP infighting
  • Political notes
  • Transcript

Cover:  April 30, 2020, armed protest at the Capitol Building in Lansing

Jump to:

COVID-19 updates


Sen Mike Shirkey. What a mess.







Federal & state budgets






Nancy Wang with Voters Not Politicians


I just wanted to put this here ^^^


Michigan and the Trump impeachment






Michigan Q-GOP infighting



Political notes









Jamie Raskin 00:04
The Siege of the Michigan State House was effectively a state level dress rehearsal for the siege of the US Capitol that Trump incited on January 6. It was a preview of the coming insurrection,

Walt Sorg 00:18
Michigan becomes a prime exhibit in the second impeachment trial of the former president.

Jamie Raskin 00:24
So the greatest threat to our forward progress remains that threat of lack of resources. The state legislature has not yet appropriated all the dollars that the federal government made available to Michigan.

Christine Barry 00:37
The governor calls out the legislature for using the fight against the pandemic as a weapon in their fight to reduce her ability to lead that battle. I'm Christine Barry,

Walt Sorg 00:47
and I'm Walt Sorg. This is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan politics and policy and the National stories impacting our present peninsulas. Later in the podcast, we'll be joined by Nancy Wang, the executive director of voters not politicians on bipartisan efforts to bring some long overdue reforms to state government.

Joneigh Khaldun 01:05
Cases rates have steadily declined to 144 cases per million down 81%. From the mid November peak. 4.5% of tests in the state are coming back positive and that continues to decline. Only 6% of hospital beds are being used to treat COVID-19, down 72% since the fall peak on December 1, while our numbers continue to trend overall in the right direction, I'm very concerned about what we are seeing with the new b 117 variant. This variant is more easily spread from person to person, meaning if we are not vigilant, we could see a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Similar to what they saw in the UK.

Christine Barry 01:50
More than 1 million Michiganders have now received at least one dose of vaccine. That's more than 10% of the entire state, with the daily number of inoculations rising week by week, with the announcement by President Biden of massive new contracts for vaccine from Moderna and Pfizer, there's clearly a path to a return to normal, hopefully sometime this summer. But along the way, there's a lot of economic damage to be repaired. If the legislature continues to use billions in federal funds as a lever in their ongoing efforts to strip the governor's power to respond quickly to the changing facts surrounding the pandemic.

Jamie Raskin 02:26
These are dollars that came from a bipartisan group of our congressional delegation and were signed into law by President Trump and that we still haven't deployed into Michigan. These are dollars for vaccines, dollars for education of our children, dollars for helping businesses that are struggling and first dollars to help people who are struggling as well. Delaying efforts to fully appropriate these resources and leaving dollars on the table that are so crucial to our economic recovery threatens the progress that we have made to date.

Walt Sorg 02:59
Christine, it seems like the leverage being used by the republicans to hold up the money in addition, holding up all of the Governor's appointments that are really non controversial, and just saying we're not going to approve anybody, we're not going to give you anything until you give in to our demands. It's kind of a crude way to negotiate. Admittedly, it's power politics and all that. But it seems to me given the governor's continued, we've talked about this before, the governor has got high approval ratings on how she's been handling the pandemic, the legislature got low approval ratings. It's a losing game for them.

Christine Barry 03:31
It is and you know, it's a losing game for two reasons. One is the approval ratings, just as you said, first of all, you know, I don't know what kind of name recognition these people have, but they're not as well known as the governor. And the governor is out there in front of all these people talking about here's the aid we have, here's what we want to do. Everybody wants to do that. And the legislature is holding things up. And they're doing it in such a way that it doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense to the normal person who is waiting for relief, to see that they're busy saying we're not going to do anything at all, including approve or even have a hearing on any of your appointees, because you're not being nice to us,

Walt Sorg 04:10
and then admit it. yeah, this is not on their qualifications. We're not voting on whether or not these people are qualified for these seats, they rejected a guy who was appointed in the northern Michigan University Board of Trustees who happens to be LGBTQ. And it's interesting of the 13 nominees they've rejected lately. None of them has been a straight white male.

Christine Barry 04:31
Well, I know that but that's a perfect,

Walt Sorg 04:36
yeah, it kind of fits in I mean, it's

Christine Barry 04:37
on brand. It's on brand. Yeah.

Walt Sorg 04:40
And it is, you know, to to reject the federal money and claim fiscal responsibility is kind of insane. It's not like the feds aren't going to spend the money someplace else. They'll just redirect it to another state. It's taking money out of the pockets of Michiganders who desperately need help and redirecting it to Texas or California. Or Rhode Island or Indiana, someplace else where these federal funds are going to get spent. Meanwhile, you've got Michigan businesses that are really still suffering mostly in the hospitality industry, and especially amongst the small restaurants and restaurant owners and restaurant workers. They all need help. And the schools need help to reopen safely. Yeah, we can reopen the schools. But I understand the plight of teachers who say, we don't want to go back to a situation where we can get infected, or we can take this virus home to our families, you're basically asking the teachers to put their lives on the line for a political ideology.

Christine Barry 05:39
Yeah, it's, it's crazy. I mean, you can tell that there's no serious argument behind what they're doing. And this actually is something that I'm sincere about here, it would be fine by me, I wouldn't understand this, I would respect it if somebody said, you know, what, we need to have a better look at how the money is being spent. Because we don't want it to be, you know, we don't want there to be some scheme that funnels a lot of money into private hands where the state gets nothing in return, or we don't have competitive bidding. I mean, if they were looking at things like that, I respect that. But they are saying things like, well, there's no accountability, therefore, we're not going to release the money. And meanwhile, real people in the world, real people in our state are suffering. And they can't say that they care about the economy because they're not releasing anything. They can't say that they care about education, because they're not releasing anything. They can't say that they care about infrastructure, and you know, the future of jobs in our, you know, long term economy because they're not releasing any funds that goes for these things. So, the republicans are a complete parody of a caricature of themselves at this point.

Walt Sorg 06:55
Meanwhile, when it comes to the virus we're doing pretty well is the soundbite from health director Khaldoon indicated our numbers continue to come down. The vaccine number of vaccinations is going up. I'm very pleased to report that I got my second shot. Last week on Tuesday, I had virtually no side effects, and my shoulder was a little sore, which is pretty common for any sort of vaccination. But other than that, no symptomology that I could perceive at least and several of my neighbors who are equally old and decrepit, had the same experience. They got their second shot and no problems with that either. And the organization at least locally is very, very good. The local health director has done a tremendous job in setting up advanced vaccinations at Michigan State University. Plus it's being supplemented by the two local hospital systems and being supplemented now by the the big box retailers, we love to badmouth the big box retailers. But in a situation like this Meijer and Walmart and CVS and Walgreens, it's kind of nice to have them ready and perfectly capable. They've got the logistics in place to handle something like this quite easily. And that's a good thing. We just eat we're vaccine and Joe Biden apparently is taking care of that as well. I'm beginning for the first time to be optimistic about where we are next fall,

Christine Barry 08:05
I'm starting to feel better about it. I'll be glad when I'm eligible for the vaccine. And I can, I can go get it and life can return to normal. We are going to out to do a few things next week. And we'll see how things go. But for the most part, we're still just being really cautious about everything

Walt Sorg 08:20
Also they've issued the safety guidelines. Now for high school sports. I'm curious to see what it looks like with high school basketball players wearing masks during games. Having watched Michigan state's basketball team lately play basketball, I don't think they could be any worse with mask than they are without masks. But the I think the high school athletes have to set the tone for something like that. You look at the the college basketball games on TV, the coaches take off their mask anytime they want to talk or yell or scream. And the players of course aren't wearing masks. And as a result, a lot of these college athletes are getting infected. They're not the best role models when it comes to preventing COVID infections. And hopefully the high schools will be a little safer when they get back with the sports. Glad to see they're able to compete, but at the same time, I'm still worried a little bit about it. What's making life interesting for the relationships between the governor and lawmakers, especially the Senate Republicans. Your good buddy, you're the guy you love more than anybody else than a majority leader Mike shirkey has managed to insert his foot into his mouth. I think he's got both feet and maybe a couple of hands in his mouth as well. He's not having a good run. How bad is it for him?

Christine Barry 09:27
Well, Walt, Mike Shirkey's such a train wreck. This is this is what his week was like really two things happened this past week for him. That just messed up everything. First of all, he met with the leadership of the Hillsdale Republican Party, and one of them recorded that meeting. He met with them to talk to them about their concerns that he is just rolling over and surrendering to Governor Whitmer. The Talk to him about his support for Obamacare about his opposition to the Electoral College. All of these things where Mike has kind of fit aside from the governor Whitmer thing where I thought Mike always took a hard line. I'm calling him Mike, I should call him, Senator, you're something I feel kind of bad. Anyway, social respect for the man. I've tried so hard. All of these things where he's tried to walk the line, it's just coming back to bite him now. So he had this conversation that they recorded, that recording went out on the internet. So people have pulled parts of that recording where you heard him saying, Well, the thing and you know, the whole January 6, assault on the Capitol was a hoax. You know, it wasn't Trump's people, whatever. And you hear that and you're thinking, Oh, my God, I didn't even consider your opinion about January 6, all these other horrible things about you. That I thought, which by the way, I still believe you validated over and over again, I never considered that you thought January 6 was a hoax.

Walt Sorg 11:05
And you layer that on top of what mitch mcconnell had to say after voting not guilty, of course, but still, Mitch McConnell, just dumping it in the President's lap and make it very clear that as far as he was concerned, as the top elected Republican in America, Donald Trump was guilty as sin and he was the guy who started this riot.

Christine Barry 11:23
Yeah, but you know, what you you have got if you want to really understand Mike shirkey I think you watch this one hour or so video was painful. Did you see the whole thing? I mean, they were taking him out back to the woodshed I, they called him a liar. They said he was weak. They asked him about his relationship with Governor Whitmer. And he said, Well, there were a few times when I wanted to have a fist fight. And they said, well, she'd probably win. I mean, they have no respect for him whatsoever. And he said things like I didn't co sponsor this Obamacare Medicaid expansion thing. And so they looked it up. And it says right here, you did. And so the fact that he says the whole thing with January 6 was a hoax, that could just be him talking like, I'm not even sure he knows what he's saying when he speaks. But you put this into the context of him engaging with militias, advising and advocating for them. He is really in bed with some of these extremists and Hillsdale Republican Party, they are extreme in that video, the one guy says What about if she mandates vaccines? What if the vaccines are mandatory, then people are gonna start shooting each other because that's where I draw the line. These are people who are willing to say that they're going to use violence and guns because it can't live with us in a common political environment or whatever. But then they get to the part where they're talking about the election. And the Hillsdale Republican Party leadership feel that the election was stolen, just like many of the Trump people do. And the one guy says, we know that it was stolen, we feel it from a spiritual standpoint. And so Shirkey responds, but feeling doesn't prove anything. And these guys say, if you have the evidence, you have the knowledge that it's stolen, why can't you feel it? And Shirkey says I have to question the evidence we've had for recounts in Michigan machines matched the paper, it's hard to say that there's a problem here. They respond with who's doing the counting. So even when he is taking what you and I might think of as a somewhat reasonable approach. He's stuck because there's such not there's they're nuts. And then the next day they vote to censure have because of all the things that we just mentioned, he surrendered to Governor Whitmer, and on and on and on. And he listed certain things. We sued her five times, we went four times we did this, we did that. And they just sat there and called him a liar. So is it bad for him? I don't know. I don't think he cares. He came right out and said he didn't care about what the Hillsdale Republicans had to say. And maybe he doesn't. I don't think he cares about public approval ratings. That's never seemed to move him. I don't think he's cares about good government.

Walt Sorg 14:07
He doesn't appear to be running for anything in the future.

Christine Barry 14:09
I don't think that matters. But I do think well, that is bad for the rest of us, that the guy in charge of what gets voted on in the Senate, basically, is the guy who will say whatever the heck needs to be said at the time, quite frankly, contradicts himself all the time. Doesn't seem to have any particular principles other than, you know, he doesn't really care for the governor. She looks delightful. She's batshit crazy.

Walt Sorg 14:35
I think he wants to date her.

Christine Barry 14:37
They all do, but it's just that they focus in on them in a way that is trying to reduce them as humans and I think that that's part of the misogyny of it all. You know, is it bad for him or is it bad for Michigan, it's worse for Michigan than it is for him because he doesn't care and real lives are at stake out here.

Walt Sorg 14:57
Later in the podcast. We will talk about Where the Republican Party is going. And it seems like at the grassroots level, especially, but also at the state level, the crazy town wing of the Republican Party is very, very dominant. Perhaps 70 80% of the Republican Party is firmly lodged in crazytown. Not leaving a lot of room for the centrist, shall we say, the the center right people in the Republican Party, but we'll get into that a little later. First of all, let's get into the budget, which, you know, policy of all things the state spends $67.1 billion, is what the governor is proposing for the coming fiscal year. And for us to get into the details of that on a podcast is kind of insane, because it's a lot of numbers. And most people aren't out there. I don't think with notepad. So taking notes on everything we say, God help them if they are, but it's clear what the governor's priorities continue to be even in the light of COVID. Now, obviously, that's become a new priority for her, but she hasn't given up on infrastructure. She hasn't given up on fixing some of the problems with our K 12 school system. And she wants to reinvest as best possible in higher education as well. This is investing in Michigan's future education, roads, bridges, to a lesser extent airports and ports. Those are the things that are going to make Michigan more prosperous in coming years. And the governor hasn't given up on that.

Christine Barry 16:20
And it'll make us more resilient to something like a pandemic like this again, in the future. I remember I don't know when it was, but we had Abdul el Sayed on the podcast. And he said that what we had to do was fix the epidemic beneath the epidemic. He was talking about all these infrastructure problems that we have. And by infrastructure, I mean, the whole thing, the broadband that a lot of K 12 kids did not have access to when they were sent home for school, the utilities, the water shutoffs, in Detroit, where COVID came in and hit us really hard in the very beginning. All of these things that are affected by our investments in the state, her budget package kind of addresses all of these things. It's a holistic look at how can we make Michigan stronger, more resilient, and give people real opportunity to go out and not only you know, make the best lives for themselves, but also make Michigan a strong state with a healthy population, a well educated population. It's just being held up. It's just gonna sit there until when?

Walt Sorg 17:30
Yeah, he keeps going. One of the things I think's really important in the governor's budget is $70 million, one time help for Michigan cities that are income tax cities, and they have just been destroyed on the COVID shut down because so many people are either aren't working or aren't working in the city. Now the city income tax you paid if you live in the city, or if you work in that city, but no on a per capita basis as it hit harder than here in Lansing because, of course, this is the home of state government. And you have 10s of 1000s of state workers who work normally in Lansing, who no longer are working in Lansing and they live in the suburbs, their community so they're no longer paying Lansing city income tax, and it's costing the city a substantial portion of its budget as a result, there are $70 billion in the governor's budget to help cities like Lansing also obviously helps Detroit 24 million of that 70 million goes to Detroit, which has been really devastated. But I think it really points also to a longer term shift in our economy, where you're going to see more and more people telecommuting on a permanent basis. I saw an interesting note for my friends over practical political consulting, which is a firm that deals in databases that can be abused to politicians for direct mail lists and things like that. And they are selling their office in Lansing. And they're going to telecommute From now on, because they realized during this pandemic, that they can run their business perfectly well from their home in the home of their few employees. And I see more and more of that happening. And for downtown Lansing that is devastating. Because for even for those rental properties that aren't occupied by state workers, it has a huge impact on the downtown businesses. This place is a virtual ghost town at 530. In the afternoon, when everybody is gone, there are a few nightclubs on the nightclub strip that normally would be open, although even they've been hit right now a few of the restaurants continue to do business. And there is more residential downtown. But the fact remains the economy is going to have to shift to more and more residential downtown. because more and more of the white collar portion of downtown Lansing ain't coming back.

Christine Barry 19:34
Yeah, and that's unfortunate. There's a real vibrant, there's a real vibrancy to downtown Lansing, when people are there and they're walking around and the shops are open. It's a really a cool place to be. But this pandemic has disrupted everything and I don't think that we can overstate the importance of urban planning during normal times. You know, every every city goes through its cycles. And if the 70s and the 80s didn't teach us that with what the automakers did, then certainly, this pandemic should teach us that because we have to plan for a whole new outlook on our urban areas. What what will Lansing look like with x percentage of people now just working from home, because zoom is cheaper than, you know, a storefront in Lansing, especially when you have shared workspaces. Now, we just have to consider what the future of our cities will look like now. And we have to consider that in the context of what our roads are going to be like, what our broadband will be, like, where will people come to meet? And what kind of spaces Do we want around that? If people come to Lansing to do business, what is that going to look like? And what kind of small businesses around that will be sustainable. I mean, there has to be some serious urban planning like this, for every area like this, not just Lansing, and Detroit, but Flint, which is already struggling with urban design, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, I mean, all of these urban areas have to consider this.

Walt Sorg 21:15
Well, it's also suburban area as well in rural areas, because the internet is changing the way we do business. And a lot of ways you are there's more and more it's you order stuff on the internet, and have it delivered to your home. And the the brick and mortar businesses are really suffering, there are certain categories that can survive very easily, because you need to be there in person. But there are so many things where you just sit in your living room, punch on a button and have somebody show up at your door the next day or two days later, and drop it off. Already. You see shopping malls that are having huge financial problems all over the state, not just Detroit and Lansing. But every area of the state where the shopping malls are hurting, you wonder what's going to happen to those big boxes, the Walmarts and the Meyers, they're more and more probably going to have to survive on their their grocery businesses. And I think more and more, you're going to see stores even like that turning into little local warehouses where you order stuff online, and you pick it up at the curb Two hours later, whether it is your groceries, or it's hard goods. And this is going to be a fundamental change in our economy, movie theaters and entertainment complexes, more and more people are just going to sit in front of that 70 inch screen in their living room and watch things listening through the surround sound system. Rather than going through the bother of going to the movie theater, shelling out 1520 $30 and another $50 for popcorn, when you could sit in your living room and maybe stream it for five bucks or maybe even as part of an annual subscription to one of the movie channels. There are that our economy was going to change anyway, as a result of the internet, the COVID virus and our response to it is really accelerating that change. And the question is are we nimble enough to adapt is our tax structure in nimble enough to adapt is our expenditure structure willing to adapt as well, because the spending priorities for governments at all levels is going to have to change to respond to these changing realities.

Christine Barry 23:09
And one thing I would add to that just because we're talking about the internet is that our risk exposure as individuals has increased exponentially since we've all been relying on the internet. And people have been working and going to school from home, the attack vectors for cyber criminals really has just exploded. And people are more and more at risk every day, to having their identity stolen their credit card numbers stolen. And having the credentials to something sensitive stolen, if I worked for the water utility, for example, and somebody was able to take over my email account. And from there was able to get in to the water utility and do something to the water for the city. That's a national security problem. Really, there is also a certain amount of cybersecurity, that has to be invested in and awareness campaigns, I think because at an individual level, we're all responsible if we all have sensitive information in some way. And so that's a huge disruption as well. You can't sit sit at home and rely on your antivirus software anymore. And so there has to be significant investments and initiatives at a government level, right state and federal to handle that as well.

Walt Sorg 24:25
Okay, so circling back a little bit to the federal and state budgets. While the former president was busy trying to fend off his impeachment trial. The current President spent his time working on getting some relief to this nation to individuals and also to state and local governments through his massive COVID Relief Program. $1.9 trillion. A part of that was an effort Friday where President Biden met with a bipartisan group of four mayors and four governors on the same issue and that is held for state and local governments. One of the people attending that meeting was Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and he was very happy with the tone he heard about all of us coming together to solve some of these problems.

Mike Duggan 25:08
What Mayor SUAREZ And I heard is every governor, every mayor is talking about exactly the same situation that it took us seven years to get from 20%. Unemployment to 7%. Now we're back at 20. Are we going to get our folks back to work in a matter of months? Or is it going to take years? And I think the one message we all had, and we loved the President's leadership on this is we aren't we don't kid ourselves about the atmosphere in Washington. We know it's partisan. But we're really hoping that for the next couple of months on this national issue, that they can set partisanship aside and the President made it clear. He really wants bipartisan support for America's rescue plan.

Walt Sorg 25:53
In watching republicans speak on the Sunday talk shows they're all whining, the Joe Biden has already abandoned his pledge to try to be bipartisan and get consensus on issues. What they don't understand is there's this huge separation between partisanship in Washington and partisanship in the nation, the nation on a bipartisan basis backs with President Biden is doing right now, the nation wants him to act on so many of these issues. And his plan really is a bipartisan plan. It just leaves out the so called power brokers in the Republican Party in Washington, DC, outside of the washington dc bubble, Republicans and independence like what President Biden is doing for the most part, and they support this plan, and don't want it scaled back, even though maybe the republicans Mitt Romney, to Ted Cruz and everything in between want it scaled down?

Christine Barry 26:44
That's exactly right. And I don't think it can be said often enough, that when Joe Biden calls for unity, he's talking about unifying the country again, and healing these deep divisions. He's not talking about getting the Republicans in Congress, happy to the point where they sign off on everything. That's not going to happen. And that wasn't a realistic goal ever. But I certainly don't think it was his goal. His goal was to help bring some relief to the American people and to help heal some of these divisions. And in that regard, he is doing well, just like you said,

Walt Sorg 27:17
I will give credit to the United States Senate for one action that actually mirrored the nation. There's a poll that was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of ABC, and the question was do you support or oppose the us senate convicting Donald Trump in the impeachment trial and barring him for holding federal office in the future? support was 56 opposed was 43. The vote in the Senate was 57 to 43, including seven Republicans voting to convict so they're right on the numbers there in terms of reflecting the nation very rare that the US Senate actually reflects the nation. But also when asked you approve or disapprove of way joe biden's handling the response to the Coronavirus, approved 67% down from 69% a month earlier, which is statistically insignificant, disapprove only 32%. So it's better than two to one supporting the President on a bipartisan basis around the nation. There is plurality support 49-44 the Coronavirus aid package as proposed by the President, for the most part, people are very happy with the distribution plan for the vaccines. That was 67-33. And they find that the Republican Party is much more dominated by Rich extremists than the Democratic Party right now. 42 – 25 was a complete link to the poll in our notes, but it shows really Joe Biden is where America is at. And the Republicans in Congress aren't.

Christine Barry 28:44
Now the Republicans in Congress are more like where the Hillsdale republicans are, are you seriously if you haven't seen that video, we'll have it on the website gotta see what these people are talking about. One thing that I wanted to mention were mentioned the impeachment, the support for impeachment, 56 to 43. And then they voted 57 to 43. I think we all knew that the impeachment like that he would not be convicted in the Senate. But remember, President Trump is not only the only president to be impeached twice. He's the only president to be impeached with bipartisan support, even one time in both chambers bipartisan support for his impeachment. So that's the President's legacy. And it like you said it reflects where the American people are on that.

Walt Sorg 29:30
Yeah. Then there's Lindsey Graham, which just drives me absolutely crazy 21 years ago when the question was whether or not Bill Clinton should be thrown out of office for consensual sex that he lied about that was that was his basic sin. Lindsey Graham led the charge in the House of Representatives along with newt gingrich to impeach him and throw him out of office. Fast forward 22 years and Lindsey Graham is saying that a president who incited an insurrection is not only Isn't he Shouldn't he be barred From holding future public office, he also really wasn't even guilty. hypocrisy I know is the common theme in Washington DC. But even that is probably an extreme. I can understand Mitch McConnell, what he's trying to do, he could not vote for conviction and still lead his caucus. And that to him was the most important thing. But at the same time, he made it abundantly clear after his vote, he came up with an excuse for voting not guilty based on a fictitious constitutional problem. But he made it very clear as well. Donald Trump is guilty of sin. And he almost begged the Justice Department to bring charges against him in the walk him up. That was a walk him up speech.

Christine Barry 30:39
You know, it's funny that you bring up Lindsey Graham, I was thinking of him earlier when mostly in the context of actually in the context of Mike shirkey. Because, yeah, a lot of these republicans have gotten themselves into trouble because they try to appease this really extremist base. And I understand that this extremist base to you and me like the Hillsdale GOP saying things like mandatory vaccines is going to lead to shooting and that kind of thing. Those people probably are extremists among their peers, which is really scary. But they're extremists to us. And the republicans have tried to use this base, Trump's base, I guess, to get into power, and they've done it and now they have to appease them while also I don't know some of them are trying to govern, I suppose. And it reminds me of that poem about the woman who took the snake into the house and the snake bit her and it was her own fault because she knew it was a snake. Because lindsey graham is the video you see all the time going on and on about how we can't we can't do this with Trump because he will be the destruction of our party and we will have deserved it. And then as soon as Trump was elected, Lindsey Graham is one of the first people to get on board with Trump. Four years later, you know, you're hiding in the in a safe place because the Capitol is under attack.

Walt Sorg 31:56
So let's move on to something that's a little more positive. This Wednesday is the fourth anniversary of a seminal event in the history of grassroots activism in Michigan. It was four years ago when three people nobody had ever heard of held a town hall meeting on the need to end gerrymandering in Michigan. Despite the very dry subject. The Sunday afternoon event attracted more than 600 people to the East Lansing high school auditorium to listen to a three part presentation on the potential for reform. It was a week before the ballot committee voters not politicians was even created. The speakers at that town hall were Judy Karen Jeff, who's now the president of the Michigan league of women voters, a Facebook activist and organizer by the name of Katie Fey, he who went on to be the leader of voters, not politicians, with the petition drive to amend the Constitution, and a big mouth radio talk show host. That would be me. Four years later, the Constitution had been amended with 61% of the voters of Michigan approving a citizens Independent Redistricting Commission had begun its work. And voters, not politicians now is an ongoing grassroots presence. Recently, I talked with the executive director of that group of my good friend and co conspirator from back in the day, Nancy Wang, we talked before the announcement from the Census Bureau that the new census numbers would be delayed until the end of September. We'll get into the implications of that delay after the interview. But for now, my discussion with my buddy Nancy Wang.

Walt Sorg 33:23
Nancy, always good to talk with you. First. The thing that brought us together redistricting reform, it's been four years Happy anniversary since our first town hall that started the ball rolling. We're how far we come,

Nancy Wang 33:35
oh, we've come a million miles, haven't we? So now we have a 13 member commission. They've been meeting and since September, they're really, you know, carrying out their mission, really the mission that we all had envisioned, right? So it's citizen run. They keep saying in their meetings, how, how seriously, they take their responsibility here to really lead a process where citizens have the input and our maps are going to be drawn around communities of interest.

Walt Sorg 34:06
You know, and I know but we hated to admit it at the time, but we weren't sure that this system of just selecting registered voters at random was going to work. But apparently it is.

Nancy Wang 34:16
Well, it was innovative to be sure. And you know, what we see now is we do have we have regular voters, right, who are navigating the redistricting process, I think with us with the public. And, you know, they're starting to hire their staff. They have executive director, now comms director and General Counsel, and they put out RFPs now for voting rights Council and mapping expert. And you know, they're going to get the expertise that they that they need to do their job. And that's kind of what we envisioned also in drawing the when drafting the amendment was that we wanted to give them the time and the resources and, you know, funding that they needed to hire all the people that they need to help lead them through this. process.

Walt Sorg 35:00
I know through the drafting process, every effort was made to anticipate every contingency, but not once. Did anybody mentioned a pandemic? How is that playing into the process? Is it messing it up more than one would hope? Well, you

Nancy Wang 35:16
know, I think the pandemic has had a huge impact in two areas. One is a census, of course, right. And, you know, the fact that we could not have a normal process where we had, you know, census takers going door to door really did add to this big delay that we're seeing in getting the census data back. So that's going to set our redistricting process back, because we're not expecting to get the final census data until August, we're in a normal year, we would get it back around for February. So that's not ideal. But again, I think that's, it's in the large scheme of things, I think it's fine, because the Commission has so much work to do right now. engaging communities of interest, you know, really getting the word out to people that there's this new process in place where we really need people to come forth and say, you know, these are the boundaries around our communities. And there's a ton of education that needs to be done around it, to make people aware of like, what the process is going to look like, what kind of input they need to give, how to draw maps around their communities. And that can all be done. And we're really pushing the commission to do all this before the census data comes out. Because you know, that once you know that data comes out, and you have draft maps with actual lines, and people see what's at stake, then there's going to be really a huge push from all sorts of different directions on the commission, to try to get, you know, those maps changed in the way that all these different interest groups are going to want. So really, we're really pushing the commission to kind of, you know, be aggressive about the schedule, and reach out now and educate everyone. And then the other way that COVID really impacted things, as to redistricting was with our kind of education outreach, you know, right at the tail end of us trying to recruit people to apply for the commission, you know, we had to go all virtual, we had to get notaries that could, you know, notarize applications, virtually, that was a struggle. But I think, you know, in the year since the pandemic hit Michigan, we've kind of hit our stride. And I think all these other groups that are trying to do outreach have to, you know, to really reach people remotely, having, you know, zoom calls and webinars. And in a way, I was just talking with some of our allies the other day, you know, in a way, it's kind of made things a little bit easier, at least for communities that have, you know, Internet access, to communicate with with bigger groups, right. And so in some ways, it actually decreases costs, but then it kind of also exacerbates issues when you don't have that kind of access to broadband and, and technology to kind of communicate, you know, when it's not face to face,

Walt Sorg 37:59
there's been a lot of discussion about the requirement that the Commission take into account as a very high priority communities of interest. And the fact that the amendment really doesn't define what communities of interests are, how do you see that playing out?

Nancy Wang 38:13
Yeah, well, we're hoping, you know, not too much time. I know, the media kind of has written about this a couple times recently, but we're trying to say communities or communities of interest or religious communities, right, and, and the reason that they the definition is sort of open ended. And by the way, that's not just unique to Michigan, it's kind of, you know, 26, other states use that concept, and, and they're all those definitions are all kind of, you know, open ended, because it's trying, we're trying to leave open, the fact that communities organized in all sorts of ways for different reasons, you know, and those reasons are going to change over time. So it could be you know, because of shared ethnicity and culture, but it could also be, you know, around shared industry or, you know, media market, and in lots of ways that we can't even imagine now, you know, and we didn't certainly, we didn't want to constrain people from kind of advocating for themselves, just because they happen to, you know, organize around an interest that we didn't anticipate when writing the amendment.

Walt Sorg 39:16
Yeah, one of the things that is trying to fix you live right in the middle of Ann Arbor, and Ann Arbor is pretty split up right now, when it comes to representation in both of the state legislature in Congress, and the community of interest might take that more into account.

Nancy Wang 39:30
That's right. Yeah. And I think, you know, as we get further into this process, you start hearing more examples like that. And I think that's great. So like, the media, I'm hoping will lift up examples. You know, there was one article I forget, and what paper just recently where they were like pointing to a very specific example in the Detroit region. Well, it was it was talking about Detroit and Grosse Pointe right and how different those communities are and yet they're, they're kind of in one was a congressional was it

Walt Sorg 39:59
It was the Brenda Lawrence district

Nancy Wang 40:01
Yeah. So you know, that kind of thing is just kind of goes back to this idea of what is the community of interest, what holds people together. But what also set, you know, differentiates one community from another and makes it sort of where it doesn't make sense to put, you know, different interest groups into one district.

Walt Sorg 40:22
Although you're not letting up the hammer at all, on making sure that this process plays out to the end and the process gets completed. You're also working on some other government reforms as well. And there seems to be some signs of bipartisan support for at least some of those reforms. What do you see as the priorities for voters, not politicians over the next couple of years? Yeah, so

Nancy Wang 40:43
certainly, you know, right before COVID hit, we had been involved in many months, almost a year, I think of, of discussions with party leadership of both parties trying to under you know, try and understand, okay, what's the pathway for us to get Michigan from worst to first in terms of ethics and transparency, and basically integrity in our state government. So we don't have unlike, you know, in some cases, 48 out of the 50, states that were one of the ladders of very basic ethics and transparency or forms, you know, things like the public doesn't have record, you know, access to any public records from the legislature or the governor's office, for example, like, that's very basic. And of course, you know, other states have, the reason why so many other states have adopted those kinds of laws is because, you know, people need to understand what their lawmakers are doing, who they're meeting with, you know, who introduced this kind of model, Bill, and why. And, and that's just like a basic kind of foundation, you need for accountability, you know, so now that we have fair maps, you kind of need other parts of the system to kind of be in place as well, in order to make it actually that people can hold their politicians accountable. So we're really looking and hoping to push through this session, a package of reforms like, like that, some politicians like you know, Senator Moss, or, you know, the new house leader, speaker, when we have been talking about things like financial disclosure, things like you know, getting rid of lame duck, making it so that you have a supermajority to vote anything and lame duck, you know, things like that. That's definitely at the top of our list.

Walt Sorg 42:22
I was just saying, it's interesting on the open records and openness within government, that this coalition is developing is very broad. I don't know if you've seen it yet. But the Macintosh center just came out very strong as having that as one of its legislative priorities for the coming session. And it's also at the top of the list for some of the most liberal groups in the state.

Nancy Wang 42:42
Yeah, that's right. You know, and I think that just goes to the fact that we need, everyone needs an open and transparent government that so that we really do know, you know, who's pulling the strings, right. So you have an opaque system, when you have very few people that have access and influence because they hold on to, you know, a ton of money that they use for campaigns, that doesn't really benefit anybody in the state, who's not those, you know, those very, that wealthy few. And so that doesn't benefit business in the state. You know, I know that we talked with the chamber about transparency and accountability. And their interest was to have a stable government, you know, in order to kind of, you know, have lawmakers really keep business interests in mind, year after year for the long term, as opposed to just, you know, passing laws that one donor or another might want it for their own purposes. So there are a lot of groups from all across the spectrum that, you know, maybe you wouldn't think are aligned on a lot of things that actually are pushing for ethics and transparency now, because you you see the scandals, you see, you know, a lot of politicians that weren't, weren't working for anyone but themselves and the political parties. So, you know, I think we all have an interest in pushing these kinds of reforms forward.

Walt Sorg 43:58
Do you see yourself maybe setting the stage for more formative action after the next election only because we'll finally have a legislature that is not the result of gerrymandering?

Yeah, I mean, that's certainly the hope you know, that you would have politicians that are voted in and that they feel their first duty is to their actual constituents. And then, you know, there are things like, policy wise, where you have a majority of Michiganders that support it, but not necessarily a majority of like the State House or state senate. Right. And so we're really hoping that a lot of these good government reforms, for example, you know, fair maps and getting rid of gerrymandering, they were supported by 61%, as you know, of the Michigan voters, and yet there was no way we were going to get, you know, any sort of legislation ending partisan gerrymandering through our state legislature at the time. So we're really hoping that because there's going to be a better connection between Actual lawmakers and the public that will see the passage of a lot of bills like ethics and transparency, actually, but uh, like, you know, a lot of other bills like infrastructure bills and, you know, supporting K through 12 education that most voters whether, you know, across the political spectrum support

Walt Sorg 45:17
do you see another petition drive in your future? Are these things that you're going to be able to accomplish working through the legislative process?

Nancy Wang 45:23
Well, no, we do. We're planning for another petition drive in 2022. And the reason is, because there are so many things again, that you we cannot get through the legislature. So one of the things we're looking at with a lot of interest and concern is, you know, the kind of the aftermath of 2020. And that election cycle. So basically, all of the disinformation and all of the kind of the points of potential failure that you saw in our election administration, so, you know, the Board of state canvassers? How very few people had a ton of power around certifying the vote of the people. And so we're looking into what can we do as a citizens initiative to shore up the foundations of our democracy and really take power away from the political parties? And that could be you know, that's both political parties, right? Because we're trying to protect against over you know, this kind of like, overview region, abuse of power, and trying to overturn our election results, regardless of who's in power.

Walt Sorg 46:26
Do you see the enthusiasm within voters, not politicians to take on another giant petition drive? That was the magic of 2018 was incredible numbers of people that were so excited and so dedicated. Can you do it? Again?

Nancy Wang 46:39
I think we can, you know, and I think, you know, it might be that we have a big part of the old gang back together, but that we're also pulling in new volunteers. Because you know, more than I can remember, even more than in 2016, there's this urgency right now, and a kind of a shock that people are feeling from how close we came to the brink of a constitutional crisis with our election results. In 2020. So every time we talk about, hey, like, we cannot, we gotta, we gotta be proactive, we've got to like, learn from the lessons of 2020 and make sure it never happens. Again, we feel we get a ton of really positive feedback both in our you know, Michiganders page, but then every sort of, you know, town hall that we do is that same kind of energy that I'm feeling. People also are kind of, you know, really supportive of other reforms, like the national popular vote compact, you know, all these things that are going to really like protecting our system of democracy, from political parties from you know, people that really have their ultimate goal of tearing it down.

Walt Sorg 47:44
We should end with a plug for the website, because you're after all funded by contributions. Where can people go if they want to help, either financially or become a volunteer,

we would love for you to visit We rely on grassroots donations to this day for our work. So thank you so much,

Walt Sorg 48:04
Nancy, always a pleasure to talk with my dear. Have yourself a great day.

Nancy Wang 48:07
Thank you. Well, you too.

Walt Sorg 48:09
Christine, as I noted before the interview, the Census Bureau has really thrown a wrench into the whole discussion over the census, they said they're not even gonna have the numbers until the end of September. Michigan's Constitution requires the redistricting commission to have maps presented for discussion to public hearings by the middle of September. And there's no getting around that with a Legislative Resolution or anything like that. The Constitution says you got to do it. So it's a real interesting quandary for this new citizens commission. And on behalf of everybody of voters not politicians who drafted this amendment, it kind of apologized to them. We never ever, ever contemplated the idea of a pandemic shut physically shutting down Michigan and the country. What do you think they do?

Christine Barry 48:55
There seems to be a lot of work that they can do ahead of time so that when the time comes, they can take the information from the census and put everything into place. It don't we have ongoing little mini census data sets coming out every year. This should be plenty of data for them to work with. Now, admittedly, this is something that I don't fully understand. I don't fully understand how districts are drawn or how communities of interest come into play. I mean, I really don't get the whole thing. And, you know, how many years has it been since we voted on that? And I'm still shocked that you were a, you were successful? Seriously, I can't believe that it worked. What do you think they do?

Walt Sorg 49:40
Well, what I think I can do is go on with the public hearings that are required before you draw the maps that's relatively simple to do. It's it's a lot of work, but that can go on even with the pandemic. There are ways to hold public hearings around the state. And then for them though, they're going to be hiring some experts in drawing the maps. I think what they could do is to put together maps Based on the best available data and meet the deadline, submit those maps to the people for more public comment with the proviso that they're going to tweak those maps as soon as they have the final census data. But I think they can come really close to what the districts will look like, you know, they're likely to have to move around a little bit in each of the districts. And it's going to make the process more expensive, because they're basically going to have to do some of the maps twice. But they can come very close before then, and get public comment on it. And I think that'll be enough to pass constitutional muster with the state Supreme Court, there will be another legal challenge to the mat, but they're gonna be legal challenges anyway. But this will be one more issue that has to be resolved by the state Supreme Court. But I think the court would be very sympathetic to the plight of the Commission, given the conflict between the arrival of census data and what the Constitution requires. I think that's the best solution, I had the opportunity to talk with a couple of the attorneys who are deep in the drafting process, along with Nancy and myself and a few others. And they know a lot more about it than me, I'm a non lawyer, and certainly not a constitutional expert. And I think the consensus among them was that this is one route that they can follow and work around the otherwise unavoidable conflict between the Constitution of the State of Michigan and the realities of the census.

Christine Barry 51:17
So you're the expert here. So the public hearings have to be done in mid September. And like you said, that's doable, when to the maps have to be finalized? How does that work,

Walt Sorg 51:26
they have to be finalized in November. So they would have to move pretty quickly after the data shows up. They're saying that at the end of September for the census data, so basically, they'd have about four weeks to finalize the maps. The reason that deadline was set up, so the candidates would have time to figure out if they're going to run because in knowing where they're going to run, and also for the local courts to be able to start and process all the things they have to get done to administer the election. You know, the primary election right now is in August, the legislature is looking at changing the date so that we have unified primaries in June, which would combine the normal may elections in April elections for school issues and things like that, along with the August candidate primary, the statewide primary, which would be a little bit more efficient. On top of that, of course, you've got the clerk's wondering if they're going to be adjusting their systems as a result of the heavy change over to absentee voting. So there's a lot of things that are in play right now. It's all interrelated. And most of it is really not partisan. It's mechanical. But it is something that's going to engender a lot of controversy and discussion in the legislature, and probably in the courts as well. But that's, you know, that's life. Hopefully it can be something that is done that doesn't turn into something that inspires people to show up at the Capitol with ar 15, like we had done in Michigan or that we had in Washington, DC.

Christine Barry 52:44
Well, as we noted at the top of the pod, Michigan has played a prominent role throughout the so called trial and the senate all week, it began with a highly deserved criticism of the Trump defense lawyers, it's hard to even call them that. And their brief to the Senate. They quoted Michigan State University Law Professor Brian called to defend their notion that you can't put a former president on trial in the Senate. The problem with that Professor called actually concludes just the opposite problems, the

Brian Kalt 53:12
way they characterize things as though I had agreed with them or included them in particular places. So I might have said, Well, you could argue this, here's why that's wrong. And they would cite that you could argue this part as though I was endorsing that and I really wasn't, I was saying the opposite.

Christine Barry 53:32
Then came the highly praised presentation by the house managers led by Representative Jamie Raskin. He focused on Michigan summer of Trump-inspired-and-encouraged armed demonstrations at our state capitol, culminating in the near takeover of the State House chamber, and then the plot to kidnap governor Whitmer.

Jamie Raskin 53:50
Following the arm siege in Lansing President Trump refused to condemn the attacks on the Michigan Capitol, or denounced the violent lawbreakers. Instead, he did just the opposite. He upheld the righteousness of his violent followers cause and he put pressure on the victim of the attack to listen to his supporters. The day after the mob attacking lanson Trump told governor Whitmer to negotiate with the extremists. He tweeted, the governor of Michigan should give a little and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again safely see them, talk to them make a deal.

Walt Sorg 54:36
What I find absolutely reprehensible. While there's a lot of things I find reprehensible about the former president of the United States, but after the vote in the Senate, 57 votes in favor of convicting him, including seven Republicans. He put out a statement which showed zero remorse for what happened on January 6, and just painting himself once again as the victim of a witch hunt and all that goes with that. The man has absolutely no self awareness of his role in fomenting violence, trying to topple the government of the United States of America that the coup that he inspired as far as he's concerned, that was really cool. And he's very happy about it. Whereas President Biden put out a statement that focused on some of the victims, the fact that five lives were lost on that day, including a Capitol Police Officer. The fact that our Capitol Building was desecrated by these crazy Looney tune right wing protesters who were inspired by President Trump and calling for a healing. The President's statement was right on target. The former president's statement was an insult.

Christine Barry 55:42
At some point, you just have to accept the fact that Trump is subhuman. He's never going to admit if he does anything wrong, he certainly doesn't take any responsibility or feel any remorse over anything. So will it even be the point of him saying he wishes it didn't happen? What would even be the point of that there wouldn't be a point of that. being offended by that Walt, is like being offended by the fact that your pet worm can't learn math is simply not a thing that can happen. And you know, we talked for four years about don't normalize Trump don't normalize Trump. I'm just tired of his stupid crap, the craziness that comes out of him. And the fact that after a second impeachment trial, you can't come forward as a human and say, Thank you, for not convicting me. And you know, may God bless the United States of America, let's just move forward in the best interest of the country. You can't say that, you know, Joe Biden said he was unworthy. And that's exactly what he's proven. Once again, Trump was unworthy for that office.

Walt Sorg 56:47
You also have a lot of Republicans saying thank you Twitter for banning Trump. Because without that megaphone, he becomes less and less of a factor in the republican party as the weeks go on. He's still the power in the party, the vote on conviction, kind of prove that. But I think he's his influence in the party is going to diminish day by day without his Twitter platform, even though his greasy sons still have access to Twitter along with his daughter in law. And Rudy Giuliani. What's going to be fascinating to me is to see how many indictments flow in his direction because right now he is under investigation for criminal activity in New York, Washington, DC and Georgia. And the hits just keep on coming. There's so much to go after for prosecutors. And Mitch McConnell has made it very clear in that statement he gave on the Senate floor, that as far as he's concerned, it is all totally appropriate. So there's not going to be any partisan shots coming from mitch mcconnell if Donald Trump gets indicted. He really cleared the way for the Department of Justice to take this on under the new Attorney General, who is somebody Merrick Garland, who is universally respected, even though he was blackballed for the US Supreme Court. But he is somebody who is not viewed as a highly partisan Attorney General, like his predecessor, Mr. Barr. And if he makes the decision to go after Donald Trump, he'll get some pushback from Lindsey Graham and from Ted Cruz and from Jim Jordan, and the crazy caucus of the Republican Party. But a lot of the Republican Party just going to be silent.

Christine Barry 58:17
Trump is an important figure, still an important symbol, I should say. I mean, and we'll talk about this more as we wrap up, but just look at look at these party activists, again, when we talk about Hillsdale. Now, Hillsdale is one of the more militia conservative type areas, but just look at the things that they were talking about. I mean, that's trumpism right there, that's not going to go away just because of whatever happens with Trump. So it's still a factor that we're going to have to defeat. I don't personally care to understand it. I don't sympathize with it. I don't respect it. I just wanted to defeat it.

Walt Sorg 58:56
Okay, one last note on this package to put a ribbon on it. Trump's lawyers included in their brief sound bites, showing all the world coming out in favor of violence. a clip of Michigan State Representative Cynthia Johnson, take it totally out of context. It was a video slamming Trump supporters for the many threats on her life. They're going to Lynch her or worse. And that's got nothing to do with the impeachment trial is Donald Trump. And in their minds, it was somehow relevant. Cynthia Johnson, of course, put out a brief statement basically, basically saying, How dare you distort what I said, take it out of context and make it a part of your defense of this despicable human being. But that's hopefully the last we're going to talk about Colonel Trump for a while. Although I fear that name is going to keep coming up and coming up and coming up as the republican party has its its battle for its soul, which really kind of kicks off our political notes of the week. There's another challenge facing the Michigan Republican Party, and it is an internal war, the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party has asked the Michigan Secretary of State to investigate the Republican Party, which is fascinating because of these alleged payoffs from the returning Chair of the party, Ron wiser, who allegedly paid off a potential candidate for Secretary of State to drop out of the race, it was $200,000 of party money that was used for it. So you've got Laura Cox, the former chair of the Republican Party, asking Jocelyn Benson and by inference, also the democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel to investigate the Republican Party. Needless to say, Ron, wiser does not want to have to top democrats snooping around the books of the Republican Party, and he on behalf of the party has withdrawn the complaint or tried to. And the Secretary of State who was probably giggling when she did it said never too late to withdraw, we're gonna have to look into this because there's an allegation of misfeasance on the part of the Republican Party, so we're gonna take a look at it. But this is part of the bigger Civil War Within the Michigan Republican Party between the crazy tab wing, which is defined by their new co chair, Mr. Maddock, and more traditional partisans. This can mean nothing good for the Republican Party, look at the primary challenges you're going to have for some of the centrists in the Republican Party People like Fred Upton and Peter Meyer, as a result of the impeachment battle, and the centering of Mike shirkey by the Hillsdale Republican Party, because he's not crazy enough for Democrats. This is kind of like licking your chops time.

Christine Barry 1:01:27
It's a double edged sword, right? It's kind of fun to watch. And I really do believe that you cannot be a dues paying card carrying member of the Republican Party, and say that you condemn violence because your leadership doesn't condemn it. On the other hand, you know, I would like there to be a decent Republican Party, a moderate republican party. And by moderate, I just mean, you know, conservative, like, I have any issue with debating fiscal conservatism, tax policy, all that kind of stuff. policy debates are good for us. But this crazy stuff that they're into now is just, it's too much. And, you know, some people will say, Oh, I'm gonna stick with the Republican Party, because I can change it from within. Well, no, you know, that's the same reason why a lot of moderates stuck with the NRA for a long time, the NRA never changed and the Republican Party, I don't know where their leaders are going to take them. It is fun to watch them. meltdown. It's entertaining, for sure. But overall, it's kind of a sad thing for America, I think.

Walt Sorg 1:02:34
And just to show where the republican party has challenges right now, the detroit news out of a very interesting article about the sheriff of Barre County, which includes Battle Creek, the sheriff Dr. Leif told another sheriff in December by email to get familiar with federal and state election statutes, because there's a handful of violations that could be used to arrest Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson that, that this is a lot about them, especially in light of a post election audit, conducted by Benson random precincts were audited by the Secretary were supervised by the Secretary of State's office, but done by a lot of local election officials, Republicans and Democrats. They hand counted more than 18,000 ballots randomly selected from 1300 jurisdictions. And what they found was the election was clean. The machine reports were almost exactly on spot, you know, there's always going to be some machine errors, but it was nothing significant. And the audit confirmed what we knew all along. It was a fair, Clean Election, where the numbers were accurately reported. Yet you still like you said earlier, there's a lot of people who believe the whole thing was stolen by the companies or by the politicians or by somebody, no matter how many times the votes are recounted. They just say well look at who's doing the recounting and on and on and on and on. But we'll have links to both of those stories on the website. It's kind of incredible.

Christine Barry 1:04:00
Well, another potential Republican candidate for governor appears to be locked in as a non candidate. former House Speaker Lee Chatfield has taken a new job as Chief Executive Director of Southwest Michigan, the Kalamazoo based economic development organization. Although not categorically ruling himself out, Chatfield is apparently joining a list of people not running that includes Senate Majority Leader Mike shirkey, former Congresswoman Candace Miller and former lieutenant governor Brian Kelly, looking more and more like a third chance for two times senate loser john James, the only announced candidate way not Ryan Kelly, co founder of the militant right wing American patriot Council, and a planning Commissioner in Allendale. And this guy is a nuts.

Walt Sorg 1:04:48
I think the republicans could end up with another primary like they had 10 years ago, when you had four very conservative candidates or at least by the standards then they were very conservative candidates. Running and you had a fifth candidate who came out of nowhere a very rich businessman by the name of Rick Snyder. Snyder got 25% of the vote in the Republican primary, but that was enough to win. And so he went in and of course to become the nominee. And he ran against verge Bernero, who was one of the worst candidates for governor in recent history within the Democratic Party. And he won very easily. Snyder was able to portray himself as a moderate Republican in the mold of Bill Milliken and won the election fairly easily. And I think you could see the republicans having that happen again, some business person or some very wealthy entrepreneur will come out of nowhere, and announce as a candidate and try to position themselves as moderates. You know, it could be Peter Meyer, who would be a logical candidate. He's proven to be successful electorally, although he's got a problem right now with his own re election, given his vote on impeachment. I wonder if somebody like him could win the primary. Probably what they need is somebody who's got absolutely no public record, so there's nothing to attack,

Christine Barry 1:05:57
probably. And that's it, you know, where john James would be someone who would be attractive to them.

Walt Sorg 1:06:03
Yeah, he really has no public record. Other than running and losing a couple of times. He's said very little on issues. And following up on my favorite political story of the season, the growth of the good pillow company, is a competitor to my pillow and the founder of that company, Mike Lindell, who is the ultimate Trump lover. As you may recall, Christine, this good pillow company is the project of 20 year old David Hogg. He's one of the gun safety activists who is a creator of March for our lives. Hogg is stepped down as a member of the board of that group under pressure from fellow activists, some of us say he's basically become a grifter. But he's gonna focus on his new venture. And you know, what the heck The guy is a new student on leave right now from Harvard, the last prominent student from Harvard to go on leave to start a company was some guy by the name of Zuckerberg. And he started a little company that went on to be fairly successful. Before that, you had another dropout from Harvard by the name of Bill Gates, who started a little company that went on to become fairly successful. I don't think a pillow company is going to become as big as Microsoft or Facebook. But given the expertise of Hogg and the mission behind his company, and the fact that he does have some financial backing for it, I think it's gonna be kind of interesting.

Christine Barry 1:07:20
Well, it's just fun. Like we said last week, it's just a fun way to take on a political issue and get involved in some activism. And, you know, bring attention to this my pillow guy in a way that is not what Michael Sandel as a marketer wants to have. So, yeah, this is gonna be fun to watch.

Walt Sorg 1:07:40
And we should also note that Sunday was the third anniversary of the shooting at the high school in Parkland and 17 students were killed, another 17 wounded, and the nation's psyche was attacked for at least one day, although still, we haven't done anything about gun safety legislation since that horrific shooting any more than we have after any of the other horrific shootings. Probably the best thing you can say about the pandemic right now is it's cut down on the number of mass shootings because we just don't have people getting together.

Christine Barry 1:08:08
That's terrible. Yeah. Oh, my gosh, that's terrible.

Walt Sorg 1:08:12
Yeah. And before we wrap things up, a heads up our producers, Michigan citizens for a better commercial. We'll be launching a new podcast later this month, a republic if you can keep it. It will be a weekly commentary on Michigan politics from two state political insiders. Former Michigan democratic party chair Mark Brewer, and Jeff Timmer, the former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, and co founder of Republicans and independence for binding, we will keep you posted on that.

Christine Barry 1:08:40
And with that, we put a lid on this week's policast. If you'd like to learn more about today's topics, head on over to our show page at

Walt Sorg 1:08:50
To wrap up our program, some comments from the house managers in the trial of Donald Trump. They said it better than either one of us could, first Jamie Raskin, then Ted Lou, my dear colleagues, is

Jamie Raskin 1:09:03
there any political leader in this room? Who believes that if he is ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get us away? Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on that? It's about the future of your democracy on that. President Trump declared his conduct totally appropriate. So it gets back into office and it happens again. We'll have no one to blame. But ourselves.

Ted Lieu 1:09:40
You know, I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again and for years. I'm afraid he's gonna run again and lose. Because he can do this again.

Walt Sorg 1:09:52
The Michigan Policast is a production of Michigan citizens for a better tomorrow.

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