COVID-19, new clean energy initiatives, gridlock over Unlock Michigan, polls look good for Biden

April 26, 2021

Michigan Policast for Monday, April 26, 2021

  • Michigan COVID-19 updates – Vaccines, infections, politics
  • Voter suppression – absentee ballots, ballot boxes, sleazy petition initiatives
  • Political notes
  • Transcript

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Michigan COVID-19 updates – Vaccines, infections, politics


Voter suppression – absentee ballots, ballot boxes, sleazy petition initiatives

Source & context

The GOP agenda is clear. They’ve given up on ideas and governing and are solely focused on amassing power through undemocratic means. ~Susan Demas, Michigan Advance


“The same people who are sponsoring these bills just filed 500,000 signatures in the Unlock Michigan petition drive to restrict the governor's powers. Same people. Those 500,000 signatures, they didn't attach 500,000 voter IDs to determine that they were valid. The Secretary of State has just certified those signatures as valid, and now they're going to proceed in the initiative process,” Duggan said Wednesday during the a news conference.

“When these sponsors, when it serves their purposes to rely on a signature to get something through, the signature's just fine. But when they see too many people in the city of Detroit — too many people of color — who don't vote the way they want voting, now we're going to raise the threshold. It's wrong.” ~Source

Political notes


No candidate who dis?^^^







Jocelyn Benson  00:04

It's an abdication of the oath of office these leaders took to serve the people of this state, because you don't serve the people of this state by silencing their voices. Instead, you embarrass all of us.


Walt Sorg  00:16

A showdown looms on voter rights in Michigan with the opposition led by Michigan's top election official Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. I Walt Sorg.


Gretchen Whitmer  00:25

And the reality on the ground is we've got to really take into account what we can and can't get the public to embrace and and to support


Christine Barry  00:33

The governor says it's up to each of us to slow the COVID virus. And the numbers may be showing that the appeals plus the vaccinations are working. I'm Christine Barry.


Walt Sorg  00:43

Also this week a partisan battle over petitions to permanently limit a governor's emergency powers. a subpoena showdown may be emerging in the legislature. And there could be another romney on Michigan's ballot next year, although we're getting divided signals on that.


Announcer  00:59

This is Michigan Policast. With Walt Sorg and Christine Barry, Michigan politics and policy and the National stories impacting our pleasant peninsulas.


Christine Barry  01:09

Michigan still leads the nation in the growth of COVID infections, but we may be turning the corner even as spring weather returns to the state 44% of Michigan under 16 and older have been partially vaccinated and almost 30% have been fully vaccinated. Now data from the UK and Israel show that 45% is the magic number when it comes to vaccinations and public health measures working together in order to see a significant reduction in the number of infections. And other data suggests we might need to be at 80% or higher to slow community spread for the more transmissible UK variant. But we are moving forward while that's the vaccine numbers are looking good.


Walt Sorg  01:48

Yeah, they are the vaccine numbers are looking good, although it's slowing down. And certainly the problem with the j&j vaccine, even though it was tremendously overblown, in the national media, they kept saying it's very rare. It's very rare. It's one in a million. But people don't hear the one in a million. I saw an interview on one of the Sunday shows with the head of one of the federal agency health agencies, he said aspirins more dangerous in terms of side effects by far than the j&j vaccine. And you're talking with one in a million, you know, people will buy lottery tickets, where their odds are worse than that. But the numbers scare some sort of like with airplane crashes, airplanes are the safest form of mass transportation going. But one airplane crash and people won't fly for weeks because they think it's unsafe, all of a sudden, it's it's psychological, as much as it is facts. But it is great to see the numbers in Michigan beginning to come down again. And we're not going to know probably for 2-3-4 years until the PhD studies have been done and why it's been going up and down like this, because we're we're trying to figure out the rules as we go. Unfortunately, with the political turmoil that's going on, it gets harder and harder, especially with so many people reluctant or unwilling to take the vaccine, they don't realize that it's not just about their health. It's about the health of people around them, including people they run into in a grocery store, or people they see in a restaurant. I still go to many places where I see too many people unmasked, and it really concerns me.


Christine Barry  03:19

And just imagine the past year, Walt, when we didn't have the vaccines. I think that the public health measures we have in place are what the republicans in the legislature wanted all along, where you had some partial activity, just small bits of public health measures, mandates here and there. Imagine a whole year of these kinds of numbers without a vaccine in place what would be happening?


Walt Sorg  03:44

Yeah, just it's really frightening. And even for those of us who have been vaccinated like you and I have, it's still of concern I guessing in my head right now I'm thinking I'm gonna be wearing a face mask for the rest of my life. Among other things, I like the fact that nobody's catching the regular flu anymore. Because so many of us are mask up, you know, these, there's a lot of diseases that are spread just by breathing. And it's not just COVID-19 that happens to be one of the worst ones. But just you know, in Japan for example, people have been wearing face masks in Tokyo and other urban centers forever. It's just a way of life there and it may become a way of life here as well. And plus I'm getting used to it.


Christine Barry  04:22

Whenever I fly I see a handful of people here and there with face masks on –


Walt Sorg  04:31

all with face masks on


Christine Barry  04:34

Yeah, No, I haven't. I'm not traveling right now. But go for it. And now I'm thinking I don't think I want to go into a crowded place anymore without a face mask even as the bags that like I just don't want to breathe your air man.


Walt Sorg  04:49

Yeah, meanwhile the republicans in the legislature are still fixated on trying to find something that they can use to damage Gretchen Whitmer, politically. The latest show Is the subpoena that's been handed out to the former head of the State Department of Health and Human Services, Robert Gordon, they want to talk about his departure agreement, which initially was had a no disparagement clause in it, and a confidentiality clause in it. And that's been waived. And now apparently, Gordon said he will testify to the committee. As soon as he has been subpoenaed. He didn't want to voluntarily show up, but force them to subpoena it. whether or not he answers all their questions remains to be seen, though. I think he's very reluctant to publicly state that he disagreed with the governor on policy, because he knows how it's gonna be twisted by Republicans. We're gonna say, see, even our health director thinks he thinks she's incompetent. That's what that's what their messaging is gonna be if he says something like that, even though it's not true. And even though it's not what he means to say,


Christine Barry  05:49

Yeah, and I think that it will be interesting to see them tie themselves into knots to do that, because Robert Gordon probably wanted something more strict than the governor.


Walt Sorg  05:59

He didn't want to reopen the restaurant. I'm pretty sure he didn't want to open the restaurants.


Christine Barry  06:04

Yeah. And the Republicans, you know, would have agreed with Governor Whitmer. So it would be fun to see them, you know, try to figure out that messaging. But the other point I want to make here is that this is the same committee that hosted Rudy Giuliani, and that clown that said she was, I don't know, in charge of those machines, when all she did was wipe the glass. And so this committee is hard to take seriously, even though it is a committee that has some power, it's the Oversight Committee, but to see what kind of ridiculous theater comes out of this thing.


Walt Sorg  06:38

Yeah, another complication right now, which they'll try to lay on the governor, but it's actually being done locally, is some school districts are pushing back or even canceling the reopening of in person classes. here in Lansing, there's not going to be any in person classes for the rest of the year, the rest of this school year, they intend to reopen at this point next September. But what the infection rate is so high in the Lansing area, that the school board finally decided it simply wasn't worth the risk, even though most of our teachers and the staff have been inoculated just too many kids hat where the kids haven't been inoculated at all, because they don't have a vaccine yet. And they decided that in person learning is done for the rest of the year. In Ypsilanti, a school bus driver had COVID, which ended up closing school for 2000 students for a while while they had to do some mass quarantining. And it's we're gonna see this problem all over the state and school districts where we have more and more outbreaks, there are already hundreds of them in schools. And as much as everybody wants the kids back in, in person classes. It's not that easy. Wishing ain't gonna make itself.


Christine Barry  07:42

Yeah, it's not. And there are a lot of things that come to play come into play in the background that people don't always know about. Let's look at the situation in Ypsilanti where their bus drivers are quarantined because 15 of them had dinner together and one of them tested positive. And now they have Ypsilanti school district has very limited capability to transport students into this the school district and onto campus. And so people, some people will look at that and say, well, that just means the parents have to transport or that means we can do a hybrid classes or something, why do we have to shut down the campus until May 10. And what you have to understand is that first of all, there are costs to operating the school district, the physical buildings and having people come in. And if you don't have enough students attending school, on a particular day, the state won't count it as a school day. And you won't get you know, the financial support for that school, they just won't be counted in your calendar. Rather than do some something weird and hybrid, they just went remote. And that way, they eliminate the risk of losing a school day because they fall short of the required attendance. And you know, the students, I mean, they have increased attendance because the students can go to school. So this comes into play all the time in rural areas. You know, when it comes to snow days and things when you have a district like mine, where most of the kids of the school district live on rural roads that aren't fit for buses on a particular day because of weather, you have to think about calling a snow day it isn't as simple as saying, you know, transportation has to be provided by someone else that day. So I just wanted to point that out. Because in the Ypsilanti situation in particular, it was the bus drivers it wasn't the teachers or anybody else that you might think have to be working in order to deliver the education to the student.


Walt Sorg  09:44

The superintendent there describes it as whack a mole. Every time you think you've got it contained. It shows up someplace else, and you got the problem all over again. And according to a bridge magazine, in the week ending April 15, there were 293 New and ongoing outbreaks specifically tied to schools. And although 97% of traditional public school districts offered at least an option for in person learning, some districts have struggled to stay open. So it isn't over folks. And the more people do the right thing, mask up, continue to have social distancing and get vaccinated. The faster we all understand that that's what's needed, the faster we can get out of this god awful mess.


Christine Barry  10:27

Well, nationally, the government's handling of vaccinations is working for President Biden politically, especially among young voters, a poll conducted by Harvard University shows Biden with a 63% approval rating among college students. And that's the highest mark in the 21 year history of the poll. And this is a really interesting poll. While it also found that young people were more open minded, more politically engaged than they have been, or than they were a decade ago. And they favor big government solutions to problems. And that kind of runs counter to the narrative that you might hear. And of course, these are college students who are registered voters. And the numbers that are really striking to me in this poll are the are the ones around feeling hopeful and feeling part of America in terms of feeling like they're included in America and in the American dream? So in 2017 29% of young Hispanics said they were hopeful about America today, that number is 69%. Young blacks went from 18% hopeful in 2017 to 72%. hopeful today,


Walt Sorg  11:34

that was before the verdict in Minnesota on the Derek Chauvin trial too, which probably bumped the numbers too


Christine Barry  11:40

This is March 9 through the 22nd. So yeah, it was before the Chauvin trial, although I will say that we were having a national dialogue around social vulnerability, and how that might play into vaccines. And so I don't know if things like that played into this. There's probably also just, you know, we're all still in a sigh of relief. Some of the other numbers black people said they were 54% of black people said they're better off with Biden as President, Hispanics. 51% said they were better off. It's, it's I won't get into all the numbers. There's a lot of cool stuff in there. But we have links in the show notes for that.


Walt Sorg  12:21

One other number on the Biden administration's handling of the pandemic shows up in the Washington Post poll that we'll be talking about a little later in the podcast, but one number in there to point out in terms of his handling of the pandemic, he gets a 33% approval rating amongst Republicans. And in this age of total polarization, that's a big number. And of course among Democrats is 92% independent 63%. So that's a big part of joe biden's popularity right now is how well he has managed the rollout of the vaccine and getting people vaccinated. Plus, I think he's really been smart in kind of low balling all of his goals. He said I want to get 100 million shots in arms by 100 days. And he doubled that more than double that in the first 100 days, which run out this week. And I think his leadership style is handle it. We'll talk about that as well a little bit later. Moving on the fight for voting rights ramped up in the last few days. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson provided a bill by bill analysis of the republican 39 bill package showing how it is a thinly disguised effort to make it more difficult for you to vote. She was joined by allies from local governments, among them and GM county clerk Barb Byrum speaking on behalf of county clerks statewide.


Barb Byrum  13:35

Just last week, my colleagues and I from the Michigan Association of County Clerks legislative committee voted to oppose the majority of these bills because they do nothing to make our elections any safer or any more secure, but do everything to create hurdles and barriers to the ballot box. The legislation will actively suppress voters and make it more difficult for Michigan's residents to exercise their right to vote.


Christine Barry  14:02

And Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan pointed out the double standard of Republicans when it comes to using signatures to verify a person's identity.


Mike Duggan  14:11

The same people who are sponsoring these bills, just filed 500,000 signatures in the unlock Michigan petition drive to restrict the governor's powers, same people, those 500,000 signatures, they didn't attach 500,000 voter IDs to determine that they were valid. The Secretary of State has just certified those things as valid. And now they're going to proceed in the initiative process. The when these sponsors when it serves their purposes to rely on a signature to get something through the signatures just fine. But when they see too many people in the city of Detroit too many people of color who don't vote the way they want voted. Now we're going to raise the threshold.


Christine Barry  14:54

Now the republicans claim that their package of bills will make it easier for people to vote and Fact is while everyone, everyone who has fact checked these claims has said that that is false. And the republicans will also say it's too early to criticize these bills because they haven't been through committee yet. And, you know, committees change thing. That's just silly. That doesn't mean anything. The Republicans run the committee's. Why would you even write bad legislation and say it's okay, because it hasn't been through committees. So it's a silly defense. I know the republicans don't think their legislation is bad. But, you know, it comes down to what I think Susan Davis said in her her one of her articles, Republicans have given up on ideas and governing, and they're solely focused on amassing power through on democratic means. I think that sums it up best.


Walt Sorg  15:45

Another point of view over the weekend from Michigan's freshman congressman Peter Meijer, he weighed in on the voting rights issue on CNN taking issue really with the talking points of both parties on the subject. The idea that


Peter Meijer  15:59

Republicans are out to broadly disenfranchise folks is false, the idea that all these elections were stolen is also false. The challenge right now is so many Republican voters want their officials to do something. But when that something is an impossibility, when when is this belief it's going to uncover widespread fraud, that there's been no purgeable jurisdiction where that argument has been made, there's been no credible investigative body that's been able to find that it's deeply challenging. On the other side, Democrats see voter suppression around every corner. This is one of the real reasons why I am supportive of having a reprisal of the 2001 Ford Carter Commission's or the 2005, Carter Baker Commission's so we can actually look and have an authoritative, objective view on how we can actually increase participation.


Walt Sorg  16:50

I've got to admit, even though I don't agree with Peter Meijer on a lot of policy, I'm beginning to like the guy because I think he's talking common sense there. And both sides are a little overblown in their rhetoric. The Democrats a little bit the republicans a whole lot in their rhetoric when it comes to the continuing to push the big lie. You've also got in this voting rights debate now an interesting break between Republicans and their corporate benefactors, more and more of them simply saying, hey, this stuff's got to stop. The question remains, though, as you look at the campaign finance reports, How serious are they Christine Yuri's this last week, the money is still flowing to Republicans, it just isn't as obvious anymore. But you now at least have visible warfare. Maybe it's just for show between the large corporate clients of the Republican Party and the Republican Party itself. And even to the point where Greg Abbott refused to throw out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers home opener, because Major League Baseball pulled their All Star game from Atlanta. You know, that's the kind of petty crap that you're seeing in this whole argument. But it's a real threat to the to the Republican Party, I think if corporations are serious about pulling back their support, that is their primary pillar would be like if African Americans said we're not going to support the Democratic Party anymore, it would kind of like be the end of the Democratic Party.


Christine Barry  18:10

I still think it's just theater, though. As long as Republicans are in charge of state legislatures, there's not going to be a lot of change there. And like you said that the money is still flowing in. Here's why. To me, this is just a silly thing. First of all, one of the core tenets of the Republican Party, or at least of the conservative ideology, is the free market. Right? If a company is doing the wrong thing, then the market will shut it down. Because free people spend their money the way they want to, and people won't, you know, support a company that's doing the wrong thing. Now, you and I know that's not true. But that's one of the things that they believe it. And the other thing they believe in, or at least said they believe in, is that corporations are people and have a right to speech. Now they're threatening financial penalties and all these different things on companies who speak up and you know, who CEOs come out and make statements, you know, or they move their events or do whatever


Walt Sorg  19:16

The point amazes me that they would actually come out openly and say, we're going to penalize you in terms of tax law or incentives or something like that. If you don't go along with our policy agenda, to me that is just flat out corrupt. yet nobody seems bothered by that anymore.


Christine Barry  19:31

Yeah. And I think it was the LG of Texas who said, we're not going to be dictated to by these companies that don't share our values. Well, give me a break. Let me turn it around. If a company says it needs XYZ to create jobs in your district, even though XYZ is in conflict with everything that your state values, the republicans will, you know, rush that through government and give them what they want. And you know, takes Nestle, for example, and their water operation, their bottling operation up north. It's just it's just theater. Well, it's all theater, we're going it's still see the corporation's lobby to the republicans and fund Republicans. And they're gonna say one thing and do another and that's what big corporations do.


Walt Sorg  20:22

Meanwhile, in Michigan, on the issue of voter rights, we've got a very real threat from somebody who is in a position to make good on the threat against some of the republicans that are sponsoring the voter suppression legislation. Christine, that's a really interesting little possibility on the part of Jeff Timmer.


Christine Barry  20:40

Yeah, it is interesting. Now, he said that he was going to initiate recall efforts against legislators to vote in favor of limiting voter access. What I find interesting about that, first of all, philosophically, I don't believe in initiating recalls against people just for their votes. But this is a pretty undemocratic vote if you're actually trying to suppress the votes of other people. But I think that the republicans in Lansing have enough of a margin in the House and Senate that if there are Republicans who seem vulnerable, the caucus can provide political cover for them and let them not vote or vote another way.


Walt Sorg  21:23

Well, you only need, you only need to flip three seats in order to change control of one of the chambers on either side. That's three seats in the in the Senate, because that would make it 19-19 with the Lieutenant Governor having the tie breaking vote, and then four seats in the House would give democrats 56 votes to 54. For the Republicans. This was actually done about the 30 years ago, when John Engler was the Senate Republican leader and Jim Blanchard jammed through a temporary 1% increase in the state income tax because the state needed the money. They engineered a recall election against two state senators David Sirotkin, and Phil Masten, in 1983, and that flipped control of the Michigan Senate. And it has stayed a republican body pretty much ever since as a result of that move by John Engler. So there is precedents for it. But it is difficult to do. They made the recall laws a lot tougher and a lot more stringent. So that your average community activists, it's impossible to recall a politician. But Jeff Timmer, the former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, and a leader in the Never Trump movement amongst republicans and former republicans has the political wherewithal and the the structure to make that happen. And he is joined in the effort by former Michigan democratic party chairman Mark Brewer, who is acting as legal counsel for the effort. And we should point out the Jeff and Mark are the co-hosts of our sister podcast, a republic, if you can keep it. And I'm pretty sure they're gonna be talking about this next Wednesday.


Christine Barry  22:57

Well, I definitely want to hear what they have to say, I am wondering, then how are they going to determine who to target,


Walt Sorg  23:04

you look for districts that seems vulnerable,


Christine Barry  23:06

and then just pick like the minimum number they need? I mean, this is gonna cost money.


Walt Sorg  23:14

The money is there, I guarantee you the money is there, because this is the kind of effort that can motivate an awful lot of people. And even with all this is very different, you don't need a ton, a ton of signatures, to even get it on the ballot, you've only got to think 60 days to collect them. But it can be done if you targeted right. And you just pick a district where in the house especially would be very easy to target districts, because there's like 10 of them that were decided by just a handful of votes in the last election. It can be done all the recall, elections themselves are tough as well.


Christine Barry  23:47

Well, they might be tough statewide, locally recall elections around here have been very effective. And it's because you don't get the turnout in support of the person being recalled. It's also


Walt Sorg  23:57

easier to motivate people to turn out to vote if they're angry, as opposed to people whose position and there's not a whole lot of public sentiment that is just emotionally and vehemently supportive of voter suppression. There are people out there who are but it's not the emotional issue for them that it is for the other side. Mayor Duggan earlier was talking about the petitions with 500,000 signatures. He was talking, of course about the unlike a Michigan proposal, which would restrict the power of future governors to deal with future long term emergencies. The State Board of canvassers set the stage for what's going to be a bitter lawsuit that will go to the state Supreme Court, refusing an A to two party line vote to certify the signatures, which would send the repeal of the governor's emergency powers to the legislature for almost certain passage. The deadline came a day after Attorney General Nestle announced the outcome of a criminal investigation into the petition drive itself. She found that it was really sleazy, possibly unlawful, but


Dana Nessel  24:58

now there can be no doubt that many The statutes imposing criminal sanctions were violated during the circulation of the unlocked Michigan petitions. However, for a variety of reasons, criminal prosecution is simply not feasible here. In total, my office examined evidence and considered charges against nine individuals. But there simply is a lack of sufficient admissible evidence to bring criminal charges against anyone involved.


Walt Sorg  25:31

And part of the problem is the state laws when regarding the circulation of petitions are pretty weak. When you get right down to it. For starters, you can lie when I can walk up to you say, Christine, would you sign this petition? It would make the state in favor of apple pie and motherhood, when actually what it does is it makes the devil the official state mascot. And even though that would be a blatant lie, if it there's nothing wrong with me saying that to you, other than I'm a moral reprobate.


Christine Barry  25:58

It's silly what you can get away with I think, but you know, this this, what this comes down to is that the legislature will take this up and pass it on party lines as soon as it gets out of gridlock. Well another name is being floated as Republicans continue to search for a top tier opponent for Gretchen Whitmer next year. But is she or is she not a candidate? I'm talking about Republican National chairperson Ronna Romney McDaniel. What do you think?


Walt Sorg  26:28

I don't think she's going to do it for a number of reasons. It's interesting, though, the idea that another romney would be on the ballot in Michigan For starters, she has denounced her uncle mitt, who I'm sure is a lot more popular in Michigan than she is right now. Secondly, she hasn't got Gretchen Whitmer's charisma, which is certainly a factor in any election. And third, she no longer uses the name Romney, although I suspect she would probably bring it back again. That is her maiden name. Her married name is Ronna McDaniel, which is what she uses professionally as chair of the Republican National Committee. The other problem she's got is that she is 120% maga. She is totally supportive of Donald Trump and Donald Trump lost the state by a whole lot of votes last time and his popularity is probably going down as Joe Biden's is going up in the state of Michigan. So they're still stuck with that having a name candidate who is willing to run against Gretchen Whitmer. The polling shows the Gretchen Whitmer can in theory, at least be defeated with a perfect campaign. But the first step in a perfect campaign is having a candidate and without a first year Can't you don't beat a Somebody with nobody. And that's the problem republicans are facing right now. McDaniel is saying according to staff that she's not going to run. This was a day after Politico reported that she was at least considering it. I really don't think that she wants to take it on. The last time actually that a romney relative ran in Michigan for public office was George romney's wife, Lenore, who was drafted at the last second as the candidate for the United States Senate to run against the very popular Phil Hart. And she was annihilated. I think Phil Hart got like 60 65% of the vote in the general election, but they couldn't find anybody else to run. And so they ended up drafting the governor's way. And you will know Romney. I knew the woman she was she was an absolutely wonderful woman. But she was in way over her head and Phil Hart. He was so well respected in the United States Senate. You gotta remember one of the two senate office buildings in Washington is named after him.


Christine Barry  28:30

The interesting thing about Ronna because of where she's at with her career, because of the position she holds, she would have to, to get, I think, to get a plurality in a primary, she would have to move, like re invent herself as sort of a center right? kind of person. And right, as you mentioned, she's 100%. far right. So I don't know how she would do that. But, you know, this is the classic strategy of putting up a symbol for election, whether it's a symbol of the flag symbol of the family, the symbol is the Constitution, the real America, whatever, you take somebody who is willing to stand up as a symbol for that they have, there's no evidence that they're going to be able to actually be a meaningful contributor to policy. They're just a symbol. And if you can get that symbol elected, I don't know, as you said, she said she wasn't considering it. I don't know if this is serious or not, but it's, it's an interesting mental exercise.


Walt Sorg  29:33

It's just an illustration of how desperate republicans are to come up with a candidate. Christine as you well know during the campaign last year, every week we honored the winner of our attack ad of the week. many weeks it went to an insurgent grassroots movement, the Midas touch. It was created by three brothers and grew into the most improbable a list insurgency in last year's political cycle. There are many viral videos had millions of hits, they created a national Following in the hundreds of 1000s, and raised several million dollars to pay for ads, billboards and even some door to door canvassing, I should point out they didn't pay themselves, they did it as volunteers. But what now for the Midas touch one of the three founding brothers of the Midas touch his brother Ben,


Ben Meiselas  30:18

we want to make the GQP, and that's what we call it, a marginalized fringe party, we know we can't fully eradicate it in its entirety. But that Marjorie Taylor Greene strain, that Boebert strain that needs to be marginalized. And we need to show that that can't be the face of a major American political party. And if that means the party just doesn't exist anymore.


Walt Sorg  30:48

What the brothers hadn't counted on in their campaign, their volunteer efforts generated a lot of local spin offs. They are working now to harness that energy into a more lasting political movement.


Ben Meiselas  30:59

But what we're really focusing on too, as things open up, are building real communities now that can be activated. And that's what we want to do in advance of 2022. So the university chapters, the high school chapters, and we even been talking about having regional and local chapters as well of just people who meet up maybe even if it's just once a month at a restaurant, and just do something good for the community.


Walt Sorg  31:26

The Meiselas brothers spoke on the current episode of our sister podcast to Republic if you can keep it that's available wherever you get your podcasts on Wednesday, there are new podcast drops with my good friend David Daly joining the conversation. He's the author of the definitive book on gerrymandering, the book with the x rated title rat fucked while your vote doesn't count, and the follow up unrigged how Americans are battling to save democracy should be pretty good episode positive course we'll have Mark Brewer and Jeff Timmer talking about what they're doing and all the trouble they're causing for Republicans in Michigan.


Christine Barry  32:00

I am looking forward to it.


Walt Sorg  32:02

Yeah, I am as I am as well. It's really fun meeting all of these people nationally through that broadcast.


Christine Barry  32:07

All right, well, let's take a look at the faux political controversy of the week, a brief two day trip the governor took to Florida to assist her ailing 81 year old father,


Gretchen Whitmer  32:18

a short two full day trip to check in on my father who is battling some chronic illness. And he's a very private person, I feel terrible that I've even had to share that much. But it was certainly not spring break, I was doing both my job as governor from a distance. And being that of a daughter who was helping out a parent who needed a little help these same people would accuse me of not having family values. If I didn't show up when a family member needed some help. Right? is a two day trip. I wasn't out partying in Miami. It's a very different situation. Unfortunately, in this environment, it seems like I think people are more focused on scoring political points and actually doing the work to keep people safe and to get our economy back on track. Yeah, and


Christine Barry  33:06

you know what Walt, the only people who should be complaining about this are people who have lost loved ones, and they couldn't go visit their loved ones during their last hours because of COVID restrictions. And even then it's not a it's not a valid complaint, in that the two situations are the same. It's not equivalent. There's nothing to complain about here. It's just that you can have some empathy for people who've lost loved ones, you know, I lost my father in law and my aunt one week apart, and I couldn't see either one of them. And my aunt, I did know, we only had about a day left and I I begged them to let me see her. And, you know, the facility would not let me would not let me in. I have empathy for people who are upset with those things. But this is not something to complain about. I wouldn't even care if Mike shirkey did this, honestly.


Walt Sorg  33:58

Wow. That is saying something. Now I've got a little bit of a conflict of interest on this. The governor's father is a longtime friend of mine. And I can confirm he does not have COVID. It is something else and that's as far as I'm ready to go because he's a private person. He doesn't want to blast it all over the airwaves. What his personal medical situation is he's 81 years old. He's a tremendous guy. And I know from longtime experience with the family, the two of them are really, really close. He was her political mentor. He worked in both the romney and Milliken administrations, and he was her mentor, as she was getting into government and continued to be right through the gubernatorial campaign. So for her to take two days to go to Florida to take care of her dad is not only something that is not unusual, it is something I would fully expect from her given the relationship between the two of them very close family. The Republicans are just going nuts on this though. I went into the republican state parties website, and they've got like four news releases all complaining about this And tried to gin it up into a huge controversy. Because again, they not only Can't they come up with a candidate to run against her, they're having a tough time coming up with an issue to use against you. So they keep throwing all this mud, and meanwhile really offering nothing to resolve some of the issues of what's going on in our state. Not only is it COVID, they're not doing anything remember, fix the damn roads, back pre COVID when the governor was running on that and got elected on it, even though with the COVID-19 interruption, the governor Whitmer has managed to keep her leading campaign promises especially can with no help from the legislature. And the federal government may be honing in on a way to help her out as a result of the floating of a whole bunch of bonds by the State Department of Transportation. There are 21, rebuilding Michigan road projects underway in the state, I travel on a 69 fairly often heading south, and there's about a 20 miles stretcher that's and it's being totally rebuilt, it needed it desperately what the governor can do is deal with state and federal highways in the state. None of the money that's raised by the bonds can be used for local roads, which is where her program would have really helped a lot. But now we've got the feds with with the President's infrastructure program, there seems to be bipartisan agreement that we need to do an awful lot on the roads nationwide. And that looks like it is I want to I don't want to say 100% likely to get passed. But there's a lot of Republicans talking about getting that done as well. So there's hope there not just for Michigan, but for the whole nation. So you know, the governor Even though COVID is her priority, she's still going back to the campaign promise on fix the damn roads. And I'm glad Damn, Damn glad she's doing it.


Christine Barry  36:38

Yeah, it's nice to see some progress on her actual platform. You know, in the before times when she was running in her first year, and the focus was, you know, let's do something about the infrastructure, then COVID comes along and proves our infrastructure sucks. And so it's nice to see her doing something that we know will have really long term effects. You're not just putting out COVID fires,


Walt Sorg  37:02

love those orange barrels to move forward on this.


Christine Barry  37:05

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so and a couple of good news stories on the environmental front, Governor Whitmer has committed to state owned facilities using 100% renewable energy by 2025. And this is something that is in partnership with DTE consumers and the Board of Water and light in Lansing. It's just one of a handful initiatives of initiatives to move Michigan more toward clean energy, but the state facilities would be purchasing renewable energy, and it just incentivizes these energy companies to make sure they can meet that demand. And it helps them maintain their commitments as well.


Walt Sorg  37:49

It provides them with a market to that's going to be there to buy the renewable electricity. One thing I was discussing with a friend of mine in the energy field, many, many years ago is the fact that Michigan is a manufacturing state, we've got a lot of warehouses in the state that have flat roofs and factories with flat roofs, they are perfect places to mount solar panels. If we can make it make sense economically, for businesses to do that, it would have a tremendous effect. I know there's a farmers market in Lansing, that is just a great place. It's been around for years. And symbolically they put in a windmill above their store, just to generate a little bit of electricity to set an example. It's the kind of thing if we set our minds to it, we can have a tremendous impact. And certainly having the state of Michigan decide that it's going to be using all renewables it by 2025, it's a step forward, it's not a huge step in terms of the total energy grid, but it's still it's an important symbol. And it's an important commitment.


Christine Barry  38:47

Yeah. And it's interesting how popular the individual initiatives for sustainable energy are when you frame them in the right way. So for example, throwing up a few solar panels on my roof by cost me a few 100 bucks, and running them to a battery bank, that'd be a few 100 bucks to and hooking it up and all the instructions are on the internet, things like that are really popular among people who want to make sure that they're prepared, you know, or lower their overall, you know, electrical cost or whatever. But you start talking about it on a mass scale, like a statewide initiative and it becomes less popular. And I think that it's the same kind of thing. You want sustainability. You want it to be clean, you don't want to ruin your environment. And it's it's always there for you. And you know, I think some of this is just framing I guess that's what I'm getting to. You know,


Walt Sorg  39:41

there was also an environmental development this week regarding line five, the Enbridge tunnel, the grunts underneath the Straits of Mackinac, which got very little attention, but it's pretty important.


Christine Barry  39:51

Yes, and it's interesting. The Michigan Public Service Commission said they will consider the line five tunnels climate change impacts during The hearings on whether to grant the permit that's needed for Enbridge to build their tunnel to house that new segment of line five under the straits. What it comes down to is they're going to consider the tunnels impact on climate change. So the Michigan Environmental Protection Act comes into play here. And the reason that it really matters is that the reason that this can happen is that the tunnel can't be separated from the product that flows through it. So they said, Okay, we're going to take a look at this line five to four miles here, see what the impact is on climate change. And we're going to consider those results in our decision on whether or not to support this permit.


Walt Sorg  40:37

I mentioned earlier in the podcast, some polling that's come out this week that's relevant to our political lives here in Michigan, one that was just dropped on Sunday by the Washington Post was on a general assessment of the President's administration, the first 100 days, which of course, the 100 day Mark comes up this week. And overall, the President is doing well by current standards, but not by historic standards. He's plus 10, on approval rating 5242 approving of his overall job performance, which is the low the lowest of any president since Eisenhower, with the exception, of course of Donald Trump, who was a minus 10. After his first 100 days, so there's a 20 point gap there. And you could still see how polarized we are His approval rating 90% amongst democrats 13% amongst Republicans, with the dependence right in the middle there 47%. But he gets high marks on the all of the various aspects of his administration, so far Coronavirus, the economy, both coming in very strong in his favor. But immigration not so much so. But I think the other side of it is that most of the people in this country really don't care that much about the immigration crisis. They may not like the way he's handling it, but it's not their primary issue for them. It's helping the economy.


Christine Barry  41:54

And I don't think you can blame them. That's the stuff that's right up in our faces. That's what they're gonna be concerned about. Most unless you're dealing with an immigration issue personally, it's, it's unlikely to be as important to you and of course, that's how all issues go. So


Walt Sorg  42:11

I think part of Biden's success, you know, he campaigned on wanting to be more bipartisan, and try to end the partisan divide. And he's getting lambasted by Republicans, because he's not doing that. Yet there signs there that it's actually beginning to happen. Small, slow steps. It's certainly not going to happen overnight. But you just had the AAPI hate crimes bill passed in the United States Senate. With only one no vote. Josh Hawley, the idiot from Missouri voted no, even Ted Cruz voted for it for crying out loud. But I think the vote was like 94 to one on that bill. And there are really serious bipartisan discussions on two other issues going on right now. One is one that we'll have talked about the second there where there's more polling, and that is reform of policing in the in the United States. But the other one is on the infrastructure bill. There are serious discussions now a bipartisan group of centrist came up with a counter proposal, it's way too low. It's at $600 billion, as opposed to the 2.3 trillion the president proposed. It does nothing about our electric grid, or about promoting the use of electric cars in the country. But it's a step forward, and they are seriously talking about it. I hear Joe Manchin, the the democrat who make dissolve as a headache, thinking that it actually can come to pass somewhere in the middle and mansion saying that rather than raising tax rates, it might be possible to pay for a lot of this simply by closing the loopholes that the very wealthy and corporations use to escape taxes, you know, for crying out loud, Amazon not paying taxes, income tax, federal income taxes, absolutely horrific. And I don't care what their excuses for not paying. But the fact that Jeff Bezos is the richest man on the planet, and his company is one of the most profitable in the world. He should be contributing to our infrastructure.


Christine Barry  44:05

And that argument that he is contributing by creating jobs just doesn't go anywhere. Blah, blah, blah, he wouldn't have Yeah, he wouldn't even have that, if not for the people who were doing the work. So they're actually the ones contributed. But I've just so sick of these old arguments that don't mean anything, when it comes to, you know, the reality of how the policy plays out in real life. So


Walt Sorg  44:31

we also have a poll conducted on behalf of The Washington Post at ABC about reforming the police. And what is interesting about this is that the survey data was collected in a period that overlapped the conviction of former police officer Derrick Chauvin on three charges including the murder of George Floyd. And it shows a lot of shifting attitudes towards police reform.


Christine Barry  44:58

Yeah, you know, the poll finds The majority of all demographics believe that the country should do more to hold police accountable to bottom line it here with what I think is the, you know, the real question when it comes to accountability, the real foundation for that question is that 63% of adults overall say that black people and other minorities do not receive equal treatment to white people in the criminal justice system. And this is not new, that they don't receive equal treatment. But for decades, while we relied on numbers and data that came out of, you know, really boring places like prison demographics, you know, if you wanted to truly understand the inequities in the criminal justice system, you had to rely on data that came out of things you could not see in person, without, you know, really putting some effort into it. Whereas now, we have YouTube video, or, you know, Facebook, live streams are something that, that get published widely, and people can see for themselves, how some of these things play out. And granted, many of these things are just moments of a bigger thing. You know, there's moments in time you don't see the before the after, but you actually start to understand that there's a difference in how people are treated. So that's kind of a positive.


Walt Sorg  46:22

I'm, as I mentioned earlier, there are serious negotiations going on right now, which are being led really in the Senate by two of the three African American members of the Senate, Cory Booker for the Democrats. And Tim Scott, for the republicans. And Tim Scott, to his credit is very serious about this issue. He's introduced some good legislation, not the best legislation, but very good, positive legislation on this issue in the past. So there is some hope that a lot of Republicans, at least enough republicans will follow Tim Scott's lead to actually make something serious done and won't be everything that needs to be done. That never happens. But two steps in the right direction is certainly better than doing nothing. And finally, this week, a clarification from last week's pod where I mentioned that the governor's ability to issue executive orders was taken away in a party line vote of the state Supreme Court in response to a lawsuit filed by Republican legislative leaders, a listener responded with a rather lengthy Legal Brief, noting that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services still has the authority to issue a lot of those orders making a distinction without a difference. While legally correct, I would say there is a difference Elizabeth, Hertel the director of the Department has the option of taking or not taking action, in a direction opposite that of the governor's position, which I concede it is highly unlikely. The political reality though is that whom ever issues such orders, they are meaningless, have large numbers of people refuse to comply, and especially if local law enforcement is unwilling or unable to enforce the law. And we've seen some prosecutors and sheriffs who simply will not enforce the health department's orders. The governor's judgment in this case, more people are likely to comply with a request than with an unenforceable order. The fact remains, though, that the numbers are coming down, people are tending to comply. And we should however, point out once again is the governor stresses.



Michigan has still some of the strongest protocols on the books, we require masks, we have capacity restrictions, we have work from home here in Michigan, these are important aspects to keeping people safe, especially as we are seeing this community spread. And yet, you just cited a prime example of the challenge on the ground, to encourage people to avail themselves of these vaccines and also to wear their masks.


Walt Sorg  48:43

And we certainly appreciate the listener feedback on this and welcome your feedback and anything else as well.


Christine Barry  48:49

Yeah, I agree with you. Well, the one thing I would add is that the state Supreme Court had already struck down the law that the governor was using to issue her orders. So when it changed, and the Department of Health and Human Services had to issue those orders. They had already been undermined. Good point in the public opinion, I guess. No. So there's there's a difference. But I like you said I appreciate the feedback.


Walt Sorg  49:16

Yeah. And I share a lot of people on social media saying that our rule is not the law, which is not true. A rule has the same force as law. But a lot of people don't view it that way. And that's what's important in a situation like this. It's sort of like traffic laws. I know where I live, traffic laws simply aren't enforced because the police don't have time to do it. So for all practical purposes, there are no speed limits. People drive as fast as the damn well please, and they run the red lights and everything else. Because even though there's a law, if you don't enforce it, it doesn't get complied with all the time.


Christine Barry  49:49

My Sheriff is one of those ones that stood up and made a bold statement in favor of freedom and COVID by saying I will not enforce the mask orders. Now, I don't think that I really have a problem with the sheriff telling people, you know, if somebody calls because somebody won't wear a mask, that's not something that we need to prioritize if they say that to their deputies, your fellow officers, whatever, if you have an understanding that enforcing a mask order in a situation that isn't confrontational is not a priority for your, you know, limited resources. I understand that it's the people who were grandstanding on it. That pissed me off because they're the ones encouraging non compliance and they have their plausible deniability, because they've never said don't comply, but they are encouraging it with their, you know, with their actions by standing up and saying, you know, wearing a mask, it's like you said, it's a rule. It's not a law, it's not enforceable, but feel free to call us if you know, anybody is fighting over it. You didn't have to put out a press release. You don't have to put out a press release to say that. That's where I have a problem with it. Well,


Walt Sorg  51:05

I think we've talked enough this week,


Christine Barry  51:07

I think so that's let's make it a wrap us wrap it up for this week. As always, you can get more information on our topics over on our website, we do welcome your feedback on the podcast. You can email us at or send us a comment your Facebook page or Twitter


Walt Sorg  51:26

and make sure you subscribe to our sister podcast Republic if you can keep it with longtime Michigan political insiders Jeff Timmer and Mark Brewer. Their guests this Wednesday is David Daly, author of the ultimate book on gerrymandering “Rat*cked, Why Your Vote Doesn't Count.” You can find their podcast wherever you get your podcasts.


Christine Barry  51:46

And that's it for this week's Michigan Policast thank you so much for listening and we will talk to you next week.



The Michigan Policast with Christine Barry and Walt Sorg is a production of Michigan citizens for a better tomorrow.

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