COVID updates, GQP voter suppression. Matt Grossman on midterms, reapportionment, and MSU’s MPLP

May 3, 2021

Michigan Policast for Monday, May 3, 2021

  • COVID infection rates, racial disparities
  • The census and Congressional reapportionment
  • Matt Grossman of MSU IPPSR
  • More Republican voter suppression
  • Political notes
  • Transcript

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COVID-19 infection rates, racial disparities

The census and Congressional reapportionment

Matt Grossman of MSU IPPSR

'If the party in charge moves policy substantially leftward or rightward they tend to be punished for that action, not for the lack of action' ~Matt Grossmann, @IPPSR Click To Tweet
'I think Biden is getting credit for calming down politics ... that could be very good for Joe Biden, because it seems to have been anger that was driving political mobilization' ~@MattGrossmann @IPPSRClick To Tweet
'We're very proud of @MPLPMSU ... the program helps people, makes them more likely to run for office, more likely to win ... more likely to work across the aisle and get things done' ~@MattGrossmann @IPPSR Click To Tweet


More Republican voter suppression

Political notes




Gretchen Whitmer  00:03

Vaccines are our best chance of putting this pandemic behind us and returning to normal. They represent hope and healing. As I've said a couple of times now, there's light at the end of the tunnel, but we're still in the tunnel. The only way out is forward. And together.


Walt Sorg  00:20

The carrot and the stick governor Whitmer is programmed to get Michigan back to normal. I'm Walt Sorg.


Ron Jarmin  00:26

The effect of the official 2020 census population counts on congressional apportionment is a shift of seven seats among the 13 states. seven states will each lose one seat in the house, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.


Christine Barry  00:45

Well, Michigan continues its every 10 years pattern of losing ground in the US House. We'll talk with the head of MSU's Institute for Public Policy about the upcoming game of political musical chairs, with one of our current members guaranteed to be out of a job. I'm Christine Barry,


Walt Sorg  01:02

also this week paying people to get vaccinated and or get a job. More on the efforts to stop voter suppression in Michigan, even as another state adopts restrictions to hinder voters cracking down on big money tax cheats to pay for the American family plan. Another no name right winger announces for governor and the government transparency bill that's really a fogged mirror.


Announcer  01:27

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


Christine Barry  01:38

Michigan's COVID numbers the worst in the nation two weeks ago continued to decline significantly. State Health Director Dr. Joneigh Khaldun says they are still too high. It's too early to relax. But there is hope.


Joneigh Khaldun  01:52

As of this week, Michigan has 493 cases per million people that's 30% lower than it was two weeks ago, but still four times where we were at the middle of February. Data still indicates that we have broad community spread. This includes spread of the more easily transmitted variants that have been identified across the entire state. The percent of tests that are positive is about 13.2%, nearly three times where we were in the middle of February, but down by 4.3%. From where we were just two weeks ago.


Walt Sorg  02:27

To bring us closer to the day when life can return sort of to normal. The governor's outlined some clear vaccination goals, and rewards us for reaching each of the goals.


Gretchen Whitmer  02:38

Step one. Two weeks after 4.5 million Michiganders are 55% of our eligible population have received their first shot, we will lift the state's requirement for employers to require remote work when feasible. And our current rate we will likely reach 55% by the end of next week. Meaning we could reach step one just two weeks later before the end of May. But it's counting on all of us to keep pushing to make sure we get vaccinated. So up to two weeks after we hit 4.9 million Michiganders, or 60% have received their first shot will increase indoor capacity at sports stadiums, conference centers, banquet halls and funeral homes to 25% will increase capacity limits at gyms to 50% and will lift the curfew on bars and restaurants. Set Three Two weeks after 5.3 million Michiganders are 65% have received their first shot will lift all indoor capacity limits, only requiring social distancing between parties and relax the limits on residential social gatherings. And finally, step four to accept or 5.7 million Michiganders or 70% have received their first shot will lift the mdhhs gathering and facemasks order mdhhs will no longer impose broad mitigation measures unless and to anticipate unanticipated circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine resistant variants.


Christine Barry  04:08

So I like her benchmarks based on percentage of Michiganders who get their first dose 55 percents the first 160 5%. And then at 70%, she starts taking a look at reducing the mask order. And yet there's still enough flexibility here that, you know she can allow one region to open up a little bit more than another region if you're still seeing infection rates too high in certain places. So I think it's a good way to approach it. It seems really flexible. So I think I think it's smart. It's a push toward herd immunity not toward 100% vaccination, which is also a much more practical thing


Walt Sorg  04:52

that it is and the governor was asked at a news conference specifically why after months of reluctance to apply specific numbers to specific outcomes, all of a sudden now she's willing to give these numbers. And she said, it's quite simple. We didn't have the vaccine before. And now we know the vaccine works. We have a pretty good handle on the numbers that we need in order to protect the state of Michigan. We've got this as the firmest data that we've got. It's still science based, but it's based on knowing more science has been learning. For the last year the governor has been learning for the last year. And as usual, she's one step ahead of the legislature, which is no surprise, but still, it's probably frustrated, the hell out of them a couple of other things that are going on, Christine, first of all, I mentioned at the top, that people are actually being bribed into taking the vaccine. We've got a real reluctance problem out there. Now there's so much vaccine that's available and not getting used. Because everybody, not everybody, but most of the people who were really eager to get vaccinated are not vaccinated. More than half the state of Michigan has already had at least one shot in the arm amongst seniors, I think it's like three quarters of us are already fully vaccinated. So what you've got left now are the people that just don't feel like it's necessary people who have doubts about the vaccine. And of course, the republican haters who are suspicious of all thing, government. I really like the approach they're taking in West Virginia, their governor down, there's Jim justice, he is a good old boy, Republican who is more into common sense than he is into ideology. And he is paying every young adult between the ages I think it's 16 and 35 100 bucks if they get vaccinated, no questions asked, get your vaccine, even if your third, fourth or fifth shot. They made it record when they made it retroactive. But West Virginia has actually been a leader all throughout the US and getting its population vaccinated, which is not something you'd expect. But I think Governor justice has done a smart thing there. And then in Detroit, they're paying people 50 bucks to if you just drive somebody else over to the vaccination center, to get them vaccinated, there are some caps on how much you can make. But all of a sudden, you can make a lot more money driving people to get vaccines, then you can drive for Uber or Lyft.


Christine Barry  07:05

Yeah, exactly. And what is interesting about this to me, I as you know, I work in communications, is that Mayor Duggin's approach of getting neighbors to encourage and drive each other to get vaccinations and, you know, there's that little incentive of cash, it adds an element of social proof about the vaccines. Look, I've had both of mine, or I'm gonna go take mine, I'm, I'm getting it because I trust it. Why don't you come with me, you know, and that's, that's something that works all the time in marketing. And if you look at it, from a marketing perspective, this is a really a really good program. It's way better than, you know, 100 bucks from the government, in terms of its credibility towards someone who is really reluctant.


Walt Sorg  07:53

And there's also in some instances where somebody can lay down the law and you really can't ignore it, especially with our colleges and universities. The New York Times reports that 100 us colleges are already requiring vaccinations for Fall Enrollment. here in Michigan, one private school has done that none of the public schools are doing it. Although the University of Michigan is requiring vaccination. If you want to live on campus, I suspect you'll see something like that at Michigan State University. Given that the president of MSU is a medical doctor whose specialty is epidemiology.


Christine Barry  08:29

I don't know how anyone could look at a college or university campus housing scenario and think, gosh, we can control this with social distancing and masks. You know, I just don't know how you could possibly think that that would be safe for people.


Walt Sorg  08:47

Well, there's people that feel that way. Just all you have to do is watch the news. And you see all these gatherings that are super spreader events around the country. There is also one area of special pride for the Whitmer administration and beyond the fact that they've done a really good job in getting the vaccines administered were above the national average there. And that's the huge gap and infection rates by race have been pretty much erased. Lieutenant Governor garlin Gilchrist was put in charge of that effort


Garlin Gilchrist II  09:14

While black residents make up just over 13% of Michigan's population. We represented a staggering 29.4% of the cases in the early days of tracking COVID-19 data based on race about a year ago. In the past two weeks of available data. The state has maintained the progress in limiting the disparate impact of COVID-19 communities of color, with black residents accounting for less than 11% of the cases


Walt Sorg  09:43

when meanwhile the political games go on a couple of stories that caught my attention in the last week. The leader of the Republican Party, the co chair, Michelle and Maddock continues to question whether or not masks make people safe and And whether employees should be able to sue their bosses were masks are required. On Tuesday morning medic sure to tweet the state of masks are ineffective, harmful physically and mentally and never intended for general population use. The message also stated people need to start bringing legal action against employers. Thank you Ms Maddock for prolonging the pandemic in Michigan.


Christine Barry  10:26

stupid stupid. Well, okay, first of all ineffective Where did the flu go? Okay. And second of all, they should sue their employers. All right. I'd like to hear what at this is not something I normally say. But I'd like to hear what rich Studley has to say about, you know, the study –


Walt Sorg  10:46

The head of the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce.


Christine Barry  10:48

Yes, Michigan State Chamber of Commerce. Pretty, pretty conservative organization. Really? I'd like to hear what he has to say about the Republican Party leadership encouraging people to sue their employers for following the guidelines of the state. But we won't hear that.


Walt Sorg  11:08

Of course not. Of course not. You're not going to take on the republican party when you're heard of the Chamber. A another political game being played as the continuing battle over spending, the federal money continues between the governor and the legislature, Michigan could see one of the most significant investments in child care in years, if the legislature simply approved spending $1.4 billion in federal money that experts say could transform the beleaguered system. similar measures were approved in the House and Senate Committees last week. But the legislation from the house has one big if the money would only be authorized when Michigan stops asking facilities to ensure kids ages two to four wear masks. They're still playing these goddamn stupid games, trying to get some leverage over the governor knowing full well she will veto the bill one more time. And the losers are the people of the state of Michigan


Christine Barry  12:02

well, and look at the just the morals of that, hey, we believe in childcare so much. And we want to invest in it so much that we'll do it. If you just do this for us. If you can invest $1.4 billion for childcare, then you can do it without making demands, but they won't. And that's where the moral, I don't know that. It's just gross. They're just a gross, gross bunch of people.


Walt Sorg  12:32

And it is just pure pandering to the political, right? My grandkids are two and three years old. They wear masks everywhere when they're outside of the home, because their parents tell them that it's a good thing to do. And it's not a problem for them. Kids are very adjustable to things like this. It's certainly not bad for their health, it's good for their health. And they're too young to know anything about freedom and all that stuff. That the right the right wing keeps screaming about other used to diapers, what the heck, they were on the bottom as well. We're on the top.


Christine Barry  13:04

Well, well, you know, look, parents aren't going to let their kids choke or suffocate or anything like that. So if a mask became a danger for a child, they would remove it and they would handle that child safely. You know, I think this is a dumb thing to fight about. But you know what, speaking of dumb things to fight about in other political games. The House Oversight Committee had its moment with former state mdhhs director Robert Gordon, who volunteered to the committee that he was asked to resign.


Robert Gordon  13:37

I was called on January 22, to video conference call with several members of the governor staff. I joined that call. When I arrived, I saw the governor and members of her staff. The governor said to me, Robert, grateful for your service. I think it's time to go in a new direction. She subsequently dropped off the call Mark Totten, the governor's Chief Counsel offered me an opportunity to resign. And I did.


Christine Barry  14:03

But if the committee republicans thought the hearing would lead to some dirt they could throw on governor Whitmer, they were sadly disappointed. Gordon had nothing but praise for the governor's handling of the covid 19 pandemic and no interest in airing any differences of opinion between him and Whitmer.


Robert Gordon  14:20

It was my responsibility to do my job as best I could, according to the law and with integrity for as long as governor Whitmer and I both wished and as part of my job, it was my responsibility to give the governor Whitmer honest advice to enable the candor critical to good decision making, I believe, and continue to believe that advice should be confidential, especially in an unprecedented emergency


Walt Sorg  14:46

while the Republicans continue to play their political games in the legislature aimed mostly at the election next year. Democrats in the legislature are also talking about next year, but they're doing it by focusing on helping people specific In this case focusing on protecting workers from on the job infections. State Representative Samantha steklov.


Samantha Steckloff  15:07

You don't go to work to risk your life. It is so important that if an employee brings the safety issue to the intention of an employer, it is the responsibility of the employer to fix it. This is a common sense measure that protects workers who employees, employers failed to protect them.


Walt Sorg  15:26

Sheet representative Laurie Puchalski summarize the multi bill package that Democrats have introduced.


Samantha Steckloff  15:32

bills on this package would take important steps like requiring employers to provide employees with information on covid 19 testing locations, prohibiting an employer from taking retaliatory action against an employee who raises concern over infection control, and increasing the penalties for serious workplace safety violations under state declared emergencies.


Walt Sorg  15:52

But what about the prospects for getting republicans on board, they are in the majority in the legislature and you need Republican votes to pass it. I talked with Representative Terry Sabo from Muskegon what kind of interest if any of you gotten from the other side right now, if you've got any indications that these bills will be addressed in committee?


Terry Sabo  16:09

Unfortunately, it did not seem as though we got a whole lot of interest from the republicans on this. And it's very disappointing, because, you know, we often hear about, you know, what all of us do things to protect Michigan's workers all the time, not just during COVID, but all the time. But then furthermore, you know, I've heard a lot about, you know, the republicans in the chamber that in wanting to take a leadership role and made the decisions on how things were going to happen during this pandemic. And here was a perfect opportunity to take care of both of those. And unfortunately, we didn't get a lot of interest. But that's not going to deter us from continuing this message and trying to build support for it as we go forward.


Walt Sorg  16:51

Sadly, I think that's the last we've heard of those bills, other than perhaps on the campaign trail next year, they won't even get a committee hearing, which is really unfortunate that there's so much concentration on dealing with the the wedge issues and dealing with the ideological issues in the legislature, and just so many things, rather than just getting down and doing the nuts and bolts, even Congress is getting more accomplished right now on a positive nature than the Michigan legislature.


Christine Barry  17:20

you can absolutely see the need for protecting employees from retaliation, if they come to an employer and say, I'm concerned about this situation. And you know, you and I've talked about COVID for over for a year, I don't even know how long. And every couple of weeks, we're talking about some business that has said, oops, we didn't do a good enough job, that an employee who worked there must have known they weren't doing a good enough job, but probably just didn't feel they could say anything. And that might not be intimidation, that might just be like, Look, I'm not gonna say anything, I just gonna go with it. But there's nothing wrong with a regulations that protects an employee from retaliation, that there's room for the two parties to talk on this. And it's unfortunate that it won't go anywhere and committee.


Walt Sorg  18:11

What you have them focusing on right now is the fact that my OSHA has extended the emergency workplace safety requirements for another six months. And the business establishment led by your good friends at the state Chamber of Commerce are pushing back hard on that, to the point where legislation is being introduced to probably got my OSHA's ability to do just that. It's not based in science, it's based on the politics of who they think, whose ox is getting gored. People, there are still people in the legislature and around the state who don't recognize this is a once every 100 years emergency, unlike any emergency that we've seen outside of war, since World War One, you'd think after a year, they nearly 600,000 deaths nationally and nearly 18,000 in the state, they would have figured it out by now about apparently that takes more than that to convince them that we've got a problem. You know


Christine Barry  19:07

what that was this has done well, because the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has been so vocal in its opposition to the governor's protocols. And I understand to a certain degree because, you know, the Chamber of Commerce that their role is to advocate for business. So I understand that. So they've been in the press a lot and it's it's all rich Studley, but he is their their leader right now. But he is so inconsistent in what he is saying out there, that he's really just coming across as someone who just doesn't like governor Whitmer and her administration. So you know, and I'll give you an example he, he is out there trying to defend Carl manky for example or My gosh, I forget the name of the woman who ran the little Bistro. And he's defending these people who operate without a license who break the rules. If you're a member of the Chamber of Commerce as a business, does that tell you that you can break the rules? Or does that tell you that the leader of this advocacy organization thinks that it's okay to operate without a license?


Walt Sorg  20:25

That means low grade anarchy.


Christine Barry  20:28

And it's unfair to you know, the other members who are willing to do the work to keep the business in good standing with not only the state in the laws of the state, but also with the public, which has, through all of this supported governor Whitmer has restrictions. And, and so if you're a business trying to do the right thing, and you're a dues paying member of this organization that is out there saying that it's okay to operate without a license. That's so weird. That's a weird thing for the Chamber of Commerce to say, and he rich study, just in the newspaper again, this last week, one of the Detroit papers, said something about my OSHA constantly fining organizations that have been breaking the rules for the past, you know, all through the pandemic. And it's like that is my OSHA's legitimate role to play in our society is to enforce the safety rules in the workplace. And now rich Dudley is out there speaking against the safety rules that were in place. I mean, it's just weird for a business advocacy group to, I don't know, just be so inconsistent on the things that they say.


Walt Sorg  21:46

This is also a tribute to gerrymandering, because you've got a legislature now that is not representative of the state. You have a very right wing legislature in a state that is center left or center, right, depending on the year, but very much a central state. And the reason you have that is because of gerrymandering, which makes the primaries all important in most districts and the general elections a foregone conclusion. Well, we're going to have an end of gerrymandering in Michigan. It's underway right now. And we're getting a little bit closer to the day when we have those new maps.


Christine Barry  22:19

Yeah, the big numbers are in and to nobody's surprise, congressional power is shifting south and west. Within industrial northeast losing cloud. Census director Ron Jarman summarize the redistribution of House members.


Ron Jarmin  22:33

Overall the effect of the official 2020 census population counts on congressional apportionment is a shift of seven seats among 13 states, which is the smallest number of seats shifting among the states in any decade since the current method of calculating apportionment was adopted in 1941. six states will gain seats in the House of Representatives, Texas will gain two seats, and Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain one seat. seven states will each lose one seat in the house, California, Illinois, Michigan, York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.


Christine Barry  23:16

And there's some speculation it would have been worse if the Trump administration hadn't mismanaged the census so badly. The US citizenship question, went to court got kicked back then he tried to do it again. They underfunded the Census Bureau, they rushed the deadline, and they wanted to put that immigration or they wanted to eliminate immigrants and the count in doing all of this. He ended up I think suppressing the Hispanic counts because they were just intimidated at this point. So anyway, they he scared them off, and he scared enough of them so that they're underrepresented in the red states like Texas and Arizona and Florida, which may have pushed more congressional representation toward those states. Overall, the Census Bureau says that the numbers are aligned with their benchmarks but they warn that we should not assume 100% accuracy at this time.


Walt Sorg  24:13

I find it amazing that the census also demonstrates that one vote really matters. The state of New York lost one congressional seat. If they'd had 90 more people in the entire state of New York, they wouldn't have lost that seat instead, Minnesota would have lost a seat. So in every vote really does count. The loss of one house seat for Michigan is absolutely no surprise it continues to trend that started way back in 1963. Back then, Michigan had 19 members in the US House, the largest representation ever, then went to 1820 years later in 1983 1610 years later in 1993, down another one to 15 in 2003 and 14 and 2013. Now it goes down to 30. tene one guarantee at a minimum, one of Michigan's current House members will be out of a job beginning in 2013. To talk about that, and the other impacts of the census, as well as the impact of Joe Biden on our upcoming elections. I checked in with the director of Michigan State University's Institute of Public Policy and social research, Professor Matt Grossmann, Dr. Grossmann, as you are well aware, the census figures have just come out now. And to nobody's surprise, Michigan is going to lose one of our 14 seats in Congress. Somebody's got to go regardless of what the voters do. It's a minimum of losing one of our members were in the state, is that likely to happen?


Matt Grossmann  25:39

Well, we don't know yet. Because we have a new process, of course, for drawing the districts and they are not supposed to be paying much attention, if any, to where the current members live. And they are supposed to essentially sort of start from scratch with a bunch of new criteria. So we don't know how things will turn out. Obviously, the bulk of the state's population is in Eastern Michigan, East Southeast Michigan, but the growth areas are in the West, and by Traverse City. So you would expect it to sort of come out of Southeast Michigan broadly conceived, but it's up to the redistricting commission.


Walt Sorg  26:20

how things look, yeah, you're correct, obviously, in pointing out that the population is shifting west and north in Michigan, at least a little bit. Also, it seems like the demographic is shifting to it's much more a purple area in both Southwest Michigan and northwest Michigan. Any anticipation of what's going to happen there just in terms of the fates of our current members of Congress, all of whom are republicans?


Matt Grossmann  26:44

Well, the certainly we are seeing more competitiveness, say in the in the southwest, and in parts of the North. But we're also seeing a very long running trend toward geographic polarization with more high density areas moving leftward and lower density areas moving rightward. And so it really depends on how the lines are drawn, and for Democrats, and lastly, the lines are sort of drawn in and out of cities to distribute democratic votes throughout districts, then it's it's very hard to get democratic districts beyond the urban districts.


Walt Sorg  27:24

One other dynamic that may come into play next year be interested in your thoughts on it, is the fact that in Southwest Michigan, you've got two members of Congress who voted to impeach Donald Trump, and the President, former president has vowed to come in and campaign against them. Is that only an issue in the primary? Or do you think it might extend into the general?


Matt Grossmann  27:43

Well, I kind of help burnish the potentially moderate or more moderate images of the Republican members. If they got to the general election, obviously, it makes it tougher in the primary to be seen as going against your your party's president. So yeah, it's a sort of a traditional issue where it's going to hurt in the primary and helping the general but actually, and the opposite would do the reverse.


Walt Sorg  28:12

You had an opportunity to look at the bigger picture at your online fundraising event earlier this week, with Charlie cook, who's probably one of the very best political observers nationally, very nonpartisan, and very objective as in his analysis. What was your takeaway?



Well, I thought he told that stark story of what we call polarization, but did it with some flair, and some some sort of anecdotal, useful examples to just bring home the message that we really used to have republicans that were more liberal and democrats that were more conservative, we really used to have a political system that wasn't as driven by negative partisanship, where people voted against the other side more than for their side. And it's a hole that we've dug ourselves into that it's going to be very difficult to dig out. But that the the potential for change comes from generational change, right? He said in one of the events, I think the private one that he was looking forward to the Michigan political leadership program, because his generation the baby boomers had screwed it all up. And it was up to the next to, to fix so it wasn't a very hopeful message about recent political change. But it was one where there certainly need of some new generation of leaders.


Walt Sorg  29:31

Speaking on behalf of all baby boomers, I plead guilty to the charge of screwing things up. A couple of dynamics coming into play for 2022, which are in direct conflict. Normally, the President's party in his first off your election has a tendency to lose substantial numbers of seats in the Congress. But the other dynamic is that a president with a growing economy and general health who has responded effectively to the two big issues of the country will gain seats. What do you think? What happened to 2022? When you've got those two clashing with each other?


Matt Grossmann  30:08

Well, the former is a far more predictable pattern that the President's party loses seats and the midterm election has happened all but two times. And there's evidence across democracies across other levels of government that, that you get the same kind of dynamic that voters sort of ask for something but then punish the party in charge for moving a little bit too too far. In terms of the other dynamics, President Biden's approval rating is not historically high for this point in his term. It a, it depends whether he's able to keep that level of approval rating as time in office continues. It's also not a real strong association between economic performance and the midterm performance of the President's party, it's actually near zero Association, you can find ways to make it a little more consistent by putting in some other factors, but it's really not as strong of a pattern. So if you had to bet right now, you'd say the President's party loses seats in the midterm, that's the norm,


Walt Sorg  31:19

if they're, in fact remains to be this huge division in Washington, and the Congress can't get anything much done beyond budget related issues because of this partisan split. How does that play with the voters? Do you think? Who wins?


Matt Grossmann  31:34

Well, first of all, I guess I'll dispute the premise a little bit. We have had, we just had two years of divided government. We according to most according to the most common metric, we ended up passing 12 major policy changes in those two years. All of them were passed by large super majorities with with support for a majority of both political parties. So we just had a very bipartisan level, of course, it was helped by COVID. five of those were COVID. legislation. We also have had a 100 days that yes, started with a party line vote, but a fairly large COVID relief package. And we have multiple bills to go that look like they have some opportunity to be passed, including some like a water infrastructure bill that just passed the Senate that might be bipartisan. So I don't know that we're going to really see gridlock. But in in, I think people overestimate how much gridlock is punished and underestimate how much action is punished. If the party in charge moves policy substantially leftward or rightward? They tend to be punished for that, for that action, not for the lack of action.


Walt Sorg  32:52

What about the what you see is the reaction we've had probably 180 in terms of style of leadership in the Oval Office, between 45 and 46. How do you think that plays?


Matt Grossmann  33:06

Well, I think Biden is getting credit for calming down politics. You know, the ratings for newscasts are down for cable news are down for Biden speech versus Trump's speech are down. And you might say, oh, that that sounds bad. But I think it's good for Biden, because we were in an extremely high salience period of politics, up until right before he was inaugurated with the January 6 Capital storming. And he really has calmed things down and people are able to look away. And paradoxically, that could be very good for Joe Biden, because it seems to have been anger that was driving political mobilization. And there hasn't been anything like the grassroots opposition to Obama, or even Bill Clinton, at this point in his term against Obama, and certainly nothing like other grassroots opposition to President Trump. So the demeanor I think, is paying off, and just lowering the temperature of politics.


Walt Sorg  34:03

Let's wrap up by talking a little bit closer to home. And that is the Michigan political leadership program, which I think is one of the really great things going on right now in politics in Michigan, simply because you are preparing a lot of people to actually lead government who come into government knowing what the hell they're doing.


Matt Grossmann  34:21

I yes, we're very excited. Every year half 12 democrats and 12 Republicans, 12 men and 12 women who want to take on bigger roles in in the state and tend to go on to great things. You know, 14 members of the current legislature are graduates of the political leadership program. So they took a year to go through this program. A big part of it is just meeting people throughout Michigan and across the aisle. So that you come into office, not just with educational background, but with the experience of learning from different types of people. And so we're Yeah, we're very proud. The program I helps people make makes them more likely to run for office more likely to win elected office. And then we don't have evidence for this. But we believe from anecdotes that they're more likely to get things done to be problem solvers and to work across the aisle once they get an office.


Walt Sorg  35:16

One other large public service that you have performed through your program in recent weeks, you're a critical part of the education of the new independent citizens redistricting commission, which was critical, because eventually you've got 13 people who came in who didn't necessarily know anything about redistricting, yet they're going to be making the decisions that had kind of fun getting them ready.


Matt Grossmann  35:38

I it has been fun. It's a it's a good group that is engaged in the process, I had the opportunity to take them through a simulation where they drew districts for Ohio, just to kind of practice and see the difficulties that would would be involved there. And that's, that's been fun, because it's not very easy to meet all these criteria that the Constitution has tasked them with meeting, but I don't think it's about their lack of experience. I think it's just very hard to do all of those at once to pay attention to communities of interest, local government boundaries, statewide partisan fairness, voting rights and considerations. It's hard to do all that. Well. On the other hand, it's hard to do as as poorly as the partisan process has managed to make out of redistricting. So I think the lessons get kicked out


Walt Sorg  36:33

Matt Grossman from the Michigan State University Institute for Public Policy and social research, and also the Michigan political leadership program. Thanks so much for joining us on the Policast.


Matt Grossmann  36:43

Thank you.


Christine Barry  36:48

Well, the battle over voting rights continues in Michigan and across the nation. The latest state to enact voter suppression measures Florida, of course, passing bills very similar to those being promoted nationally by Republicans and right wing supporters of the Republican Party. First of all, limiting the use of drop boxes adding more ID requirements. If you want to request an absentee ballot, require voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, rather than getting them automatically through an absentee voting list. Just say it's on and on just to make it harder to vote. It's insane.


Walt Sorg  37:27

But that's the Florida method though the people of Florida in 2018 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment, restoring voting rights to former felons who had served their time. And the legislature figured out a way to basically got that, and that impacts like 10% of the population of adult population of Florida, it's a massive number of people who are disqualified for voting forever, because they've got criminal records. And a lot of them just don't know how the hoops they have to jump through in order to get their vote reinstated. It's just it's classic Florida, we only want certain people voting. But on the other side, restricting absentee balloting may bite them in the ass. And I hope it does. because historically, in Florida, the people that have taken advantage of that the most have been the older demographic, they've got one or two retirees in Florida, and they typically vote more republican than they do democratic. And this could vary, you know, the 2020 could have been a one off election because of the pandemic. And this may, in fact, hurt republicans in Florida and I pray to God that it does because they deserve it.


Christine Barry  38:35

They do that. And they and they did this because you know they panicked because the numbers went up in Florida and you know, you could argue they almost lost the state. And so they're panicking and just rolling out this really restrictive, punitive and and just unnecessary rules. So I don't want to I don't want to hope for anybody to not vote but I do hope that Republicans lose their votes over this. Michigan's anti voter bills by the way were given their first airing in front of a state House committee. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson continues to lead the charge against the package. She told the committee that the claim that restricting voting access was necessary for election security as bunk, which she later summarized in a forum organized by the non partisan advocacy group voters, not politicians,


Jocelyn Benson  39:25

it is a false choice to in any way indicate that you need policies that restrict access to the vote in order to protect voter integrity. That's simply not true. And you don't have to take my word for it. Look at the data. The data really shows and we've got plenty of data, not just in Michigan, but in other states. That shows that with real security protocols, like using signatures to verify someone's identity that don't restrict access to the vote, you can actually protect access to the vote while ensuring a secure process.


Walt Sorg  39:53

One of the Michigan bills very similar to bills in other states would require persons applying for absentee ballots. to enclose with their application specific forms of ID proof that they would have to photocopy and it would be included with their application. Now right now what clerks do is they verify applications through signature matching. Benson was very clear that this new requirement would effectively strip 1000s upon 1000s of their vote.


Jocelyn Benson  40:19

Just imagine the number of people who have never had to do that before, perhaps even not knowing the rules changed, sending an application to vote absentee and that just never getting their ballot. These will have terrible effects and making it harder for people to vote, and much more confusing for citizens who want to vote to figure out how to ensure their voices are heard.


Walt Sorg  40:38

Now, the dynamic of this whole process is pretty clear, the legislature is going to pass these bills in all likelihood, and then the governor is going to feature them and they will launch their petition drive. But we've got a new wrinkle on that as well, don't we Christine.


Christine Barry  40:52

we do, indeed, Attorney Mark Brewer, the former head of the Michigan Democratic Party is continuing to turn up the heat on that petition drive.


Mark Brewer  41:00

And this process has been thoroughly corrupted by dark money, by criminal conduct and everything else. And there's gonna be more coming out in the coming days that we've uncovered about this petition drive. And so we're going to be talking about it a lot. You know, we can talk for hours about campaign finance reform. But when people see the amount of dark money and undisclosed money, secret money that was used to fund this petition, right, this was no grassroots rebellion against the governor's powers. This was an orchestrated power play. My Senator Mike shirkey, and others using dark money to try to corrupt the process here. And we are doing our best to put a stop to it.


Walt Sorg  41:39

And since that recording, Mark has dropped the other shoe, at least part of it. He has teamed up now with Bob LaBrant, who is Mr. Republican in the state, former vice president of the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce, and one of the state's leading experts on campaign finance law. And they're petitioning the Department of State to again review the campaign finance violations by unlike Michigan, which sponsored the petition drive. I think what their strategy is that I haven't heard this directly from Mark. But it makes sense is to stretch this out as long as possible because at the legislature can ultimately pass these bills by the end of this calendar year, and others by the by December of 2021. And have to wait till 2022 because of a quirk in our state's constitution, they won't take effect for the 2022 election, they'd have to wait until 2024. It's too complicated to get into what why that is the reason, but that's in the Constitution. So the combination of pushing for this investigation and then they'll probably stall on certifying the signatures, and then they'll probably have court fights before it goes to the legislature. If they can just delay this one way or another into January of 2022. The heat will be off for the 2022 election. And they'll have a new legislature that could deal with it in 2023 and perhaps get rid of all of these stupid restrictions on voting in time for 2024. I think at least that's the plan. We also mentioned last week that former Republican Party executive director Jeff Timmer was promising recall efforts against any legislators who supported the voter suppression bills on the same podcast were Brewer spoke, Timmer says none an idle threat.


Jeff Timmer  43:21

people all across Michigan 1000s upon 1000s of people have hit my replied to me on social media or hit my DMS on social media or sent me emails. But I have gotten 1000s of requests for how can I help? How can I circulate petitions? Where can I give money, the outpouring has been tremendous. And people are this is not just a Michigan battle. This is a battle for the soul of the Republic. The the idea of America is as a great as it is. And as imperfect as it has been. People want to defend it. We know we're going to have the resources, there will be resources to force any Republican who votes for this. Who doesn't denounce this, who doesn't put the brakes on this? We will be able to force all 20 in the Senate and all 55 in the house if necessary to special elections. And that sounds maybe hyperbolic maybe someone won't believe it, but they're gonna start seeing recall petitions in their districts the summer, then, you know, if you don't believe it now you can believe it then.


Mark Brewer  44:22

Jeff Timmer's got access to the money and to the resources to actually make this happen. And if he has to do it in dozens and dozens of legislative districts he's prepared to do it could be interesting.


Christine Barry  44:33

Yeah, it could be it's it's definitely difficult for me to like I can't imagine probably because I've just been a democrat forever. having enough money for that thing. Okay. Yeah. shiawassee Democrats, we don't have money for anything. But it just goes to show again, I think the republican party needs to remember that getting around governor Whitmer is not their only problem. Governor Whitmer is not the only person standing in their way. And they like to, you know, they're so proud of themselves that they have a way around her. But they'll find out there are a lot of other people standing in their way.


Walt Sorg  45:13

And I should point out that Brewer and Timmer, were both talking on our sister podcast, a republic, if you can keep it available wherever you get your podcast, the new one drops on Wednesday, and their guests this week will be Dr. Abdul el Sayed, the 2018, gubernatorial candidate, former public health director in the city of Detroit, who's become quite a national figure in the progressive movement, and a CNN commentator. He's got a podcast from crooked media, and very interesting man, I don't agree with him on some issues, but I really enjoyed talking with them. Because even when you disagree with them, it's an agreeable disagreement. And he he uses facts, and he uses logic, and you could disagree with it. And he doesn't take it personally. So that'll be a good conversation.


Christine Barry  45:59

Okay, well, we've got a lot of political notes with a mention this week, let's start out with something that I would consider to be just a dumb thing that has happened. open carry is still allowed inside Michigan's capital, because the Michigan Capital Commission didn't quite write the rule the correct way. And so here's what happened. Somebody who has a CPL walked into the Capitol building and had his firearm. And there was nothing they can do about it, because the rule to ban open carry in the Capitol, you know, was intended to do that. But the Capitol commission didn't write it that way. They carved out some exceptions to people who were for people who are allowed to open carry, and that included people like first responders, you know, police officers, that kind of thing. And it included people who have a valid concealed pistol license issued by any state, which, by the way, is a problem right there. Who is carrying a weapon in compliance with Michigan, CPL regulations. So what that means is that if you have a CPL issued by any state doesn't have to be in Michigan, but you're in compliance with Michigan, CPL regulations, you can walk into the Capitol with your weapon concealed and I think that was the intent of the rule. But you don't have to have it concealed because there's nothing in the rule that says that. So, you know, unintentionally open carry is still allowed, because it's not banned


Walt Sorg  47:31

It makes the rule unenforceable, because otherwise the police would have to stop every person who comes in with a weapon showing and find out whether or not they have a Cpl. And it also he does not eliminate one of the things they thought they were trying to eliminate. And that is the intimidation of people working in the Capitol by openly brandishing weapons. On a related note, State Representative Sarah Anthony  of Lansing, has introduced legislation to update the definition of veterans in Michigan to clearly exclude those who violate the Michigan anti Terrorism Act from receiving state administered veterans benefits. This, of course, follows the significant increase in incidence of domestic terrorism over the last few years, including now this is the last week was the first anniversary of the invasion of the state capitol by all the crazy people brandishing here, assault weapons, etc, etc. It's a good time to introduce it. And it's a common sense thing. We shouldn't be paying veterans benefits to people that basically are trying to overthrow our government, at least I would think that they could agree on that. But who knows?


Christine Barry  48:37

Well, they won't agree on that. Because the people who are doing that believe that they are oathkeepers, and they're defending America, and Republicans are going to support that, because that's their base


Walt Sorg  48:50

And it's also where a lot of the recruiting is done is with ex military. Yeah, God help us all. On a related note, the activists in the Republican Party are looking to get another scalp they want to get rid of the party's current executive director, who merely said the Trump blew it in 2020. The guy's name is Jason Rowe, I must confess I've known Jason since he was in high school. And his father was also the executive director of the Republican Party many years ago. And in fact, he was called Mr. Republican when he when he held that job. According to Deborah L, a frankenmuth. organizer leading the push to censure and remove Roe from the state party. We're not necessarily saying the trump is The man is the future of the party because we don't know what's going to happen. Nice way of saying you end up in prison, but the MAGA movement, which propelled Michigan to turning red for the first time since reagan in 2016, that's what we don't want to lose. We believe that's the future of the party. God help us not some guy who believe that it's Trump's fault. We lost the election and it wasn't stolen. That is your current Michigan Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen,


Christine Barry  49:55

that is not I mean that, you know, we talked about Trump having in the republicans having this cult of personality thing she tries to say that that's not the case. But


Walt Sorg  50:08

when you say the election was stolen when you're talking Yeah, stolen election, yeah. It's called a personality and you're talking


Christine Barry  50:13

about the man. Yeah. So that's crazy. Okay, well, Michigan, Michigan house has a new plan, leave unemployment and join the workforce and you'll get $1,000. Now, this is a return to work grant program that would use federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay unemployed workers a $1,000 incentive to leave unemployment and take available work in Michigan workers would qualify for this grant if they were employed for at least 80 hours over a four week period after leaving unemployment. There's a $400 million allotment for this program in the house legislation. Now, Walt, if you recall, the state normally requires you to look for work while you're while you are on unemployment. And that requirement was suspended due to the pandemic restrictions. And the unemployment agency wants to put that requirement back into action anyway by the end of May. So as more things open up and unemployment goes down, this could be a helping hand for some people to transition back in


Walt Sorg  51:17

some good economic news for the state which gets overlooked as we get in all these political debates. But that is a development on the automotive front. Ford Motor Company has announced it's going to spend $185 billion for a battery Development Lab in Michigan. This is kind of like deja vu all over again. It was Jennifer Granholm who was really pushing battery development in the state of Michigan back when she was Governor 20 years ago. And now as Secretary of Energy, she is really pushing that very, very hard. And having that development in Michigan is really it's the future of cars. That's what's happening to automobiles as batteries and the more of that development and manufacturing we get in Michigan, the better it is for our long term health. On the negative side, though, General Motors announced a site for its fifth plant to build is 2023 electric vehicles, and it's in Mexico. The UAW is obviously very pissed. She has already declared it will make ebvs at four locations in the United States of Canada. Two of those locations are in Michigan, including the old Hamtramck plant in Detroit, which is being retrofitted to be factory zero, and the Orient assembly plant in orien Township in Oakland County. Then there's going to be plants in Spring Hill, Tennessee, which was the old Saturn factory. Yeah, remember, the Saturn has a great car, by the way, I'm sorry to see it go.


Christine Barry  52:40

And they had amazing, amazing commercials, like donuts, you could go to their auto dealerships and get a doughnut that was one of their commercials.


Walt Sorg  52:50

You know, we got a donut, we got a car to the dealership. And also, there's a plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, where they're going to be building the E V's. But obviously, the UAW not happy that a nine union plant is going to be used in Mexico to build batteries and electric components, as well as assemble vehicles, and then ship all that stuff back to the United States. But that's what happens when you have multinational corporations headquartered in your state. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but I'm just saying that's the way it is.


Christine Barry  53:19

That is the way it is. And just keep in mind, you can always go to the UAW website and find out which vehicles are built here. And support that. We have some new transparency bills that are not actually transparency bills. This is one of those things that's better than nothing, but only by a skosh. These are Michigan house bills that would supposedly open things up. But they would actually still allow lawmakers to conceal personal financial records and hide those personal financial records from the public. Really, the bills would create a legislative committee that would have the personal financial information of the lawmakers. But the public cannot access those records of that committee. And the only time the committee would release any information is if a lawmaker was found to have violated the conflict of interest standards. Simon Schuster of the Michigan campaign finance network says this is an attempt to maintain the status quo under the appearance of reform. It really what it does is it gives oversight to a committee that the lawmakers control anyway. It's not much of anything at all, but it's bipartisan, both sides. At least the leadership on both sides seem to be happy with it and nothing much stronger than this is going to get passed to Mike shirkey in the Senate. Anyway.


Walt Sorg  54:44

We have another candidate for governor on the Republican side who you haven't heard of, unless you're deeply enmeshed in the takeaway the governor's powers move. His name is Garrett soldano. He is a former college football standout he was all conference In the Mac playing at Western Michigan University, where he was a linebacker, I must admit I'm kind of a football fan. I'd never heard of him. But he's also been the CO chairman of the Unlock Michigan campaign, which is working to repeal one of the two state laws that allows any governor not just this one, to declare a state of emergency. He announced his candidacy during the week becoming the most well known GOP gubernatorial hopeful in the field. This still lacks candidates who actually are well known. He prides himself on not being a politician. Of course he does, because he's not a politician. And one thing we need running state governments are people that are amateurs. He says former president, Donald Trump blazed a trail showing that he doesn't have to be a politician to get elected. And I guess he thinks that's a good thing. For some reasons, so he'll be in there, but the the big names are all sitting it out. And if I was the governor's chief political advisor, I wouldn't be saying anything. But internally, I would be giggling very loud.


Christine Barry  55:58

two things. First of all, I think that the Republicans should just give up and put straw man at the top of their ticket.


Walt Sorg  56:05

Well, they're going to, they're gonna have it looks like


Christine Barry  56:08

Yeah. The second thing well, knock, knock.


Walt Sorg  56:11

Who's there?


Christine Barry  56:12

I'm the plumber who's going to fix your pipes. My qualifications are that I am not a plumber and never had been one and I hate water.


Walt Sorg  56:24

Amen, amen.


Christine Barry  56:25

All righty. All righty. Let's talk about tax cheats Americans tax cheats. This is actually about the tax gap, which is the difference between what is paid and what is owed in taxes. In the United States, the overall tax gap is believed to amount to about $1 trillion annually. And closing this gap means catching the super wealthy people who cheat on their taxes. But in order to do that, we have to invest in the IRS because the IRS doesn't have the resources to go after these people anymore. Because they've been gutted for years. It's easy to go after poor people, by the way, who cheat on their taxes. There aren't very many of them, but they're poor, and they don't have lawyers. So the IRS, you know, it's easy to catch them. But IRS doesn't have the manpower, the resources to audit corporations, or to fight the lawyers of the super rich who under report their income. And they don't really have the manpower to enforce tax judgments. So what you have there's kind of a double hit. Not only are taxes that are owed not ever found, but then the debt that does go into the system because of because there's been a text judgment against someone that that will expire because there's no enforcement from the IRS side. So President Biden's plan is to invest in the IRS so that that agency can do its job and get that revenue back so that we can invest in the American families plan and his overall build back better agenda.


Walt Sorg  57:53

Yeah, the number that gets your attention right away. IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig told Congress, he believes the tax gap, the difference between what is paid to the IRS and what is owed could exceed $1 trillion annually. That would take a lot of the heat off of paying for the American family plan. To say the least the you could get an awful lot done with a trillion dollars the last time I checked this, by the way, the information we're using is coming from a really great free online newsletter. It's called popular information. And you can get it for free at popular dot info highly recommended. They exist on voluntary subscriptions of which I do have one. But it was strictly something I decided to send them a subscription fee because it takes so much material out of their newsletter and they do some really great investigative reporting. They're quartered a lot in the national media these days. And it's basically a one guy operation, but he's really, really good. And the President really summed up his attitude towards paying taxes very succinctly. He says we need more revenue in this nation. And the revenues got to come from the people who really aren't paying their fair share.


Joe Biden  59:02

20 million Americans lost their job in the pandemic, working in middle class Americans, at the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increased by more than $1 trillion in the same exact period. Let me say it again. 650 people increase their wealth by more than $1 trillion during this pandemic. And they're now worth more than $4 trillion. My fellow Americans, trickle down. trickle down economics has never worked. This time to grow the economy, the bottom and the middle out.


Walt Sorg  59:49

And what's driving the republicans nuts as they try to fight this tax increase on the wealthiest? This is incredibly popular. People across the nation, the vast man jority of Americans believe this is only fair when they see Amazon paying nothing in federal income tax, despite the massive profits that they're racking up. And the same true of dozens of others in the corporate world, they say this, this has got to stop. It's about time for these people to pay their fair share. And we can only hope that Joe Manchin allows it to happen, because that's basically what's going to boil down to whether or not Joe mentioned goes for some sort of corporate tax increase. And perhaps we're increasing taxes on the super rich as well. But Senator, I have a podcast. Before we depart, I was really struck by the tone of the President's speech to that half empty congressional chamber during the week. What I liked about it was first of all, he didn't scream at us. He kind of he kind of stuck to the facts he was he was humbled in his presentation. I think the tone that he said, really is playing well in a country that just got worn out by the nonstop craziness that was the Trump administration.


Christine Barry  1:01:07

Yeah, I think you're right. And I think we were talked about some things last week, that might have just been a, you know, people was it last week, we had his his numbers as to how popular he was.


Walt Sorg  1:01:19

The overnights on this feature, like 80% approval, he didn't have a huge audience. I'm sure Trump loves the fact that he had higher ratings for his speeches. But the people who saw the President's speech liked it, it was like 80% approval.


Christine Barry  1:01:32

That's that's the thing. People are really liking, not just the way that he's presenting himself now, but also the things that he's talking about. And one of the things I was going to mention earlier that you said, you said something had a lot of approval, you know, his plans. Hi, favourability are pandemic response. Hi, favourability. You we have a poll this week on attitudes toward these new voting laws and voting restrictions, and the majority of people are opposed to the restrictions. And so, so many things are going well for the more liberal side of the country, even among independence. And I think that Joe Biden being the face of a lot of it is a big part of it, because you know, you can make fun of him, he mumbles he stutters whatever. But he is a very steady hand. And that is exactly what we needed was somebody who has grown up and doesn't yell at you, and can stand his ground and not look weak. You know, he, Joe Biden never looks weak, except to people who feel like everybody looks weak.


Walt Sorg  1:02:43

And there's also the issue of competence. They actually know what the hell they're doing. He brought in people that most people had never heard of. But these are people who understood how to do their job, as opposed to bringing in Ben Carson to put in charge of housing, or rick perry in charge of the Energy Department when they didn't even know what the Energy Department did. And on and on and on. And on the only people he brought in, who knew what they were doing, were the industry lobbyists that were brought in to regulate their own industries. So it's it's been a welcome change for the scene. I thought it seemed appropriate to wrap up the podcast rather than just to say goodbye to play 45 seconds more from that speech, the end of the speech that really demonstrates a core difference between the it's all about me braggadocio of the previous administration, and the humility of the current administration.


Joe Biden  1:03:33

I can say with absolute confidence. I have never been more confident or optimistic about America, not because I'm president, because what's happening with American people. We've stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain. And we the people did not flinch. The very moment our adversaries were certain we pull apart and fail, we came together, we're united with light and hope we summon the new strength, new resolve, to position us to win the competition to 21st century on our way to a union more perfect, more prosperous, and more just as one people, one nation and one America.


Christine Barry  1:04:20

Oh, I'm proud of him.


Walt Sorg  1:04:21

I'll just leave it at that.


Christine Barry  1:04:24

And that's it for this week. You can get more information on this week's topics and you know the link so that you can look up whether we're telling you the truth or not all of that on our website, we welcome your feedback on the podcast. You can email us, or comment on our Facebook page or on Twitter.


Walt Sorg  1:04:48

And make sure you subscribe to our sister podcast a republic if you can keep it with longtime Michigan political insiders Jeff Timmer and Mark Brewer, their guest this week. 2018 gubernatorial candidate and lead of the progressive wing of Michigan Democrats, Dr. Abdul el Sayed. You can find their podcast wherever you get your podcasts.


Christine Barry  1:05:08

And that's it. Thank you so much for listening and we will talk to you again in a week.


Announcer  1:05:16

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

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