Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 31, 2013

Lessenberry: A question state voters should ask

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Here’s a question Michigan voters might want to ask: Has their state government been hijacked by right-wing fanatics who are acting against the majority’s wishes and interests?
There seems to be a fair amount of evidence that this may be so. Michigan is clearly a moderate-to-liberal state. It has been a quarter-century since it voted Republican for president.
The GOP has won only one U.S. Senate race in the state in last 40 years. Yet the Legislature is overwhelmingly Republican. Democrats haven’t controlled the state senate since 1983.
Nor are Democrats likely to win control of either house of the Legislature any time soon, thanks to one of the most blatantly partisan redistricting schemes in the nation. This has gotten progressively worse, since while there have been Democratic governors, one hasn’t been in office in a redistricting year since 1961.
Seven years ago, more than 54 percent of Michigan voters chose Democratic candidates for state senate seats. But Republicans won 21 seats; Democrats, only 17.
Since then, the gerrymandering has gotten even more pronounced. Nobody can deny that Gov. Rick Snyder won a solid majority of the vote when he ran three years ago.
But once again, last fall, more people cast votes for Democrats than Republicans for the Michigan House of Representatives. Yet this produced a result of 59 Republicans, 51 Democrats.
That might have not mattered so much, once upon a time. Back in the days before term limits, when compromise wasn’t seen as a dirty word, both sides usually sought to reach a middle ground.
Today, that thinking is nonexistent. Legislative Republicans seem not to care what their own governor wants, let alone the people of the state. They either are active “Tea Party” supporters, or seem deathly afraid of a primary challenge from even more right-wing candidates if they cast votes that seem driven by common sense.

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