Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Barack Obama, Welcome to Michigan

with one comment

Originally published on on Thu, 05/15/2008 – 8:56am

picture from here

Hello, Sen. Obama. Hope you are enjoying the Great Lakes State this morning. I realize yesterday was your first full day campaigning in Michigan, and what a day that was. An endorsement from John Edwards must have been a nice treat to have on your first day.

I noticed that you hit the Detroit suburbs and Grand Rapids during your first trip. Good for you. Those are very popular destinations for politicians. Lots of people are there and you’ve hit the major media markets of the state. For some politicians, those areas may be the only places they go in the state.

Without getting into the delegate and primary mess, you will have to spend much more time in Michigan than in a normal situation. You are very much behind where you should be in terms of spending time in Michigan. Since this is May, and this is your first trip as a presidential candidate, and since Michigan is a hugely significant bellwether state and I grew up in Michigan, I thought I would offer you some pieces of advice.

— Economy. Everyone will tell you the economy is #1 and they are correct. But do understand that like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana to a lesser extent, words will not be enough. They do need specifics, and I know that you have them. But these people need to feel understood; they have been lied to and lied to for the last 25 years. And quite frankly, their situation is incredibly complicated. The problems aren’t just about jobs, but education — those great manufacturing jobs didn’t require a college degree.

— Reagan Democrats. They don’t exist in quite the multitude of the 1980s, and they aren’t as clustered around Detroit anymore. But do understand that these people voted strongly against their economic concerns in an area where the economy is a huge problem. It’s good that you know they are bitter, but they would prefer not to be bitter. If you can solve their issues and not just the economic ones, you can get Michigan to go Democratic for a generation.

— Fresh water. Michigan is called the Great Lakes State for a reason. The state touches four of the five Great Lakes and borders the largest fresh-water lake entirely within the confines of the U.S. — Lake Michigan. The good news is that you know Lake Michigan from living in Chicago. But you should know that the environment is important. And while Lake Michigan around Chicago isn’t the cleanest, if you travel into Michigan and see the water purity of the surrounding Great Lakes, you will understand why clean water is vital to this community.

— Gateway to Canada. Michigan and Ontario in Canada has a symbiosis on automobile manufacturing and trade in general. Canada is the largest trading partner with the United States and the U.S. gets more oil from Canada than any other country. Politics aside, Bush has had the worst relationship with Canada of any president. Obama needs to have a much better relationship with our neighbor to the North, which could impact any redrawing of NAFTA.

— Small towns. You can feel like you know the state from traveling to the Detroit suburbs and Grand Rapids, but I ask that you consider visiting some other areas of the state. You could eat cherries up in Traverse City or hit an auto parts plant in Lansing or explore medium-sized cities that need help such as Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. But there is one area where your presence would be needed: St. Joseph/Benton Harbor. I’ve written about this area before, but it would be amazing to see a biracial man running for president pay a visit to this racially divisive area.

When John McCain was campaigning in the January primary, he said, “Some of the jobs that have left the state of Michigan are not coming back.” The pundits laughed at him and he didn’t win Michigan, likely as a result of what he said. But it was the smartest thing a politician has said in that state in a long time. The only problem with McCain’s statement is that he didn’t talk about what the next steps are. This is where you come in. The people of Michigan know those jobs aren’t coming back – but they do want to know what is next. Tell them in a meaningful way, and you just might be able to overcome the whole primary mess and put Michigan in the win column for Democrats in November.


Written by democracysoup

May 15, 2008 at 8:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] Obama took his name off the ballot in Michigan, and didn’t personally set foot in Michigan until May, yet he won the state in […]

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