Michigan Legislature Considering Bills To Limit Access To Abortion

After the midterm elections of 2010 I found myself living in a red state. This November the Republicans realized that the situation which placed them in power has changed. The Michigan legislature will still be controlled by Republicans in the next session, but their majority is shrinking, and they realize there is a chance they will be removed in another two years. They decided to suddenly push harder for their reactionary agenda in the lame duck session. By now most have heard how Michigan has passed a “right to work” law. This isn’t the only mischief that the legislature has been up to. The Detroit Free Press reports on new legislation to limit access to abortion:

Legislation that could limit access to abortion — several measures that shot through Thursday in a chaotic day in Lansing — drew sharp criticism Friday from Michigan residents who said the proposals run roughshod over women’s rights and could allow doctors to pick and choose patients based on religious or moral beliefs.

A package of three Senate bills would prevent insurers on the state’s health care exchange — a provision of health care reform that Michigan must still establish — from automatically including coverage for abortion in their policies offered on the exchange.

Rather, an employer or an individual purchaser of the plan would have to request and pay separately for abortion coverage.

As it stands now, nearly 80% of plans in Michigan cover abortion, according to Lori Lamerand, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan…

The bills need to pass the House and be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder before they would become law.

But a similar measure to make abortion coverage available only through a supplemental policy might be closer to law.

It was tucked inside legislation that would allow Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to change its business structure. That bill, with last-minute amendments tacked on that would apply to other insurers as well, is headed for Snyder’s desk. Snyder has pushed for legislation to allow the Blue Cross the change in its business plan.

Voters sent a clear message in the 2012 election that we do not want Republican big government forcing the repugnant moral views of the religious right upon others. If younger and more liberal voters remain engaged in two years and do not stay home as they did four years ago, actions such as this could lead to Michigan becoming a fully blue state once again in 2014. The actions of the Michigan legislature also show why there is no safety in electing a moderate Republican such as Governor Rick Snyder if he is willing to sign most of the bills passed by the Republican legislature. If Jennifer Granholm was still in Lansing, we know she would be vetoing these measures.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Might Provide A Preview Of A Romney Presidency

Now that we know that the election should come down to a choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney we can speculate on what will happen after next January 20, 2013. If Obama is reelected it seems a safe prediction that he will continue on a moderate course. He will continue to frustrate those on the left at times, but he will be far more rational than the extremist policies now supported by most Republicans. Economic realities will further frustrate many on the left as the fiscal conservative side of Obama is likely to dominate, but if there are to be cuts to spending I would much rather that Barack Obama as opposed to any current Republican be influencing matters from the White House.

Mitt Romeny is a little more difficult to predict considering that on any given day he is likely to have taken any position on virtually any issue. Although he has campaigned as a liberal in Massachusetts, most likely he will at best be a moderate in office, and there is the very real risk he will feel obligated to prove that he is as “severely conservative” as he now says he is.

The outcome of a Romney presidency is likely to be influenced to a considerable degree by the type of Congress which is elected. If, as has often occurred in the post-war era, he is a Republican facing a Democratic Congress, it is possible that he might govern as a moderate, figuring that it is better to get something meaningful done rather than spending his time in gridlock. On the other hand, he might be so indebted to the far right, and fearful of a primary challenge, that he might push a far right wing agenda regardless of whether it could pass in Congress.

Should Romney win, for at least the first two years it is more likely that he would also bring in a Republican Congress with him. It would be difficult for the Democrats to hold enough seats to maintain control of the Senate considering that the Democrats are defending twenty-three seats while the Republicans are only defending ten in a year going the Republican’s way. The Republicans would also only need a tie to control the Senate should Romney win. The Democrats now have a real shot to take control of the House if everything goes their way in 2012, but this becomes a very long shot if we are facing a fall in which Romney is able to take the swing states which as of now are leaning Democratic.

Ezra Klein sees a scenario such as this leading to Romney becoming a transformational president–and not in a good way:

If Romney wins the election, it’s almost a sure bet that Republicans win control of both the House and the Senate. And that matters. Right now, the GOP’s agenda is the Ryan budget, and that’s entirely fiscal: It’s a premium support plan for Medicare, and tax cuts, and deep cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and other domestic programs. All that can be passed through budget reconciliation — which is to say, all that can be made immune to the filibuster.

I would take this a step further. A Romney victory could lead to a move to the far right even if Romneyy preferred more moderate policies. A model for a Romney presidency might be seen in Michigan, where moderates and many Democrats backed Rick Snyder. Snyder is a moderate who is certainly preferable to other GOP choices such as the extremely far right-wing Pete Hoekstra, who has not been on speaking terms with reality for several years. Many Democrats supported Snyder because it was clear that there would be a Republican landslide in 2010 and wanted the lesser evil.

Unfortunately, while we were spared four years of Pete Hoekstra as governor, which would certainly have  left us in a far worse situation than we are now in, the GOP wave in 2010 brought in a far-right Republican-controlled legislature. Rick Snyder might prefer to concentrate on the economy and avoid controversial social issues, but the legislature does not feel the same. MLive showed how this has moved Snyder’s agenda to the right, despite his personal views:

Snyder has surprised some insiders by signing some bills that strayed from the economic agenda that he pledged to pursue, or perhaps leaned more to the right than the centrist governor tends to lean.

Snyder talked of staying clear of divisive social issues, but signed bills prohibiting public employers from extending domestic partner benefits.

He has said picking a fight with unions was not part of his agenda, but gave his approval to bills prohibiting school districts from collecting dues for unions.

Last week, Snyder added his signature to the bill repealing the law requiring most motorcycle riders to wear helmets – something Granholm rejected twice.

“Gov. Snyder can keep saying ‘This is not the agenda I want,’ but if he’s going to keep signing these bills it’s certainly the agenda he has,” said Doug Pratt, public affairs director for the Michigan Education Association.

“The governor says he’s a moderate guy, but when it comes to putting pen to paper it sure looks like he’s rubber stamping the extremist policies that he rejected as a candidate.”

Romney, like Synder, might prefer to campaign on economic issues, but he will not be able to avoid conservative social issues. Mitt Romney says we should leave contraception alone, but would anyone trust him to block Republican legislation which restricts it? Rick Snyder has two things between his legs which Mitt Romney lacks. There is little doubt that Romney would not be the political equivalent of a eunuch, showing no ability to stand up to the far right, regardless of how extreme. Democrats might have a better shot of blocking social as opposed to economic issues by filibustering in the Senate, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Republicans rewrite the Senate rules to prevent this if they control both Houses of Congress and the White House.

This could lead to a situation where the far right wing of the Republican Party could push their extremist agenda on social as well as economic issues, with no way to block them. In Michigan, Rick Snyder has on occasion stood up to the far right, such as backing stem cell research at the University of Michigan despite Republican opposition. What chance is there that Romney has the cojones to do the same?

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Falls Dramatically In Poll

The Republican governors in states such as Wisconsin and Indiana have received more national attention than in Michigan. To some degree I think that is intentional. Rick Snyder has pursued a conservative economic approach but, rather than seeking confrontation and national attention, Snyder has tried to appeal to moderates and avoid major conflicts.  Such an approach led him to a huge victory in the 2010 election but (as was predictable) his support has fallen he unveiled the specifics of his policies. The only part of this poll is surprising is the degree to which Snyder has fallen according to Public Policy Polling:

Over the last few weeks we’ve found that voters in Ohio and Wisconsin have quickly soured on their new Republican Governors, John Kasich and Scott Walker respectively. But Michigan’s Rick Snyder wasn’t like Kasich and Walker. He campaigned as a moderate and won by 18 points in a state bluer than either Ohio or Wisconsin while his counterparts were just squeaking by in their races. You would think that even if Snyder’s popularity has fallen after two months in office it hasn’t fallen as far as Kasich and Walker’s.

Think again. Snyder actually now has the worst numbers of this new trio of GOP Governors, with only 33% of voters approving of him to 50% who disapprove. And despite his overwhelming victory last fall voters now say that if they could do it over they’d pick Virg Bernero over Snyder by a 47-45 margin. Snyder’s current status is definitely emblematic of the adage that the higher you climb the farther you fall.

While the degree of Snyder’s fall in support is a surprise, the overall course was predictable regardless of the individuals involved. It was clear that no Democrat could have won in 2010 due to the state of the economy and anti-incumbent feelings. Snyder won big due to these underlying factors, along with receiving cross-over support by running as a moderate. He was also helped by Bernero and the Democratic Party in Michigan failing to mount a very good campaign.

If his election was predictable, it was also predictable that nobody could have been elected and present a set of proposed solutions which would not antagonize large blocks of voters. Ultimately Snyder’s fate will be determined by how the economy is doing when he is up for reelection.

Snyder Chases The Avengers Away From Detroit

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has accomplished what many super-villains could not do–chase away The Avengers. One aspect of Snyder’s budget proposal is to eliminate the tax breaks provided to the movie industry to film in Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports on the decision not to film portions of the upcoming Avengers movie in Michigan as a consequence of the change:

Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal on Michigan film incentives is sending immediate aftershocks.

“The Avengers” — a big-budget Marvel superhero film featuring Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and others that was to be partially shot here this summer — has already decided it won’t be filming in the state, several people with connections to the film told the Free Press.

The “Avengers” story echoes the buzz spreading through the local film industry that projects wanting to come here are either holding off on their plans or changing their locations to another state.

Anxiety, uncertainty and anger are building in the metro Detroit film community over Snyder’s budget plan, which essentially would eliminate the current film tax incentive and instead call for $25 million in each of the next two years for future movie projects.

Previously the tax breaks were considered to be valuable as the presence of the movie industry was helpful for local businesses:

The departure of the “The Avengers” project means a loss to more businesses than those involved with on-set duties.

“We were currently in negotiations to work with them at some point during their stay,” said Scott Stinebaugh, director of sales and marketing for the Westin Book Cadillac.

The film industry in general represented more than $1 million to the Book Cadillac in 2010, Stinebaugh said.

If those opportunities go away, “it will be a devastating blow not just to us, but to all of the metropolitan Detroit hospitality community,” he said.

To be fair to Snyder, it should also be noted that he is arguing that his proposed reductions in business taxes solve the problem which made it necessary to provide these breaks in the first place, but it does not appear that the movie industry is seeing it this way. Snyder is basing his tax policies on the argument that they will bring more business to Michigan, but he has failed here.

Michigan May Have Gone Red in 2010, But It Remains Solidly Pro-Obama

I’ve thought it to be somewhat ironic that, after saving the auto industry, Barack Obama saw his party get blown out in this year’s election. Of course, besides the bad economy, that might partially be because Michigan Democrats waged an awful campaign, concentrating on Willie Horton type ads and attacks on governor-elect Rick Snyder for outsourcing while at Gateway.

It has also been a big question as to how much the 2010 election can be taken as predictive of  the 2012 election–with history suggesting no meaningful predictive value. A Public Policy Polling survey from Michigan shows that Obama leads most Republicans by double digits. The only exception is Mitt Romney, son of former governor George Romney, who manages to stay within four points due to his ties to the state. My bet is that once Michigan voters realize Mitt Romney is no George Romney this gap will widen.

Compared to the Republican field Obama’s numbers look stratospheric. Only Romney is viewed favorably by a plurality of voters in the state, with 39% holding a favorable opinion to 37% with an unfavorable one. Beyond him the GOP field ranges from slightly unpopular (Mike Huckabee’s 37/40 favorability) to very unpopular (Newt Gingrich’s 28/50), to extremely unpopular (Sarah Palin’s 34/60). What might be most striking for the Republicans beyond Romney is their numbers with independents. Huckabee’s net favorability with them is -14 (29/43), Gingrich’s is -39 (20/59), and Palin’s is -40 (28/68)

In addition to leading the GOP candidates in a hypothetical race, Obama has an approval rating of 50% and is supported by a plurality of independents 47 percent to 44 percent.

Republicans And Social Liberals

One distressing tend on the right is that the social conservatives have taken a position of dominance. Yes, there certainly are still some fiscal conservatives who are socially liberal, but for the most part they have been purged from the conservative movement and have little hope for support in the Republican Party.

One example of how the Tea Party movement is heavily dominated by social conservatives, despite the claims of some leaders to only be interested in economic issues, was seen in Michigan. Many in the Tea Party who might have supported his economic proposals are unhappy with Republican Governor-elect Rick Snyder for his more moderate positions on social issues. For example, Snyder favors environmentalism, supports stem cell research, supports civil unions, and opposes abortion but would allow for exceptions in cases of rape or incest. These are views which are hardly far left, and a majority of the country would likely agree with him or take even more liberal positions.

Snyder won because social conservatives split the vote in the Republican primary. In addition, many Democrats crossed over to vote in the GOP primary, realizing that a Republican victory was inevitable and they could make better use of their votes by helping the least objectionable Republican win. It will be difficult for other moderate Republicans to pull off such victories.

One conservative leader is taking the opposition to socially moderate Republicans even further. Jim DeMint is now claiming that “You can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative.” Needless to say, many bloggers on the right, such as Doug Mataconis disagree writing, “…it’s fairly clear that when it comes to the shrinking the size, scope, and power of government Jim DeMint is not onboard. Libertarian-minded Republicans should take note of that fact.”

One problem with labels is that they tend to group together people who have differences and divide people who might actually agree on a number of issues. My views are certainly closer to socially liberal Republicans than they are to those on the far left who actually fit the stereotype of big-government liberals which the right wing noise machine demonizes.  Unfortunately, while there are Republicans whose views might come closer to mine than those of some Democrats, they have lost the battle for influence in both the conservative movement and Republican Party. DeMint would have had a stronger argument if he conceded there are socially liberal fiscal conservatives and limited his argument to claiming they have no future on the right. This appears to be true for the immediate future, but I do believe that ultimately social conservatism is a philosophy which will gradually decline in the twenty-first century.