The following piece was produced by the Huffington Post's OffTheBus project.
Tuesday afternoon, as Republican presidential candidates readied for debate in Dearborn, Michigan, Democratic presidential candidates withdrew from Michigan's renegade early primary. Edwards, Biden, Obama, Richardson, Kucinich and Clinton believe in playing by the rules.
Although their interpretations differ slightly in this instance. The first five will not participate in the primary; Clinton will keep her name on the ballot. None of them will campaign in the state.
"Americans who play by the rules and work hard deserve health care, a livable retirement and help sending their children to college." You bet we do. Dems love to court us with this message. Beware though, this moralistic "play by the rules" meme has a shadow side - negation by the party powerful when you break the rules, which are not negotiable in the realm of primary election procedure. Michigan, give back the carrot and have a whack from the stick.
On September 4, Governor Granholm, a Democrat, signed Public Act 52 moving Michigan's primary to January 15. Citizens across Michigan's political spectrum found a shred of hope that their beloved state might end its free fall toward political, economic and cultural irrelevance. In the midst of partisan budget gridlock, this was the among the only bipartisan legislation in months. The bill gave Legislators and voters a long overdue catharsis. Both parties celebrated the new date expecting national examination of Michigan's issues - our issues are America's issues, they said. They were only half right.
Michigan's issues are America's issues: globalization's savaging of American workers, soaring foreclosure rates, peak oil, global climate change, CAFE standards, and a health care crisis to name a few. But elections are about winning, not issues. Changing the primary date breaks GOP and DNC rules. Parading through Michigan, the GOP seems more comfortable functioning in an ethical gray area than Democrats do. When it comes to elections, the GOP is a lean, mean, win-at-all-costs machine. Spending time in Michigan, they're being pragmatic.
For now, Michigan citizens - not privy to back room party politics, primary election procedure arcana, or the raw might of national party leadership - will see one thing: the GOP showed up and the Dems did not.
Michigan's issues are the nation's issues. Count among them a thoroughly broken electoral process.
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