So I went to my first Organizing for America meeting since 2009 today. The campaign is beginning the process of organizing the "boots on the ground" that will be needed to re-elect the President in 2012.
First of all, it was a terrific meeting with lots of folks – old and new – who are committed to defeating the Republican agenda and protecting the progress made over the past two years.
Because of Citizens United, a Supreme Court decision that basically eliminated disclosure laws on much campaign spending, the Republicans are going to have an almost bottomless well of money for misleading TV attack ads of the "Swift Boat" variety through shady front groups with innocuous sounding names.
But a well-organized people-to-people campaign can definitely beat big money TV ads.
And the goal of Organizing for America for the next few months seems to be to rebuild the coalition of communities and movements that brought Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.
The presidential election holds special implications for the movement in Michigan. Michigan is a key state for the electoral college vote tally. No presidential candidate can lose it and seriously expect to win the election – unless something weird happens.
In addition to the Presidential election, the Republicans are hoping to target Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the state's junior Senator. Unfortunately for them, her popularity and leadership have proven to be a huge obstacle for even finding a worthy Republican opponent. Several Republicans have expressed interest but have dropped out. As expected the far-right crazy candidates with political philosophies to the right of Michele Bachmann are sticking to it, making Stabenow's reelection a stronger possibility.
In addition, a mere 9 seats are needed to flip the state house of representatives to Democratic control to check the currently unfettered power of the GOP in the state.
That unfettered power includes Republican partisan control of the Michigan Supreme Court where lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Republican governor's "emergency financial managers" (EFM), which have new powers to throw out the results of local election and takeover cities and towns, will be argued. (It is important to note that Gov. Rick Snyder has only appointed EFM's in localities with majority Democratic voters and African American populations.
Thus, elections to unseat two Republican members of the court will also be vital in 2012.
Anxiety and hardship due to the economic crisis in Michigan and over confidence about the 2008 election probably suppressed the vote here, leading to very odd electoral outcomes, such as the election of a far-right libertarian Tea Party-type in the 3rd congressional district, Justin Amash. Amash has proven the rule about the hard right: cut, cut, cut any and all government. He has plenty of money, plenty of power, so he could care less about the rest of us.
Fortunately, his career in Congress could be kept short by his own far-right politics. He voted to kill Medicare, repeal health reform, to end funding for Planned Parenthood, to gut public education resources, and to raise tax on small business owners. He really wants all of these cuts to pay for more tax cuts for the rich (himself) and wants even more tax breaks put in place under the GOP budget. Though most voters in West Michigan want Congress to strengthen the hand of the Environmental Protection Agency, Amash joined with House Republicans to take away its power. He has failed to lead in Congress to bring our real values with his votes. He voted to protect Big Oil's tax breaks. And he basically believes that the only thing government should do is the military – and most of that should also be privatized.
But the tide in Michigan is turning. People are fed up with the right-wing agenda. That isn't what they voted for in 2010. They voted because they wanted an economic recovery. Unfortunately, the Republicans are most obsessed with abortion, attacking gay people, and cutting resources for the poor, for public education, for healthcare, for Medicare and for Social Security in order to pay for more tax cuts for the rich and for oil companies.
People in Michigan are tired of the attacks on working families, on the right to organize unions, on public education, on health care, and on environmental protections.
Gov. Rick Snyder, in order to pay for a new run doff corporate tax breaks, is proposing a cut of almost $500 per student for the state's public education system. Tax breaks for big businesses have become so numerous under Republican governors – without a subsequent economic boost – that soon taxpayers will be giving them cash to be here.
Snyder always wants to impose a new tax on pensions and to eliminate the state's earned income tax credit for the poorest taxpayers.
Classic make the poor pay for rich tax cuts move.
But here's the reality: Republican-controlled governments in Michigan cut taxes almost two dozen times from the early 1990s to 2002 when Jennifer Granholm was elected. None of that stopped the flight of jobs out of the state. The unemployment rate jumped to the highest in the country (briefly) in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It has fallen five points (!) since the recovery act passed and the Obama administration-organized auto bailout. No single Republican tax cuts, let alone all of them combined, had a similar impact.
Instead as Michigan residents ponder the idea of leaving for other places, part of what they have to consider is how bad have Republican budget cuts made the schools in my town? How much worse will they get? How much more can they cut form libraries, roads, public safety? Do I really want to live in a place like this?
I believe most Michigan residents understand that if we make a stand in 2011 and 2012 we can turn the tide.
Many thousands agree with this idea. In protest, several thousand people from across the state gathered in Lansing, Mich. today as well. Some at the OFA meeting left early to catch their ride to the protest.
[UPDATE]: Photos of the march here
There is a recall campaign underway in Michigan with hundreds of volunteers across the state who are collecting 800,000 signatures to force a reelections.
It will be important to help organize and mobilize this anger not just to resist Republican policies now but to win the reelection of the President in 2012, a progressive majority in Congress, and the number of local and state elections.