By Bankole Thompson
Michigan Democrats are where they were before four years ago: looking for a winnable candidate to run for governor. Gretchen Whitmer the Democratic minority senate leader who was viewed as an early favorite because of her staunch opposition to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder declared yesterday she wasn’t running for governor in 2014.
That is not good news for the Democrats who have been scrambling for a candidate since Snyder signed right-to-work legislation that struck at the core of organized labor. But we’ve been here before and Democrats it appears may end up repeating some of the same mistakes they made in the past.
I didn’t think that Whitmer was a match for Snyder either even though she has been an outspoken vocal critic of the governor lately. I thought Democrats would learn their lesson by picking a candidate who can win. Whitmer is the senate minority leader who cannot divorce herself from the political problems in Lansing. She is part of the system and in many ways one can also blame her for some of the problems that are happening in Lansing. You can’t just point a finger at the Repulicans as been the sole problem in Lansing.
What Democrats need to do is to pick a candidate outside of the political framework and machine in Lansing. They need to think outside the box and choose someone who brings a fresh perspective to the debate and who is not tied to Lansing politics.
In the past I suggested Democratic strategist Debbie Dingell as someone who could take on Snyder in 2014. She is not only a thinker but she perhaps has more say in Washington outside of the Michigan Congressional delegation than anyone else in Michigan. Her relationship with the Obama White House could translate into more bacon for Michigan. Her selection would be a real challenge to the GOP and it would be the Michigan equivalent of a Hillary Clinton candidacy because even Republicans in Michigan know how tough Debbie is and that she is not easily beatable.
Another person who could be a strong Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014 is Mark Bernstein, the respected civil rights lawyer and recently elected to the University of Michigan Board of Regents. Bernstein is passionate about the issues and has an understanding of how to connect communities, something essential for the next governor to do.
Because Gov. Snyder ran on the mantra of bringing people together and labor now disputes that because of right-to-work, anti-abortion bills, Bernstein would present a challenge to the GOP establishment if only labor gets a reality check this time around and is willing to support someone with the last name Bernstein. It would make sense to choose an individual who brings more to the party and state leadership more than just a legislative resume from Lansing.
A candidate with broad appeal will win not a campaign with narrow outreach, inflamed rhetoric and scary tactics. Democrats in Michigan cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past this time around because the consequences will even be greater for them. They need to look into the crystal ball and make some tough decisions that may not even be pleasant with their traditional base of support.
They can’t afford to go the same route that denied Michigan’s most prominent blind lawyer Richard Bernstein the opportunity from winning the Attorney General seat as well as costing Democrats the Secretary of State position as well as a position on the Supreme Court.
Egos aside, the party and its traditional forces and pillars of support need to do some real inner cleansing because this could be the last stand for Democrats to have any meaningful impact in Michigan. Especially in light of word in the political grapevine that U.S. Senator Carl Levin may be looking at retirement and this could be his last run.
Michigan Democrats have a lot of thinking to do and work to perform. For now all attention is on the governor’s race and Democrats will be watched closely to see if they will make any common sense choices this time around instead of building their own mountain on the road to the governorship.
These are the times that try the soul of Michigan Democrats. Let’s watch how this plays itself out.
Bankole Thompson author of “Obama and Christian Loyalty,” is a distinguished journalist and presidential author. Since 2008 he has been a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” Sunday evening program on New York’s WLIB-1190AM. You can tune in every Sunday to hear his take on the Obama administration from 9-10:30pm and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut. You can listen to him every Thursday morning on WDET-101.9FM (Detroit NPR Affiliate) where he is a political analyst. Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and author of the forthcoming book “Rising from the Ashes: Engaging Detroit’s Future with Courage.” No part of this blog must be republished without the appropriate designation or expressed permisison of the author http://www.bankolethompson.com