Thank goodness that’s over. With the ashes now settled from the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election, the new and returning members of the incoming 97th state Legislature, to be sworn in come January, are known, leaving Republicans with a sturdy 59-51 majority over Democrats in the state House of Representatives and a Democratic Caucus in the 38-member state Senate whose 12 members are about as politically consequential in that chamber as the desks at which they sit.
So that’s that. In terms of the partisan composite, little has changed other than Democrats picking up a handful of seats in the state House this election cycle after millions of dollars spent on campaigns, sloganeering, and in some cases, downright political pettiness. For all intents and purposes, Michigan residents have what they had on Monday, Nov. 5 — a state Legislature with Republican majorities strong enough to mean that the GOP has to budge little, if at all, in the sausage-making process. It’s simple math: Republicans have the votes to do pretty much whatever they want.
So be it. To the victors go the spoils.
But here’s what needs to happen. In spite of their significant majorities, Republicans need to listen — and not just pay lip service to the concept — to Democrats. Likewise, Democrats need to do the same with Republicans. And both sides, with a slew of important issues facing them not only during the lame duck session of the 96th state Legislature but also beyond into the 97th state Legislature, need to work together to find common ground in this, this unholy marriage otherwise known as the two-party system that is increasingly cheapening our politics and placing premiums on rapid-response demagoguery rather than discourse.
That is true for both political parties when scoring partisan points trumps prudent public policy, which sadly seems is too often the case. Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas, although, also sadly, it seems that too often both think they do.
The starting point to rectifying that is a concept that is simple enough, one that has been widely accepted as a pillar of a successful matrimony, yet has been neglected in the legislative process in recent years: Thoughtful, respectful dialogue, and compromise, producing sound solutions to the state’s most pressing problems.
So yet again, entering into the lame duck session and the January swearing in of 110 state representatives, state lawmakers have a renewed chance to serve as bulwarks of bipartisanship without comprising their core principles.
Michigan will never solve its road funding debacle, for example, without serious input — and yes, give-and-take — from both parties and stakeholders. Without bipartisan work, our infrastructure to continue its downward spiral. The personal property tax (PPT), long a bane of business owners in this state, will still to be an albatross to Michigan’s economic recovery if Republicans and Democrats can’t work together constructively to nix that onus on the private sector — while still finding an equitable and practical way to replace the hundreds of millions of dollars it generates for the state and local units of government.
No-reason absentee voting, which appears to be gaining some traction among the Republicans who have long ridiculously scoffed at such a law on grounds that are sinuous at best, will continue to flounder in the “That’s a Great Idea, But …” category.
Addressing school funding inequality? Fat chance getting a pragmatic solution that satisfies all those with legitimate interests in the matter, not just either party’s sacred cows, without constructive discourse that doesn’t cause lawmakers to retreat to the warm and fuzzy embrace of their respective ideological kinsfolk and deep-pocketed campaign contributors.
That may be out of the comfort zone for some, particularly those so entrenched in the Press Release Politics and fear-mongering that strangles, not moves forward, the betterment of the lives of Michigan’s 10 million citizens — lawmakers’ very constituents and bosses.
But tough luck. Each of the 148 members of the state House and Senate need to put on their big boy or big girl pants, step up to the table willing to compromise in certain areas, and hear out the viewpoints of those with beliefs and ideas that are different from their own.
Which brings us to the lakes area’s current and incoming delegation to the state House and Senate, all members of which have a role to play in brokering practical solutions to big problems in our state. Some have admirably reached across the aisle, extending the proverbial olive branch, while others have not. Republicans and Democrats alike representing west Oakland County can and should be leaders, not passive spectators, in ushering in a new era of cooperation and understanding between the two parties in order to move Michigan forward in any number of ways.
We hope they can do that.
But don’t even get us started on Congress.