Politics & Prejudices
Michigan primary follies
The mess is nothing new — Henry Ford won twice
Published: February 22, 2012
Guess who won the Democratic primary by a landslide? George Wallace, the racist, segregationist governor of Alabama. This was largely a sympathy vote; he had been shot and almost killed the day before. Partly, in a sign of further trouble to come, the Democratic primary was also flooded with Republican-leaning voters.
That was terribly embarrassing for both labor, which wanted Hubert Humphrey, and the anti-war liberals, who wanted George McGovern. Four years later, Michigan's primary was briefly relevant.
In 1976, Jimmy Carter narrowly edged Mo Udall, and Gerald Ford walloped Ronald Reagan, which helped him hang on to the nomination. But by 1980, Democrats got cold feet, again.
They switched to a caucus process so complicated few could understand it. Meanwhile, Republicans stuck to the primary, and in a significant contest that has almost been forgotten now, George Bush I managed to badly beat Ronald Reagan. That led to him being chosen vice-president at the GOP convention in Detroit that summer ...
Which process eventually begat both Presidents Bush I and II, with the accompanying disastrous consequences for the nation. Since then, the state has lurched around like a drunken zombie when it came to picking national convention delegates. Sometimes both parties have had primaries. Sometimes, neither did.
More often, Republicans had a primary; Democrats fiddled with various caucus schemes that satisfied nobody. Jesse Jackson's folks bussed in Detroiters from senior centers and "won" the 1988 Democratic caucuses. This year, there will, in fact be a Democratic primary, but their non-democratic party leaders will ignore it, and pick their delegates at May 5 caucuses instead.
(God forbid somebody not in the in-crowd gets to attend the national convention in Charlotte, N.C.!)
So what should a normal, well-intentioned citizen do about voting in the Michigan primary, Feb. 28? Well, if you worry a lot about man-on-dog sex or want to let the auto industry die, the GOP primary has attractive choices for you. There's even Ron Paul, for those voters who swoon before pictures of Ayn Rand.
However, you could also cast a symbolic vote for the man who has been the voice of reason, really did save the domestic auto industry, and whose policies probably saved the nation from another Great Depression. He also sacrificed control of half of Congress to giving us a potentially decent health care system — something we are being told incessant lies about by those who would take it from us.
That's who I plan to vote for. Your choice is up to you.
> Email Jack Lessenberry