Friday, February 06, 2004

jobs and healthcare

The thing with Dad and the telemarketer reminds me of when I worked for the Michigan Democratic Party one summer as a phonebanker. Most people just hang up, but then you hit somone who hasn't talked to anyone in a couple of days, maybe, or is just feeling lonely. And before you know it, they're telling you exactly what's wrong with the state of the state, or what exactly they think of your candidate, and you're desperately searching the form in front of you for the proper box to check off.

As it happens--perhaps concerned that my blog is spiraling into an endless chronicle of my father's struggle--Mike at radiofreemike has asked, in private email, if I'm going to blog the Michigan caucus.

It's an interesting question, and one I'm taking as a challenge to pull out of my cookies-and-pajamas haze over here. Despite my mother's best efforts, I've been out of the Michigan political loop so long I have no idea of what Michiganders care about. And I'm not exactly out on the street polling citizens, as all the citizens are inside with the central heat turned all the way up, watching DVDs and eating microwaved Bob Evans sausage Snackwiches, like us (exterior tempertaure: 33 degrees Fahrenheit. Interior: 76).

So I've been talking to my folks, and reading the paper. I can't gauge who folks want from lawn signs, because the lawn signs are all snowed under.

I'm not sure which way Michigan will go. According to the Freep's handy primer of fun facts, Michigan is the largest state to have a Democratic caucus, sending 154 delegates to the National Democratic Convention. Seventeen-year-olds who will turn eighteen by November 2nd are allowed to vote. It's the only state to allow Internet voting in a caucus or primary ("Make sure you are connected to the Internet", begins the brochure explaining how to do this, a brochure you only receive if you've already gone online to register and therefore probably have a clue.) Ballots will also be available in Spanish and Arabic (the Detroit area, as I've mentioned here before, has the highest concentration of Arabs in the world outside of the Middle East.)

Then there's the makeup of the state itself. Young (fabulous)Democatic governor. Two fairly liberal Dem senators, both of whom I've met and respect. The State House and Senate, however, are Republican. Large, vocal, and politically active African-American community. Economy based on heavy manufacturing, which is of course being outsourced at a distressing rate. State surrounded by lakes being eyed as water sources by other, dry states. Strong labor unions. "Most Democratic big city in the United States"--Detroit delivered Michigan to Gore in 2000. Your permit will allow you to carry a concealed weapon in church, but not in school. Ted Nugent pushes for blind bow hunters to be allowed to go out a few days before the season starts. The Single Business Tax discourages companies from setting up shop here (the smaller your business is, my mother explains, the more profoundly you're hit by this tax.)

In other words, Michigan is just as varied and odd as, oh, say, California.

The governor has come out for Kerry. US Rep Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (whose son, Kwame, is Detroit's enfant terrible mayor) is for Dean. Madonna (who is native, in case you didn't know) supports Clark, as does Michael Moore. The Arab American Voter PAC is behind Kucinich. Several state reps are pulling for Edwards.

The vibe I'm getting is that nobody's really sure who to spring for. I think the state would have come out strongly for Dean, before he took such a beating, but now people might be more inclined to what Mom calls ABB--anyone but Bush--type thinking. She also thinks people here are still feeling burned by what happened with Nader, and therefore less likely to vote their consciences and more likely to go with the man they think will win. Which suggests Kerry to me, except that he's not making as active an effort as Dean is.

Dean was here yesterday, hitting the two things Michiganders seem to care about most; jobs and health care (Michigan's unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, versus the national 5.7; health care is a shambles.) Dean might still be viable here. Kerry came through but made no public appearances, which may have been unwise. I think Sharpton will do better here than he has anywhere else; not only did he make an exhaustive visit yesterday (six stops), but in the 1988 caucus Michigan went for another charismatic black Reverend (Jackson) over another East Coast pol (Dukakis). The others are all bracing themselves for the South and not stopping here.

Magic 8-Ball says that Saturday will come out Kerry-Dean-Edwards-Sharpton, and that Dean will be stronger than he has been lately.

Now Minnesota, where I've lived more recently, I bet will come out for Dean.