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The Michigan GOP Primary

Posted by Sterling Johnson on

Sterling Johnson

Sterling Johnson

Editor's Note: A correction has been made since this blog was originally published. George Wallace won the Michigan Democratic primary in 1972, not 1968 as originally stated.

As the Republican primary approaches, Michigan’s voters must decide which of two political fronts they will prioritize. On one political front is facing the challenge of economic development, the other is the familiar front of resisting cultural change and social evolution.

It appears as though Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum’s battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ of Michigan’s Republicans will be fought along these lines. On the economic front, both must explain their failure to support for the Obama administration’s intervention in saving General Motors and Chrysler.

Romney decries the President’s rescue package in a New York Times op-ed column stating that: “Instead of doing the right thing and standing up to union bosses, Obama rewarded them. A labor union that had contributed millions to Democrats and his election campaign was granted an ownership share of Chrysler and a major stake in GM, two flagships of the industry.

“The U.S. Department of Treasury, American taxpayers, was asked to become a majority stockholder of GM. And a politically connected and ethically challenged Obama-campaign contributor, the financier Steven Rattner, was asked to preside over all this as auto czar. This was crony capitalism on a grand scale. The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.”

Perhaps without realizing his hypocrisy, Romney, a well-established vulture capitalist, went on to say that, "the American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing." Instead of a bailout, I favored "managed bankruptcy" as the way forward.

Romney’s anti-union, anti-working class sentiment will resonate with many middle-class Republican voters who perceive themselves as potential 1 percenters.

However, the sonorous politics of fear, this time given voice by Rick Santorum, is alluring to those who cannot reconcile their political status with the reality of an African-American chief executive, nor find it in their hearts and or worldview to recognize the equality of gay and lesbian people and the demographic shift these realities represent.

Santorum’s homophobic and misogynist cultural campaign is reminiscent of George Wallace’s 1968 segregationist effort to capture the White house via the politics of exploiting Negrophobia (segregated schools and affirmative action programs).

Michigan is the nation’s most segregated state, and Flint, Saginaw and Detroit the nation’s most segregated cities. The alarmingly horrendous high school dropout rates in these cities reflects the structural inequalities of the economic system and ongoing challenge to develop the benignly neglected sectors of the Michigan’s urban economies such as education and technical training; which will attract investment capital to the state.

George Wallace won the 1972 Michigan Democratic primary, but he came to rethink and reject his earlier white supremacist view. Santorum, masquerading as a Christian, is launching a moral crusade.

Santorum, like Reagan, Gingrich, and Bush, uses the not-so-coded linguistics of racism such as ‘food stamp president’ or of a people “absent role models,” to appeal to a white working class and working poor fear that “WE” are “losing” “OUR” country. The real trick for the Romney and Santorum is to continue to divert attention from those who they are losing it to-- the 1%.

Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andy Rapp, Q-TV, Delta College, or PBS.


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Currently Speaking host Andy Rapp

Veteran journalist Andy Rapp has been hosting Currently Speaking since 1999.

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