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Rolling Stone, “Battleground Michigan: Inside the Fights Over the President and the Pandemic”

3 min read

Stephen Rodrick at Rolling Stone has a great piece about Michigan’s status as a battleground state during a pandemic which is a sobering reminder of while we should expand our map, we can’t take these states for granted:

James Carville once famously said that between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is Alabama. Leave Detroit, and Michigan is Minnesota with worse roads. Historically, the Wolverine State has fought its own civil war of sorts between the city and the rest of the state. After the 1967 riots, there was mass white flight, and malls popped up in the suburbs so moms wouldn’t have to head into Detroit to buy new school clothes. Whole neighborhoods in Detroit were abandoned, leaving plenty of empty houses to play host to the 1980s crack epidemic. Any mention during my adolescence about heading into Detroit for a concert or a Tigers game was met with furrowed brows by concerned parents.

The rest of the state adopted a condescending and paternalistic approach to Michigan’s black citizens. The most recent examples have been the Republican-controlled state government taking home rule away from the city of Flint and Detroit public schools, supposedly for mismanagement. This led to Flint drinking poisoned water. Detroit? Let’s just say the schools did not get better.

Some of the racial tension you can’t see, but some is in the open. Just after the pandemic hit, Dale Zorn, a white state senator from southeastern Michigan, wore a coronavirus mask made out of the Confederate flag on the Michigan senate floor. He apologized but wasn’t censured. On July 1st, a white woman pulled a handgun on a black mother after they bumped into each other outside a suburban Detroit Chipotle.

In 2016, Trump tapped into white fear and resentment in a state that lost the most jobs in the century’s first decade. Michigan workers hemorrhaged a whopping 17 percent of their jobs, totaling 806,000, almost double that of the next state, Ohio. Many of the lost positions were auto-industry union jobs with good benefits that allowed generations of Michigan blue-collar workers to enjoy great medical care and enough cash left over to buy a cottage up north. Trump’s angry rhetoric managed to win him the state by a mere 10,000 votes out of 4.6 million cast. The story wasn’t just Reagan Democrats returning to the GOP; it was a 12 percent drop in black turnout. Some of it was expected without Barack Obama on the ticket, but the magnitude of the lost votes suggested that black Michiganders were giving up on a government that had been taken away from them in Flint and Detroit, and gave so little in return. Now the same beat-upon community was enduring a pandemic and being asked to haul Joe Biden over the line in November.

Give the full piece a read. We cannot take Michigan for granted and we have to turn out voters in large numbers. Click below to donate and get involved with Biden, Sen. Gary Peters (D. MI) and their fellow Michigan Democrats campaigns:

Gary Peters

Joe Biden

Elissa Slotkin

Haley Stevens

Jon Hoadley

Michigan Democratic Party

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