Opposing Trump Can Be Your Legacy
Governor Snyder, your country needs you now more than ever.
As the Republican governor of a Rust Belt state, you have the moral authority to be a beacon of opposition to Donald Trump, who’s busy melding your party in his populist, nationalist and authoritarian image.
This is not conservatism. This is not Republicanism. This is not who you are. You’re a truly self-made businessman, not a firebrand or demagogue. You didn’t endorse Trump in the primary or general election. You have said you’re not running for office again. Time and time again, you have called for civility in our public discourse.
You may not have liked what President Hillary Clinton may have wrought in terms of taxes and regulation, but I believe you stay up at night wondering what President Trump will do with the nuclear codes.
Warning signs abound. The president-elect’s chief White House adviser is Steve Bannon, who runs the white nationalist website, Breitbart.com (which is primed to become some sort of state-run media a la Pravda). Trump refuses to set up a blind trust for his far-reaching business interests, instead saying he’ll turn them over to his children (who may have access to state secrets). And he’s playing footsie with Vladimir Putin on the national stage already.
None of these are partisan issues. These are all red flags about how our republic will function.
You can be Gov. George Romney, not Ronna Romney McDaniel. Her path is easier. As the Michigan Republican Party chair this cycle, she was a loyal soldier and may just end up as Republican National Committee chair. Her grandfather took the path of most resistance in criticizing civil rights opponent/libertarian Barry Goldwater in 1964, but he knew it was the right thing to do.
Right now, there are many principled conservatives who continue to oppose Trump. Writers and commentators, including David Frum, Jennifer Rubin, Ana Navarro and James Pethokoukis, were firmly #NeverTrump before and after Nov. 8.
But elected officials must lead the charge. Attention must be paid when Republicans who are governing decide to lead the fight for the heart and soul of the party. Not very many did before the election, with U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) as notable exceptions. You stayed away from the fray, as is your style.
So it’s even more difficult to stand up now that Trump has won. Victory is the magical elixir to suture intraparty wounds. But at what cost to party and country?
You could use your second-to-last State of the State address to set out your vision for this country and rebuke Trump’s excesses. I have no doubt you’ll say something about civility, but what’s needed is a full-throated defense of what conservatism really is and what our country stands for. It would certainly overshadow your last address at the height of fury over Flint, which earned you rebukes from national and international observers.
Of course, I’m not the right person to ask this of you. It should be the Detroit News’ Nolan Finley or better yet, a Republican colleague. I’ve been one of your fiercest critics over Right to Work and the Flint Water crisis. I’m probably about as popular in your inner circle as I was with that of your predecessor, Jennifer Granholm.
And even if you were to vocally oppose Trump, I wouldn’t stop holding your feet to the fire over your policies in Michigan. Neither will my colleagues. It doesn’t work that way. So this is all probably sounding like a terrific proposition for you.
I can also guarantee you that opposing Trump will cause you grief, personally and professionally. You’ll find it difficult to get any controversial parts of your agenda through the GOP-controlled Legislature (on the upside, you don’t have much left). You and your family will be subjected to insults and threats.
You’ve said you want to retreat to a quiet life in academia after your term is up. Your life will not be quiet for quite some time. But you would leave an impressive legacy.
Kids across Michigan are hurting right now. You’ve seen the video of Royal Oak students tormenting Latino kids in the cafeteria, yelling, “Build a wall!” My 14-year-old daughter was carrying a sign urging peace while walking through her school in Okemos. A group of older boys surrounded her, screaming, “Lock her up!”
This isn’t the Michigan you or I love. This isn’t the kind of country we are.
Doing the right thing is always hard. But in times of crisis, it’s absolutely necessary. Be a beacon, Governor Snyder.
Susan J. Demas is Publisher and Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, a nationally acclaimed, biweekly political newsletter. Her political columns can be found at SusanJDemas.com. Follow her on Twitter here.