Hillary Clinton

Susan J. Demas: Where is Bernie Sanders’ Revolution in Michigan?

This column ran in Dome Magazine.

Hillary Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, something that’s devastating to at least a sizable minority of Bernie Sanders supporters.

For months, the Sanders campaign and some of his overzealous voters have used faulty numbers and logic to claim that the former independent was, indeed, winning. Some of them doxxed or harassed superdelegates, like U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield).

These are Tea Party tactics, befitting for folks who have peddled in conspiracy theories. (For years, Tea Partiers have insisted chemtrails are poisonous, Clinton planned the Benghazi attack and more).

As someone who believes the scientific research that vaccines, genetically modified food and fluoride in the water are not just safe, but have helped millions of people, I’m not terribly sympathetic.

But there’s been talk of Sanders sparking a Tea Party on the left. Of course, we all heard that Occupy Wall Street was going to fill that role, and that fizzled fast.

I felt sick to my stomach watching Tea Partiers shout down and threaten then-87-year-old U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a veteran and a patriot, back at a 2009 town hall on Obamacare. That’s not a style of politics I think the left should embrace.

One test will be the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next month. Several pro-Sanders protests are scheduled. Will they be peaceful? Will most Sanders voters come home and vote Democratic, especially with race-baiting authoritarian Donald Trump as the GOP nominee? We’ll see.

But what I’ve been looking for, and have seen absolutely no sign of, is Sanders’ revolution in Michigan.

This was a huge state for him. Now that the primary season is almost over, his shocking March 8 victory here still remains his most impressive. He did it with zero institutional support, albeit with a hefty advertising campaign.

Sanders inspired thousands at rallies at Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University and more.

Where are those diehard Sanderistas now? I don’t see too many running for the Legislature or Congress. Are they seeking local office below the radar? That’s a logical place to start if you want a revolution. Most people’s lives are far more impacted by local government than presidential platforms.

There’s so much to be done in Michigan, even if you don’t want to put your name on a ballot, however.

You could work on a campaign for much-needed redistricting reform so that Democrats don’t end up taking roughly 49 percent of the statewide vote, but only 11 of 38 state Senate seats, as they did in 2014. People dismiss this as inside baseball. They’re wrong. This is the real game in town.

You could work to ensure that LGBT people can’t get fired at work –– yes, it’s still legal in Michigan –– or that transgender children can use the bathroom of their choice without Republicans weirdly policing them.

You could work to make it easier for women to exercise their right to choose. In the last five years, laws have been enacted closing clinics and barring insurance companies from covering abortion unless it’s via a special rider (i.e. rape insurance).

And there are dozens, even hundreds, of other worthy causes to start working on if you want fundamental progressive change. It starts at home.

Sanders only raised about $1.7 million in Michigan, which is pocket change for ballot initiatives that typically require a $10 to $20 million investment. But he’s banked over $200 million overall, mostly from small donors. Imagine harnessing some of that small-donor financial potential for ballot initiatives in the Mitten State and across the nation.

It’s easy to get fired up for a single, inspiring politician. It’s also almost impossible for one person, however charismatic, to make real change in this country. (And it’s remarkably easy to be let down by that leader, who, in the end, is flawed like everyone else).

It’s fun to cheer at rallies and post memes on Facebook. But that’s being a fan, not making social change.

The real work of politics is hard. It’s knocking on doors and calling donors. It’s making compromise after compromise to try and win something that will make people’s lives better, like Obamacare, even if it’s not ideal.

It’s grinding and demoralizing, but completely necessary.

Is that the kind of work Sanders supporters are willing to do? I don’t know. Some will use the excuse that Clinton is so distasteful that they’re through with politics, (although they were never going to stick around anyway if their kindly grandpa hero didn’t win). Some will find the incrementalism of social change too hard to bear.

I sympathize.

But that’s our system. And I’ll take that kind of order over a radical like Trump, who’s threatened to mess with the First Amendment and the principle of an independent judiciary. Revolutions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Sanders’ millions of supporters hold tremendous power right now. Do they want to use it smartly by running for office and helming grassroots campaigns? Or do they want to squander it with ineffectual DNC protests and checking out of the political process?

I’m pretty sure I know which path a young, idealistic Bernie Sanders would have encouraged.

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.

Susan J. Demas: Why I cried when Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination

When Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday, I cried. I’m not afraid to admit that.

Eight years ago, I cried when Barack Obama did the same thing (yes, by defeating Clinton). It’s nothing short of remarkable that an African-American could be the Democrats’ standard-bearer after this country was founded on slavery, on blacks being legally being three-fifths of a person in the Constitution. And not that many decades have passed since Jim Crow and KKK lynchings.

And it’s pretty damn important that a woman will now be the nominee for a major political party in America. Women haven’t even had the right to vote for 100 years. For centuries, most of us couldn’t own property or go to school. This final barrier must be broken.

I say this as a mother of a teenage girl who couldn’t fathom why there were no presidents who looked like her on her old placemat. I say this as a mother of a tween boy who has never asked if a woman is up to the job of running the free world. He knows we are.

But I realized that I was crying mainly as a soon-to-be 40-year-old woman. I’ve been raped and abused. As a journalist and businesswoman, I’ve been stalked, sexually harassed and constantly belittled (one of my favorites is the legislator who suggested I shouldn’t cover abortion legislation as I was a “Vagina-American.”)

One of the advantages of being middle-aged and self-employed is that you’re far better equipped to deal with crass chauvinism and lame attempts to hurt your bottom line. No one’s gotten me to shut up yet, and I wouldn’t hold my breath, boys.

But I thought back to when I was roughly my daughter’s age during Bill Clinton’s first presidential bid in 1992. I remember being annoyed that Hillary wasn’t running then. Sure, he had the charisma, but she was so damn smart. Why do so many women wait their turn? Why did she have to backtrack from her crack that she could have stayed home and “baked cookies and had teas” instead of being a badass children’s rights lawyer? Why couldn’t she have declared, “That’s me, take it or leave it”?

That’s the kind of woman I wanted to be. That’s the kind of woman my friends wanted to be. We didn’t want to be married to men running the world. We wanted to run it.

Hillary made a political calculation to wait, though. It was probably the right one. She was coming up in a world that frowned upon her keeping her own name, even though she’d accomplished so much as Hillary Rodham. She faced blowback after promising the American people they’d be getting “two for the price of one” in the White House, even though Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Reagan and Edith Wilson all filled that role behind the scenes.

The conventional wisdom was always that the first female president would be a Republican, our own Margaret Thatcher –– tough on national defense, with the uniquely American twist of an unwavering devotion to God to soften her edges in all the right ways.

Clinton decided to become the Iron Lady herself, first in her outward persona in the face of her husband’s infidelity and impeachment and then in her carefully crafted defense hawk stance and moderate U.S. Senate platform. And finally, she rose above petty partisanship when Obama appointed her Secretary of State, giving her a powerful voice on the world stage.

But she almost derailed herself along the way, emotionally lashing out at the media over her marriage. Her failed 2008 presidential campaign was marred by entitlement and fits of race-baiting by surrogates. Clinton had waited so long and was furious that her chance was being thwarted by an upstart. It showed.

It was a turnoff to me and millions of women. Obama was inspiring and stubbornly immune to tawdry controversies which have plagued the Clintons since their days in Arkansas. My anti-Clinton columns in 2008 (I once declared that she failed feminism) still get me dirty looks from some liberal women to this day.

So what changed for me? The first was covering her on the stump for Obama after their bitter primary. Clinton was utterly gracious and never made it about her, however personally devastated she almost certainly still was. Then there was her partnership with the president for four years. His “Team of Rivals” play worked and she was a far better asset in his cabinet than in the Senate.

And a lot has happened to me from ages 31 to 39. I’m now the mother of a boy.  I’ve seen firsthand how insidious sexism can be, from casual remarks about who should do the dishes to rape jokes he hears in school. I worked my way up as a reporter only to hit the glass ceiling and get fired. I run two businesses now and still encounter men trying to put me in my place –– and even allegedly feminist women who still insist I must have a male partner running the show (I don’t).

I have learned that if you are a woman who values herself, who wants to be heard, who wants to change the world, you need to take ownership of something. You can’t settle for being your boss’ work wife –– he’ll almost certainly take you for granted. You’ll be in the office working late so he can enjoy his daughter’s softball game. You’ll think you’re building something together, but in the end, it’s not your company. And you are always disposable.

You need to be the boss. And that’s something Clinton realized, too.

The truth is that it is exhausting being a woman. You are always judged differently, from your tone to your relationships to your shoes. And you can see that all over Hillary Clinton’s face. Few people have taken as many blows as she has. And yet, she’s still here. She’s still fighting.

That’s all any of us can do.

But the real game-changer for me was this revelation. When I was a teenager in 1992, the political climate was better for women than it is for my daughter today.

It was far easier to obtain an abortion than it is now with an explosion of anti-choice laws across the states. Equal pay was a bipartisan issue, with many Republicans as the (no-brainer) issue’s biggest champions. Even birth control –– something 90 percent of Americans support –– is under attack from Congress.

What the hell? The promise of America is progress. And women today are being left behind.

Electing a woman president isn’t a panacea. We have a record 20 women in the U.S. Senate right now and women’s rights are still being rolled back.

But it’s a strong message –– the strongest one possible –– that our rights matter and we deserve a seat at the table. What better way to convey that than having a woman –– and an immensely tough and qualified one at that –– behind the desk in the Oval Office?

It’s about damned time.

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.

Susan J. Demas: Everybody is ‘politicizing’ Flint –– and nobody should care

The following column appeared in Dome Magazine.

“What I would say is: Politicizing the issue doesn’t help matters. Let’s focus in on the solution and how to deal with the damage that was done and help the citizens of Flint and make Flint a stronger community.” – Gov. Rick Snyder in response to criticism from Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Detroit News, Jan. 19

The Flint water crisis is, first and foremost, about people. Young children are most susceptible to lead poisoning, so the devastating reality is that they’re facing a lifetime of health issues. And we don’t know how many people have been harmed, which is horrifying, in and of itself.

Reasonable people don’t dispute these facts.

Susan J. Demas: Trump's success shows Republicans are choosing anger over conservative ideas

For years, we've been told that being a Republican is about believing in big ideas.

Republicans hate taxes. They support traditional marriage. They want smaller government, which means cutting social programs. They believe in a muscular foreign policy from the Reagan-Bush(es) era. They want to end entitlements, i.e. Social Security and Medicare.

But Donald Trump's meteoric rise and stubborn refusal to fall has shattered this misconception.

Trump isn't really about ideas. He has them, sure, and many seem ripped out of "The Man in the High Castle." We all know he wants to build a big, beautiful wall with Mexico and ban Muslims from entering the country. 

Susan J. Demas: Why is the Drudge Report weirdly obsessed with Clinton's health?

We need to talk about Drudge.

That's Matt Drudge, the king of conservative media, whose old-school site has 2 million daily unique visitors and roughly 700 million monthly page views.

When I first became a reporter (waaay back in the early aughts), I was shocked how many newsrooms — whose editors worshiped at the altar of objectivity — relied on the Drudge Report for story ideas.

To the site's credit, there was no equivalent at that time on the left. There were plenty of liberal publications like Mother Jones and The Nation, but they offered long, nuanced takes on important matters like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — not quick links to irresistible (and often fun) stories of the day.

And after years of conservatives whining about "liberal bias," Drudge offered an easy "correction" to that for newsrooms.

Read more.

Susan J. Demas: Yes, it's still a big deal that Hillary Clinton would be the first female president

A few weeks ago, Kelley Paul was showing off her southern charm (and southern cooking!) on CNN.

My 12-year-old daughter caught me viewing the clip online and sardonically asked if I was now watching the Food Network.

I said no, explaining that she's married to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who's running for president. And Mrs. Paul is pretty accomplished herself, working in marketing and politics (CNN pretty much reduces this to a cliched, "No one should mistake Kelley Paul for a wallflower.")

Then my daughter's teenage sarcasm (she's precocious) was really unleashed: "So they interview her in the kitchen? You have got to be kidding me."

Read more.

Susan J. Demas: What's the ideal time to have kids? Sadly, there isn't one in America

Photo by Susan J. Demas

Photo by Susan J. Demas

"25 years and 252 days - the perfect age to have a baby" is the (London) Telegraph's headline about a 2012 survey.

Coincidentally, that was almost my exact age when I had my first child, which was (unbelievably to me) almost 13 years ago.

A 2013 Gallup poll confirmed that having your first kid by 25 is ideal for American women, although more educated respondents were likelier to say waiting until you're 26 or older is better.

But if you'd like to know the truth, there really is no ideal time to have kids in America. Now that Mother's Day is over, and our once-a-year bouquets are starting to wilt, let's get real.

We're one of only three countries with no maternity leave law, something Hillary Clinton just vowed to change. Many Americans don't qualify for unpaid leave. Paid sick leave isn't required. Childcare costs are out of control. And if you stay home with your kids, your career will probably never recover.

Read more.

Susan J. Demas: 2016 election has begun, and Electoral College scheme puts Michigan front and center

Don't look now, but the 2016 election has already begun ... before the 2014 election has hit in the history books.

Just look at the slew of '16 presidential wannabes parading through Michigan in the last couple weeks.

Republican Chris Christie has jetted in for Gov. Rick Snyder. Jeb Bush and native son Mitt Romney have also lent a hand to U.S. Senate nominee Terri Lynn Land.

Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden have made the rounds for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mark Schauer and U.S. Senate hopeful Gary Peters.

Read more.

Susan J. Demas: Republicans primed to raise taxes, Tea Party doesn't care

Lesson learned. The only time raising taxes is bad is when Democrats are in power.


That's really the only takeaway you can have from the utterly pathetic Tea Party Tax Day rally Thursday at the Capitol. Only 300 folks bothered to show up, in spite of the fact that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed far bigger tax hikes that Jennifer Granholm every dreamed of.


Not even Fox News superstar Dick Morris (best known for hating on Hillary Clinton and sucking hookers' toes) and GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain (best known for pledging never to hire any Muslims in the White House) could turn angry right-wingers out.


Nor could Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Days before, organizers at Americans for Prosperity were feverishly downplaying expectations, as is the norm for staged political events, not outpourings of grassroots furor. Michigan Director Scott Hagerstrom estimated about 1,000, maybe 1,500 would show.

Read more.