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Michigan Student Power Network statement: Lame duck, Ballot Measures, and Michigan Democracy

December 12, 2018

Below in italics is a statement from the Michigan Student Power Network. The statement is important on numerous fronts, especially with their conclusion that we should rely on the changes we seek through the ballot box.

There has been plenty of national and local coverage on Michigan’s Lame Duck session and how the GOP is attempting to undo some of the recent gains made. The Bridge has an interesting article about how many members of the Democratic Party base are not happy with the lack of action from the party’s leadership. The GOP did the same thing at the end of 2012, where they shoved a Right to Work policy on the public, even though there was massive opposition with 10,000 people protesting. Unfortunately, the labor unions decided to play nice and allow lawmakers to operate in a business as usual climate, much like what we are seeing today. The Michigan Student Power Network provides some interesting analysis here.

This past month, Michigan Republicans launched confidently into the Lame Duck Session proposing a slew of legislation. Among this torrent of bills, conservative legislators have aimed primarily at gutting progressive policies and subverting the outcomes of the 2018 election. They have targeted issues that are particularly important to Michigan students and working people: The two ballot measures: for paid sick time and the $12 minimum wage, as well as removing Line 5 from popular control, and attacking the rights of teachers unions. Being able to earn a higher wage, not being forced to choose between our health and a day’s pay, the end of a dangerous oil pipeline, and the rights of our teachers, all of  these things would be clear tangible improvements or impacts on our lives.

Given the history of the Lame duck period, we expected this attack on Michigan’s people. Unilaterally passing legislation during lame duck has been at the core of the conservative strategy for at least the past decade.. In previous lame duck sessions they passed right to work and the emergency financial manager law, both critical attacks on the ability of working class communities of color to organize. They’ve even made a practice of overturning ballot measures having in the past defeated a popular attempt to end Emergency Financial Management by repealing the law and then re-passing a nearly identical law after the election during Lame Duck.

When viewed alongside long standing support for gerrymandering, voter id laws, and emergency management, it seems that ignoring and subverting the democratic process is critical to the conservative strategy. Sadly the response of progressive forces is plead for decency, and ask supporters to call legislators that are unlikely to listen (given that they will many will never again face the voters), and ask us all to go vote again in two years. This approach seems all the more ridiculous as we watch French protesters bringing their government to heel via direct confrontations in the streets, while reading daily of the latest abhorrent policy making its way through Michigan’s legislature.This back and forth cycle between conservative policies, elections, voter suppression, and ineffective opposition leads us to question whether our state is infact a democracy. We seem to increasingly live in an open oligarchy, our futures decided from above, and our our democratic aspirations subverted by the system that claims to represent us.

The Michigan Student Power Network, has long held that young people must engage in the electoral process, while maintaining a strong focus on long term organization, radicalization, and power building. This latest attack only underlines what we have known all along: that this process and this system was not built for us, and will not work for us; that we must use what little power we have at the ballot box to strike back against conservative policies; and that we must also seek more direct means to fight for a state that serves its people- not wealthy predominantly white political donors.

We will use the coming days to organize and publicize what is happening during this lame duck session, while laying the groundwork both locally and that the statewide level to demand the radical change our state needs through more direct means. Our futures depends on the redistribution of wealth and power through progressive taxation, historic reparations, free education and healthcare, and a restructuring of our democracy beyond the reach of the rich- we shouldn’t expect these things to just come from a ballot box.

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