The Rachel Maddow Show | March 14, 2013
MADDOW: When there is a problem in public life. When there's a problem in governance, people with political power have choices. They can ignore the problem , which usually means it gets worse, they can try to fix the problem or they can use the problem . They can see the problem as an opportunity, something to exploit to accomplish some other thing. One way you can tell if politicians are choosing the third option. They're not ignoring it. They're not fixing it. They're just using the problem for some other purpose. One way to tell when politicians are doing that is when the thing they propose to do in response to the problem isn't going to fix the problem . In 2010 , Republicans did not just win the House and they didn't just win a bunch of state legislature legislatures, they won a bunch of governorships, too. In Michigan , they elected a new Republican governor named Rick Snyder . And within ten weeks of him being sworn in, Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan and the newly unilaterally Republican Michigan legislature passed a bill to give the state sweeping new powers that no one else has anywhere else in the country. They revamped an existing law to give the governor the power to overrule who you vote for. They took for themselves the power to declare a town or school board to be dysfunctional. And if they decided you were dysfunctional then the governor could decide to just take you over, you don't get a vote, they decide without you. And no matter who you and your town voted for to be your local elected officials , that is overruled. The governor appoints an emergency overseer, an emergency manager to run your town instead with the power to overrule your vote. They can strip elected officials of their power and take over themselves. They can even abolish the town, sell off its assets, you get no say. The governor used the new power to strip all the elected officials in Benton Harbor of their powers , the town council kept trying to meet -- they tried to pass a resolution honoring the Constitution , for example, to try to make the rather obvious points. But they were not allowed to do that. They've been stripped of their powers . So, Benton Harbor went. A Detroit suburb called Allen Park went, Flint , Michigan , went. The school district in Muskegon Heights and the Highland Park -- those went as well. Michigan is a majority white state, but altogether, the populations having been their right to elect their own local officials taken away from them in these places were mostly black. Michiganders fought back against it. In Benton Harbor , we covered on this show how they fought back in Benton Harbor . We covered how Michigan fought back at the state level too, gathering signatures and putting this radical new law on the ballot for repeal. The Republicans fought against that by saying the font on the petitions was too small. And the petition shouldn't be accepted. Remember that? But the signatures were accepted and it went on the ballot to get repealed and it got repealed in November. The Republicans ' radical abolish your local voting rights and let us take over law got repealed by the people of Michigan in November. In that same election, Republicans also saw their majorities in the legislature shrink. They shrunk, but they didn't disappear. Democrats did great in the 2012 election in Michigan . But still they couldn't get the legislature back. To give you an idea of why that is, to give you an idea of how well Republicans in Michigan have tilted the field to benefit themselves, look at the congressional races there for the same election for 2012 . More people in Michigan voted for a Democrat to be their member of Congress than voted for a Republican. Democrats got almost a quarter million more votes for Michigan in the last election than Republicans did. But the result of that vote was that of the 14 seats up for grabs, nine of them went to Republicans and five of them went to Democrats . Republicans have so gerrymandered the state that even though Democrats got more votes, Republicans got nearly double the Democrats' number of seats. Tada! Same thing in the legislature, where Democrats in this last selection got 300,000 more votes in the state than Republicans did. But by the magic of Republican gerrymandering, Democrats earning 300,000 more votes earned them eight fewer seats in the legislature than the Republicans got. But in that same election, when Michigan was busy voting for Democrats but getting Republicans anyway, Michiganders voted to repeal the radical emergency manager law. But because the Republicans still held majorities in the legislature, five weeks after the election, the Republicans passed a replacement bill to the one that just got repealed by the voters. Only this time, they passed it in a way that could not be repealed the way the old law was. And now 13 weeks after that, Republicans in Michigan are going for it. They're going for the big one. Today at 2:00 p.m ., Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan announced that he would use the takeover law, the one that got repealed and they reinstated -- yes, he would use that to overrule the voting rights of the population of the largest city in Michigan . With this takeover and considering all the other things they've taken over under this law, this will put roughly half the black population of Michigan under the direct control of Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan . If you are an African-American and you live in Michigan , the chances are one in two that you are allowed to vote for your own local officials. Half of you get to do that and the other half, Rick Snyder gets to decide for you and overrules your vote. The choice in Michigan is supposed to be dictatorship over dysfunction, right? You're supposed to believe that if you give up democracy -- well, democracy 's nice, but you can't fix problems with democracy . So if you give up democracy , then you can fix what democracy can't fix. But with the exception of the one town that is marked on this graphic with a gold star , all of these places have been in and out of financial trouble for years now. They have been in and out of emergency management under different versions of the law. Weaker law, stronger law, it has not mattered. Only that one very small town with the star on it is the only one to ever emerge in good shape from losing its democracy . And then stay in good shape thereafter. Giving up voting rights as a way of saving cities, it turns out does not save the cities. And so, yes, Detroit has a problem , nobody says that Detroit doesn't have a problem . But this emergency overseer thing that the Republicans are doing in Michigan , it does not seem to be that solution to that problem . It is a radical policy, which the Republicans say is justified by cities and towns and school districts being in dire financial straits. The problem is that this radical policy does not seem to fix the problem of these places being in dire financial straits. If it doesn't fix the problem , then why are they doing it? In Detroit , the opposition to being taken over -- the opposition to giving up their democratic form of government right now looks like this. Looks like people driving really deliberately slowly down the freeway at rush hour. Just a few cars poking along, one with a sign that reads democracy and another that reads Detroit emergency manager . They're undoubtedly infuriating many of the people they're inconveniencing by this traffic jam that is on purpose. Police have written several of the protesters tickets for driving so slowly, the organizers say they know what they are doing is a pain, but they are doing what they can with what they have. They are doing a moderately wrong thing for what they say are the right reasons. It is old-fashioned civil disobedience by car. One person behind that slow motion dissent will be joining us next.