SEARCH BLOG: POLITICS
Living in Michigan is not that different from other north-central states. Cold winters, cool summers, and liberal politics. Having spent my first 21 years in Wisconsin, I was pretty much used to political activism as the norm. Being raised in Milwaukee, my world-view was pretty much hard work, hard fun, and a strong sense of community.
Milwaukee had a socialist mayor name Frank Zeidler. He ended his last term while I was still in high school. It may have been his particular brand of socialism or it may have simply been the post-WWII boom, but Milwaukee was a pretty prosperous and provincial town that seemed to be a pretty nice place to live.
My dad wasn't necessarily enamored with the mayor's approach to things... especially the high taxes. But it seemed as if the taxes went toward efforts that made the community a better place for everyone... not just this or that group. There was a fine park system. Public transportation ran pretty well and was ubiquitous. There didn't seem to be charges of corruption hitting the papers every week. It was a socialist government that did redistribute wealth, but for the things that seemed to make the community a better place for everyone.
Things change. Milwaukee became more like other large northern cities. The practical socialism of Mayor Zeidler morphed into the liberalism of the 60s and 70s. Instead of government focusing on the larger needs of the city, the politicians began focusing on groups that ensured a continuing voter base. People began to move outward to smaller communities that felt like communities rather than staying in a city that was divided into zones of interests. Milwaukee started to resemble Detroit and Chicago in its politics and its problems.
I moved to Michigan in the early 70s after a stint in the Air Force. It was a few years after the infamous riots in Detroit and that gave me significant pause before accepting the job I had been offered. It was only because we would be living and working in a community some distance from Detroit that I felt comfortable moving there. We were not disappointed. We found an area of homes built in the 1920s and 30s that had the charm of a small town and access to all of the amenities of a larger city. Government worked for all of the people and the people made their voices known to the government to be sure it stayed that way.
In the almost 40 years since moving to this area, I've seen the city of Detroit become the poster child for big, bad, liberalism. Government officials worked for their own power, not the welfare of the community. Special interests connived with the government officials to gain wealth and benefits at the expense of the city. People only saw the government as a source of handouts; they didn't see themselves as responsible for contributing to the betterment of the community.
The conservative socialism [yes, that sounds like an oxymoron] of Frank Zeidler was much closer to the community spirit of the pilgrims and the Founding Fathers than the corrupt liberalism that followed. Yet we think of socialists as farther "left" than liberals. The big difference is that the socialism practiced by Zeidler was more of a partnership with the people. It was a two-way street of cooperation and common goals. It depended on a high degree of ethical behavior by the governing and a high degree of responsibility by the governed.
Today, Detroit is a city that represents the nadir of social evolution in America.
Nearly 30% of the people are unemployed. Nearly 40% of the geography of the city is abandoned or derelict. The last mayor was sent to jail. The city council was a combination of has-been entertainers and slightly psychotic frauds. The people have little sense of community or responsibility as evidence by the repeated election of the idiots they elected... by the small percentage of people that actually bothered to vote. Crime is rampant and schools are warehouses for the ineducable.
The liberalism of Kennedy and Carter and Johnson and Clinton and Obama is a dead end for our nation. It is divisive and corrupting. The laissez faire approach of Reagan and Ford and the Bushes simply added big business and big military to big government. There are few models among big cities or federal government administrations that I find admirable today. Certainly the socialism that was practiced in eastern Europe isn't the answer either.
In Michigan, the state government is chaotic and contentious. A few counties such as Oakland County are generally well-run fiscally, but that reflects the wealth and education and constant involvement of its residents, not necessarily the party affiliation of government officials.
What is obvious to me is that we get the government we deserve. If our goal is for government to provide us with handouts and appeal to our group with special favors, we get the kind of government that creates a modern-day Detroit... or a Cuba... or a Venezuela... or perhaps a future U.S.
It takes two to tango: the government and the governed. Sometimes the dance can look pretty ugly. I find a ray of hope in the "Tea Parties" that have been so roundly denounced by the party in power... and the gray-haired "thugs" who, at Town Hall meetings, stand up and say they don't like what Congress is doing... even if they do get physically abused by certain special interest groups. People are standing up and telling their representatives that they expect to be represented ethically, responsibly, and within the bounds of the intentions of our Founding Fathers. The process is disturbing and antagonizing, but necessary for the future health of our nation.