Lots to Learn from Tuesday’s Michigan Primary

On the one hand, Tuesday’s Michigan primary saw the second-lowest turnout in the last 36 years, with fewer than 18 percent even bothering to show up. It was only second-worst because only 15.1 percent of registered voters showed up in 1990, when Republicans were trying to teach Bush 41 a “lesson.” That seems low, but most of the Republicans running for reelection were running unopposed, so many of their voters stayed home. That doesn’t mean they’ll stay home in November, however, so the key to this election, like every other election, is to drive up turnout among everyone else, to cancel them out.

The Michigan primary also once again demonstrated that money is not the game changer many assume.  Money can buy you television commercials, fancy websites and experienced campaign staffers, but it can’t actually buy you votes. In Saginaw County, Republican Paul Mitchell lost his primary for the 4th District House to State Sen. John Moolenaar, even though he outspent Moolenaar by more than 5-to-1. Like many of people with a lot of money but nothing to say, the relative unknown Mitchell spent nearly $5 million of his own money to try to capture the GOP nomination, but it will be Moolenaar gets to run against Democrat Jeff Holmes to replace Dave Camp, who is retiring.

Once again; money does not win elections, especially if the candidate spending it is a stiff, even in the GOP. And can we get real here; compared to Democrats, all Republicans are stiffs.

The Republican primary in Michigan’s Third District also showed that the Tea Party is so over. Justin Amash (a relatively sane Republican) beat back a challenge from GOP teabagger and Chamber of Commerce favorite Brian Ellis. During the campaign, Ellis had called him“Al Qaeda’s best friend” in Congress, which rightfully set Amash off, so he reportedly refused to answer a concession phone call from Ellis, then unloaded on him, publicly. “I ran for office to stop people like you,” Amash said to Ellis, who was elsewhere. Amash also ripped former GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who had backed Ellis. “I’m glad we can hand you one more loss before you fade into total obscurity and irrelevance.”

In the 14th District, Brenda Lawrence beat state Rep. Rudy Hobbs in the Democratic primary by about 2,400 votes. Hobbs was a personal pick of former Governor Jennifer Granholm, who congratulated him as “the next Congressman” simulaneously with an EMILY’s List press release celebrating Lawrence’s win.

What we’re learning is that Michigan is still in play, no matter what the analysts say. The Tea Party is over, and the GOP is beatable, regardless of how much money it has. In other words, don’t accept the conventional wisdom… ever. If progressives re going to win, we have to be unconventional. Always. Work on giving people something to vote for, and they’ll show up and vote Democratic. It can happen.

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