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Austerity's Cruelest Cut: Democracy Denied in Detroit

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Source: The Nation


Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

When the voters of Detroit were given the opportunity to decide whether they wanted Rick Snyder to have a role in running their city, it did not go well.

Snyder, as the Republican nominee for governor in 2010, finished with just 5 percent of the vote.

As in: He lost the city by a 20-1 margin.

Snyder made up for the deficit statewide and was elected in a "Republican wave" moment. But there is no evidence that the governor or his policies have risen in popularity since then.

So, for all the carefully prepared marketing that has surrounded Snyder's imposition of an appointed "emergency manager" to run the city, for all the pronouncements about how "Detroit Can't Wait" for state intervention, for all the governor's talk of his suspending of imposition of an unelected boss as "an opportunity to work together, to bring people together as Detroit, Michigan," the important thing to remember is that Detroit did not choose to surrender local democracy.

Detroit certainly did not choose to hand control over to the appointee of a Republican governor whose 2010 vote wasn't even competitive.

That's not conjecture. The opposition to Snyder's agenda has been registered and recorded.

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The question of whether to eliminate Michigan's state's emergency manager law was on the ballot last November. Detroit voted overwhelmingly to strike the law from the statute books; 82 percent of Detroit voters, casting ballots in a high-turnout presidential election, voted against letting the governor effectively replace elected mayors and city council members with a hand-picked appointee. The rest of Michigan sided with Detroit on that issue, and the law was eliminated. But Snyder and a lame-duck legislature disregarded the will of the people and passed the new law that, on Monday, was used by Snyder to impose his emergency manager on the city.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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