Of all the destructive and anti-democratic policies of all the Republican governors elected in the 2010 wave election, none have been so destructive and so anti-democratic as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s use of the power of the state to appoint “emergency managers” who have been empowered to override the will of the voters in Michigan’s major cities.
Snyder, a crude and cynical tactician, refused to treat urban centers fairly when it came to budgeting and the distribution or state revenues. He then claimed that local elected officials were incapable of managing municipal finances and moved to appoint unelected and unaccountable managers to implement austerity policies. So determined was Snyder to trump the will of the people (and common sense) that, when Michigan voters rejected the emergency-manager policy, he continued with a modified version of his authoritarian approach.
The governor wanted to have his say in the municipal affairs of Michigan’s cities, and he got it.
Now, however, the governor’s combination of power-grab politics and austerity economics has gone horribly awry for the people of the Flint, one of the cities that was placed under emergency management (from 2011 to 2015) and then under the oversight of a so-called Receivership Transition Advisory Board. The crisis has led to an intervention by President Obama. And as Snyder prepared to deliver his State of the State address on Tuesday, January 19, he was being hit with high-profile calls for official inquiries, criminal investigations, and the resignation of a governor who stands accused of harming his state and its citizens.
“There are no excuses. The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing. As a result, hundreds of children were poisoned. Thousands may have been exposed to potential brain damage from lead. Gov. Snyder should resign,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said on Saturday, while former secretary of state Hillary Clinton closed Sunday night’s Democratic debate by ripping Snyder as a governor who “acted as though he didn’t really care.”
After too many years of neglecting Snyder’s folly, suddenly everyone (with the exception of Donald Trump, who says “I don’t want to comment on that…”) is paying attention—and demanding accountability.