MACKINAC ISLAND — Every two years, the
state Republican poobahs indulge in unhealthy slabs of rhetorical red
meat up here for an event called the Republican Leadership Conference.
Those with the bank to pay $125 for the
conference and at least two nights at the Grand Hotel in late September
drink from a communal chalice of Kool-Aid, while gleefully sharing
among themselves how Democrats are destroying America.
The predictable script of these things
run along the lines of: Why doesn’t everyone else get it? Everything
would be hunky dory if at least one more voter than 50 percent believed
the way we did.
So it was a bit of a buzz kill when Gov.
Rick Snyder took the stage inside the Grand Hotel’s ballroom for the
Friday night dinner program and shared his common stump speech about
never speaking ill about anyone — Democrat or otherwise (which he’s
lived up to as far as I can tell).
"When we get the win-lose mentality,
everyone loses," he said. "Blaming never solved a problem. It’s not a
solution. It’s a distraction. We don’t care about credit. The only
thing that matters is solving a problem."
Sounds refreshingly sensible, doesn’t
it? We’ve all heard the nauseating rancor from Washington and Lansing
that routinely steers our government into paralysis.
But back in the ballroom, the silent
congregation of true believers had their eyes firmly fixed on the table
as if Mom was scolding them for shooting at the neighbor’s cat.
I heard the same courtesy claps only
hours earlier at a "welcome forum," where Snyder defended to a theater
full of right-wingers why he favors taxing Internet purchases, creating
a body mass index for children and building second bridge to compete
with a private bridge to Canada … oh, and why he’s not crazy about
"Right To Work."
So it should come as no surprise that
the former Gateway CEO said Saturday morning, before his scheduled bike
ride around the island, that he wouldn’t seek re-election if he finished his agenda within his first term.
"My criteria are two things. Did I do
what I said I was going to do? And if I did the things I said I was
going to do, that would be great," Snyder said. "The second thing is,
it’s not about me. I really want to create a long-term legacy of
success. The changes we’re making are for 10, 20, 30 years from now … ."
Hold on to your chairs, everyone.
Snyder’s foray into politics is about solving Michigan’s
well-established problems and then handing the leadership torch to
someone else. He didn’t blanket the island with banners or host freebie
receptions this weekend like Attorney General Bill Schuette or
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
Setting the groundwork for a re-elect
campaign three years out is not on his radar screen. He’s working in
"dog years" because serving for seven "adult years" at age 53 when he’s
already a multi-millionaire with other interests isn’t preferable.
He doesn’t have visions of being
president or U.S. senator or the most beloved Michigan governor in
history. Shoot, he’s only making $1 this year doing this job. Why would
Snyder wants "better, smarter people" to take over so he can see Michigan "be successful in the long term" — so he can "go fishing, go teach or do something else."
He wants the hard work: Finding a
long-term funding mechanism to fix our roads. Bringing public employee
salaries in line with the private sector. Getting school districts and
municipalities to combine salaries. Making the state’s tax structure
fair for everybody. Constructing a second international bridge across
the Detroit River to improve commerce. Making Michigan an attractive
place to do business for all executives, whether they’re American,
Chinese or whatever. Encouraging us to eat better. Updating the way our
kids learn so they are setting the curve and not riding the curve when
they grow up.
Snyder is not laying groundwork for a
2014 re-election, because he’s hoping he doesn’t have to. He’s doing
the job we elected him to do right now by hoping his mature, unselfish,
level-headed, positive attitude is contagious. This is what hiring a
private-sector CEO to be a public-sector CEO is about.
If Rick Snyder leaves office with a 20
percent approval rating, but has accomplished the aforementioned
agenda, he’s earned a walk into the sunset. He’ll have actually solved
problems as opposed to using them to extend his personal career.
That’ll truncate the careers of the
legislators and staff who made it happen, but they can all hold their
heads high knowing they took the public’s work seriously through civil,
political discourse … which is the way public service should be.