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Wednesday, December 19,2012

GOP shooting itself in foot

by Kyle Melinn
It was midnight last Thursday, I think, when I got around to compiling a list of some 20 bills my MIRS team and I needed to track going into the last day of an already overly active lame duck in the Michigan Legislature. 

On my list: Bills expanding the list of where concealed guns could be carried, tighter restrictions on abortion and tools making it easier for troubled school districts to turn themselves into charters.

The list took me back to a conversation I had several years ago with then-moderate Republican Rep. John Stewart of Plymouth, who was trying to make the case that Bill Milliken Republicans weren’t dead. He firmly believed the conservatives’ recent dominance of the Republican Party was coming to an end, as if willing it would make it so.

“Has the life of running on the emotional support of more, more, more, more guns; more, more, more, more Right To Life; more, more, more, more vouchers and charter schools run its course? … . (T)hese issues were popular in the mid 90s and may have optimized their conservative political impact.”

Stewart will be the first to tell you how wrong he was. He left the Legislature and his political party a few years later, announcing that he had stopped trying to reform the Republican Party from within. Instead, he became a Democrat.

He’s since frequently reminded me about his comments and he did so again Sunday on my Facebook page.

“Kyle - Would you please re-post a certain interview of a State Rep. from more than 6 years ago, wherein, I said, There is NO future in more, more, more, more 1.) Guns 2.) Rt. to Life 3.) Vouchers, Charter Schools and Cybers. Thank you. John C.”

I don’t know what the political shelf life is for these three issues, but it hasn’t expired, yet. The Republicans keep running on them and they’re still winning (for state offices anyway).

As much as the GOP Michigan Legislature has focused on a public agenda of tax reform and balancing budgets, it couldn’t help snapping back to its roots in the closing weeks of the legislative year, when 338 bills and resolutions were pushed through the sausage maker.

This time, they might have gotten a finger or two caught in the blades.

Friday’s shooting at Sandy Creek Elementary School in Connecticut unsettled a lot of moms, women who vote and women who, I don’t get the sense, are going to feel safer if elementary schoolteachers are allowed to pack heat in the classroom.

SB 59 had gotten lost in the hubbub over Right to Work and the repeal of the emergency manager last week. Twenty slaughtered 1st graders later and it was the only thing the media was asking Gov. Rick Snyder.

Are you going to sign the bill? Are you going to let properly licensed gun owners wear concealed pistols into schools, churches, stadium, hospitals and a few other places where they’ve been previously banned?

The answer is “no.” Late Tuesday afternoon, Snyder vetoed the bill.

The law already allows licensed gun owners to open carry into these places, a “loophole” that would be fixed by SB 59, but it’s hard to focus on the positives when the image of a bubbly 6-year-old and a handgun are visualized together. Childhood innocence meets an instrument of power.

We’re only five months removed from the Colorado movie theater shooting, but the timing of this massacre couldn’t have happened at a worst time for gun advocates. You’re simply not human if seeing pictures of these now dead kids doesn’t move you.

Snyder wasn’t excited about SB 59 in the first place because it didn’t give public school officials the option to ban concealed weapons.

Yet, this is the political box you find yourself in as a Republican. If you don’t support something like this, you alienate a far-right contingent that has significant pull in a primary election. But if you do, you alienate the more moderate voter, who could hold it against you in the General Election.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

And, it wasn’t just guns. Right to Life’s lobbyist was pacing the hall at 1 a.m. Friday. He was counting the seconds before an abortion restriction bill passed. School choice advocate Dick DeVos’ impact in getting the Legislature to move on Right to Work is well documented.

Snyder’s expanded school choice bill didn’t go this winter, but we’ve been promised it will be back bright and early next year.

“More, more, more, more guns; more, more, more, more Right To Life; more, more, more, more vouchers and charter schools.”

What is a socially moderate Republican to do? If they follow Stewart, they’re going to the Democrats.

(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. He’s at melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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