Stephen Henderson: Gov. Rick Snyder wanted 'issue behind us' -- but he hurt Michigan
December 9, 2012
By Stephen Henderson
Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor
In 2010, Gov. Rick Snyder fancied himself the "tough nerd" who'd make hard decisions in office.
I think he's finally learning what that means, now that he's at the center of a maelstrom political fight over right-to-work legislation.
He may be passing the crude test of tough politics, which means wielding power to exact punishing tolls on your opponents.
But he's failing to rise to the challenge of tough leadership -- having the mettle to stand up to your political allies when they're wrong, and having the courage to stand by principle, even when your friends pressure you to abandon it.
Congressman Sander Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat, stopped by my office Thursday to offer perspective on how far the Michigan GOP has lurched from its pragmatic past. Levin was a state senator in 1965, when he authored the modern Public Employee Relations Act, which pretty much set the standards for public employee collective bargaining in Michigan.
The bill passed the Senate, 34-1. In the state House, the vote was 90-6. It was overwhelmingly bipartisan.
The bill was signed into law by Republican Gov. George Romney, about the same time he signed laws expanding protections for private-sector collective bargaining.
How far the GOP has moved since then. How much more radical it's become.