While the national Republican leadership beclowns itself with committee purges and fiscal cliff staring contests (all the while slavishly carrying Hollywood's water), the Michigan Republicans seem to understand that they are now engaged in a life-or-death struggle.
Proposition 2 - enshrining union rights in the state Constitution - would have dealt a crippling blow to Michigan's economy, global competitiveness, and also created a one-party state of perpetual Democratic rule. Even if the GOP controlled elective offices, the contitutional language would have let unions effectively dictate actual policy.
The measure's decisive defeat at the polls in a heavily Democrat year has convinced the normally addled state GOP that now is the time to strike back. Last night both chambers passed bills making Michigan a right-to-work state and Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign them next week (bills must wait a certain number days between introduction and final passage).\
Snyder is an interesting fellow. A self-proclaimed nerd, he is in many ways what Mitt Romney is not: an effective operator who doesn't stick his feet in his mouth. Both made their fortunes, but Snyder never lost the common touch.
Unlike much of the state GOP establishment, Snyder is also not stupid. The last seasoned GOP operator Michigan had was the utterly ruthless John Engler, a terror to friends and foes alike. Engler had about as much charisma as Jabba the Hutt, but was just as feared. When, near the end of his third and final term in office, an opportunity presented itself for the GOP-controlled Legislature to override his veto, they did so with great enthusiasm - even making commemorative buttons to celebrate the occasion.
The state archivists were at a loss to find a precedent for a party overruling its own governor (the previous override came 20 years before when liberal Republican Bill Miliken was overruled by a Democrat-controlled Legislature).
The union-dominated Democrats are in an uproar, but there seems little they can actually do. The Michigan Constitution does allow popular referenda on bills signed into law and his fall the state law on emergency financial managers was overturned by popular vote. However, bills with appropriations are exempt and the drafters thoughtfully included money for implementation in the right-to-work proposal.
The GOP used a similar tactic on concealed carry reform in 1999 and this kept it off the ballot where its future was not certain.
It is a given that if the bills is signed, Democrats will file a lawsuit trying to strip out that appropriation, but the state Supreme Court has a 4-3 GOP majority that will no doubt fall back on the precedent established over the afore-mentioned concealed carry law (which provoked a similar suit).
Astute readers will recall that I (incorrectly) predicted that Romney would carry Michigan in part based on Prop. 2, but Romney never stepped up to the challenge. I believe that if he had emphasized his Michigan-ness and challenged the president on the issue, he would have done much better.
Like many businessmen-turned Republican politicians, Romney wanted to avoid controversy (see Libya, failure to address Obama policy failures in), and while Snyder started out the same way, he understands that some fights just can't be avoided.
Win or lose, the state GOP is showing far more appetite for battle than I thought they would. Good for them.