That ill-advised Snyder endorsement contained a hidden gem….one the Detroit Free Press hopes readers won’t revisit.
It’s not often that a major metropolitan newspaper editorial board makes the news over an opinion piece, but that’s just what happened this past week as the Detroit Free Press backed-out of Governor Snyder’s camp like it was suddenly a circulation-killing leper colony. Their “opinion” diatribe displayed a full-blown case of the second stage of grief: Anger — after having lingered on the first stage: Denial, for nearly two years post their endorsement of the governor. Snyder’s about-face on Right-to-work spelled the end of their steamy relationship. The Free Press went well beyond dumping, they completely sanitized themselves of their affection for his dirty politics.
The editors would be well served to examine how much journalistic research was invested in identifying their candidate of choice. On the surface, without even comparing and contrasting Snyder to Virg Bernero, his Democratic foe, you’d think a responsible editorial board would at least question the wisdom of putting a known corporate raider in charge of a state that earned a solid “F” on its Corruption Risk Report Card from the State Integrity Investigation Project. Wide-open for potential corruption, Michigan ranks 44th, with all three branches of government receiving individual flunking grades.
Yet, the media remained ever ready during the 2010 gubernatorial race to vaguely allude to Bernero, as being, errr… well, just not what’s right for Michigan — can’t quite put a finger on it though….. While they regularly whined that he talked too fast, they paid scant attention to the fact that his rapid-fire words were more grounded in fact than Snyder’s nasally just trust me, I know what’s best, bullshit. The press seemed ill-equiped to keep-up with Bernero’s machine-gun talking points, although admittedly peppered with tangential remarks and non-sequiturs, any reasonably knowledgeable professional should have been able to follow his thread. Mental sloths that the media can be at times, Bernero was painted as unelectable — the odd kid sitting alone at the lunch table.
Is the media in some way responsible for Michigan voters electing Snyder? And why is it that so many people immediately saw through the Snyder ruse, while others did not? We can conduct a reasonable analysis on the first question, but the latter would require a functional MRI of well-over half of Michigan’s voters. (We probably wouldn’t be able to fit the hubris-bloated craniums of the average newspaper editor in the scanning device though.)
As to the voters, polling indicates that many of those Snyder supporters strongly regret their vote, and would not repeat the mistake. In a do-over Bernero would prevail. Snyder was in office for less than three months before it was clear Michigan voters felt seriously betrayed. Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager law, was the burr under the electorate’s saddle then, and now at a gallop’s pace Snyder is prepared to inflict yet another racist dictator law on the state in defiance of the vote to repeal his previous bad policy.
Let’s take an uncomfortable trot down the Free Press archival memory lane to review what they had to say about Snyder in their Oct 24, 2010 endorsement. The editors were clearly longing for a “change” of some kind in Lansing — one wonders what their litmus test for that might have been — perhaps they licked the man and found him minty-fresh…?
- They described him to be someone who can “bring disparate groups together”. He was characterized as “Unbought”, “Independent”, and not a “partisan who owes his win to his party or anyone else.” (You can almost hear the collective families DeVos and Koch laughing it up at that joke.)
- The Freep went on to say that Snyder would work in “partnership” with Detroit to help the fiscally struggling city. (Translation: he will suspend democratic rule and force them to do his every bidding.)
- They accused Bernero of engaging in “protectionist politicking” when it came to jobs — union jobs, that is. Oh, and of course, they also complained that he talked too fast.
- And finally, the gleaming editorial turd that caused Team Freep to flip-shit last Sunday: “Snyder made clear, from the beginning, that he does not plan to make quarter-turn alterations to the government. He wants to turn it around completely.” (Score!)
Yes Michiganders, you’ve been fully screwed and the Free Press accurately predicted it.
Do voters even pay attention to these endorsements?
On the national level, journalists are the primary source of information much less than they used to be — about half as much as a dozen years ago. The internet and social media play a starring role in this source shift. A recent NPR story found that online sites and aggregators are assuming the lead position. As print media sources continue to evaporate across the nation, the remaining few attempt to broaden their readership by capturing political demographics they formerly ignored, even disdained. The Freep endorsement reflects this trend — as they endorsed Snyder, they also inserted apologist language insisting that it should not be taken as an indication of the paper’s politics.
This kind of misstep with their readers doesn’t help much as the credibility ratings of major media is on the decline, especially with the larger news organizations being the least trusted.
Will progressive readers graciously accept the Freep’s rapprochement? The paper’s editorial board may be best served by sticking to its traditional demographic. Stop flirting with conservatives — it’s kinda slutty.
Dance with the one that brung ya.
Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project