Howes: The path to the Oval Office runs straight through Michigan | Michigan Radio

Howes: The path to the Oval Office runs straight through Michigan

Feb 7, 2020

Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell is on a mission.

The morning after the Iowa Democratic Caucuses produced no clear votes and no winner, Dingell denounced what she called a “total screw-up.” She dubbed the current nominating system “broken,” and one that does not “reflect the diversity of this country.”

She’s right – especially since party powerbrokers insist on starting the presidential rite in Iowa and New Hampshire. Those states’ minority populations, percentage-wise, are a fraction of the national average – or the Michigan average, which more closely tracks the nation.

African-Americans account for 14.1% of Michigan’s population, according to the Census Bureau. That’s slightly higher than the U.S. average. By comparison, Iowa is 4% black and New Hampshire just 1.7%.

Unlike the cornfield capital of America, the home of the Motor City ticks all the boxes today’s Democrats theoretically want – even need – in a go-first state.

Credit Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Michigan is three times larger than Iowa. Its population is more racially and politically diverse. And Detroit is the largest minority-majority city percentage-wise in the country.

Michigan’s got large socio-economically diverse swaths of suburbs, vast rural areas and one of the nation’s most diverse agricultural sectors. It’s got college towns in Ann Arbor and East Lansing, anchored by Big Ten universities that help support a growing tech sector. And its traditional manufacturing is powered, in part, by union labor that still wields influence in state politics.

Most importantly: the path to the Oval Office runs straight through Michigan, arguably the most central battleground state.

In a 50-50 nation, it’s more or less a 50-50 state with a Republican Legislature, a Democratic governor, a sophisticated business community with global reach – and more than enough experience with economic hardship.

Donald Trump wouldn’t be president – and won’t be again – without carrying Michigan.

In 2016 Trump carried the state because a) he understood how his message would resonate with key voting blocks here and because b) Hillary Clinton and her campaign wrongly assumed the Democratic Blue Wall would hold.

There’s a reason House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to deliver the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address this week: the state is electorally vital.

My hometown of Canton, Ohio, long had a reputation for picking presidents – a 50-50 town split between labor and management, Democrats and Republicans. It was a bellwether where national political pros sought clues to who might win the next presidential election.

Sorry ol’ Buckeye friends. That job should go to Michigan – 'cuz Iowa isn’t up to it anymore.

Daniel Howes is a columnist at The Detroit News. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

*Clarification: A clarification has been made to indicate that, by percentage, Detroit is the largest minority-majority city in the country.


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