Gearing up for the State of the State Address on Feb. 12, our Issues & Ale crew gathered Monday, Feb. 4, at Brewery Becker in Brighton to talk about the new administration in Lansing. Over 100 politically engaged listeners packed into the venue for the entertaining night of local and national politics.
The crowd discussed the new governor, what’s changed in her first five weeks on the job, and some of the latest issues in the state that may be addressed in her speech.
Our resident political junkie and It’s Just Politics host Zoe Clark was joined by panelists:
· Jonathan Oosting - Detroit News political reporter
· Chad Livengood - Crain's Detroit Business senior reporter
· Robert Yoon – Political journalist and visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan
Oosting kicked off the discussion listing the quick actions Whitmer has already taken, including various executive directives and orders to regulate and reorganize the state government. He explained that many of these orders deal with energy and PFAS concerns, as well as orders that will impact ethical concerns within the government and its employee management.
“Fix the damn roads” was a campaign promise that some say helped propel her to the election win, and that’s one of the issues our panelists predicted she will have to address in Tuesday’s State of the State speech.
One of the persistent questions of the night was “Is Michigan a red state? A blue state? Is it a purple one?”
For panelist Robert Yoon, a non-Michigan native, the short answer is simply a tongue-in-cheek: “Yes.” He described Michigan as “the purple-est state in the country” as well as “one of the most contested (contestable) states in the country.”
As the topic of redistricting came up later in the evening, Clark suggested that it calls into question the political leaning of our state, and she reminded the crowd of the ballot initiative to change redistricting processes passed by Michiganders in November.
Yoon agreed, saying of Michigan’s last election cycle, “If you look at election results and how democratic candidates fared and then compare that to the state legislative boundaries, there’s a very big disparity there.”
The discussion quickly turned to Whitmer’s reputation on the national stage and potential to be a major player quickly.
“Inevitably you’re going to hear about [her potential as a presidential candidate] because she’s got upper-Midwest purple state creds, she’s a dynamic female speaker, and she’s one who’s been underestimated a few times," Livengood said. "She overcame, she kept defying the punditry expectations and that’s one of the reasons she keeps getting mentioned nationally.” Livengood even suggested that a Joe Biden & Gretchen Whitmer ticket could be a possibility in the near future.
As the talk of the new governor’s potential went on, the crowd wanted to know more about her background. Our host was quick to remind the audience of Whitmer’s Lansing-insider knowledge.
“She’s probably the most experienced politician, whether you liked him or not, since John Engler. This is someone that knows Lansing,” Clark explained. “She is really someone from Lansing and she’s really using that background because she knows the landscape and she knows how that town operates.”
“Knowing the landscape and actually navigating it are two different things,” Livengood interjected.
For the full conversation, listen to the audio above.