Sally Kohn at the Daily Beast:
It took him two tries, thwarting his state’s voters’ will, but Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder got his wish—a major city that is dead politically.
Detroit is no longer a city. Sure, it looks like a city. But that’s a façade. The oldest city in the Midwest—home of the first traffic light in America and the first urban freeway, the birthplace of Motown and the automobile and the ice cream soda—is now a ghost. Detroit, the place, is recovering—even thriving in some ways. But Detroit, the political entity, is dead.
In 2011, Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed into law Public Act 4, which gave the state the power to place cash-strapped cities and school districts under the control of state-appointed emergency managers. In 2012, Michigan voters overturned that law. But in 2013, Snyder signed a barely revised version of the emergency manager law—and then used it to take over Detroit.
So in the fall of 2013, Detroit voters went to the polls to elect a new mayor and City Council, but it didn’t matter. The powers of the mayor and City Council have effectively been suspended. Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, appointed by Snyder, has all the power and then some. A Democratic city that elected Democratic leaders is now controlled by the appointee of a Republican governor.
Or, to put it differently, Detroit—a majority African-American city—is now controlled by a governor elected by a majority of white voters in the state. It really doesn’t matter that Kevyn Orr, the state-appointed emergency manager, is black, nor that Mike Duggan, Detroit’s mayor, is white. What matters is that half of the state’s black population lives in Detroit. So through the state takeover, “half of black Michiganders have essentially lost the right to vote,” says Ife Kilimanjaro, co-director of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council.
In the early 1900s, African Americans moved to Detroit to escape the inequality and injustice that persisted in the South. Much of the Detroit as we celebrate it in our national lore sprang from black political self-determination, economic leadership, and cultural expression. Plenty of dynamics conspired to dismantle Detroit’s greatness. But even bankrupt, struggling, falling apart, Detroit could still cling to its identity as a city—whatever price that meant in the past, whatever hope it held for the future. Now because of Snyder, even that is gone.
Since 1962, every single mayor of Detroit (8 total) has been a Democrat. Not that it should matter but 5 of them were African American. During those 52 years of Democratic control Detroit has gone from being one of the most prosperous cities in the country to being the bankrupt poster child for urban blight. Parts of the city look like a cross between a war zone and a ghost town.
Detroit is like a drug addict. As long as you keep enabling an addict, he’ll keep using drugs. If you want him to quit you have to do an intervention and use some tough love.
I don’t know if Detroit can ever be restored to anything close its former glory. Probably not, because the circumstances that made it great are unlikely to be replicated.
The Blue Model of government is failing all across this country. Detroit is ground zero for that failure. If Detroit was a business we would just shut it down and sell off its assets. But it is a city filled with people so the answer is not that easy.
What we can no longer do is pretend that this problem will just go away on its own. Hard times require hard choices.
Blaming racism (as Sally Kohn attempts to do) is irresponsible, offensive and counter-productive.