Lee Chatfield is Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives
Throughout America’s history, we have seen our fair share of crises and pandemics. We’ve battled through them all and, in the end, we’ve always come out stronger as a nation. That’s because Americans are resilient. We’re creative. We’re tough. We don’t quit. We always find a way. When we stick together, we win. History has proven that.
To be sure, the strength of our democratic system is tested the most in these times. But instead of succumbing to extreme partisanship that would destroy and divide, we have always adhered to the principles of governance that our American system was built upon – liberty, justice, equality and hope – and used them to unite us and lead us through. It has been our tried and true path to a better future.
The challenges posed by the coronavirus are our most recent test. We are at a crossroads, and all public officials need to decide whether we are truly all in this together. Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, it shouldn’t matter. We can either follow the core democratic process and the Constitution that led our great state to this point, or we can ignore it for mere convenience. The decision is up to us.
For me, the decision is easy. Despite the unprecedented challenge we’re facing, our laws and our system of checks and balances must be followed. Regardless of the situation, the same values that propelled our state and country to success in the past can ensure victory over this virus.
At times, ranging from the post-Civil War era to the Great Depression to Sept. 11, 2001, Michigan's Legislature and the U.S. Congress have partnered with the governor and president to provide the healing and corrective actions necessary for America to remain a beacon of hope for all. It might not have been easy, but they found a way. Through the toughest of times, our unique system of government worked.
There’s no good reason why our democratic system should be cast aside now. This virus isn’t playing politics, and neither should we. Now is the time to work together. We’ve done it so many times in our state’s history, and we should do it again.
But for some reason, our governor is pursuing a different path.
The Legislature offered to extend the state of emergency so long as the next stay-at-home order is enacted through bipartisan legislation rather than unilateral executive order. Rather than accept our offer of cooperation, the governor chose a legal battle. And our state is worse off because of it.
Our governor is admittedly in a tough spot. I truly believe she’s acting with the very best of intentions. But sincerity of heart doesn’t justify unlawful actions. The tough decisions that need to be made to lead our state through this current challenge cannot be made alone. The Legislature, as in crises past, stands ready and willing to partner with her once again to lead our state forward.
I recall a governor who ran on building bridges. I recall a governor who in her inaugural speech hailed former Governors Milliken and Williams for embracing bipartisanship and setting a standard of cooperation. Well, we in the Legislature are ready and willing to partner with that same governor.
It’s times like this that test our state and nation the most. The fabric of civility that unites our society is thinner than ever. The rule of law and the strength of our democratic institutions are all that keep it from tearing. Instead of abandoning them, let's stay committed to the core values that have served us so well for hundreds of years.
We are ready to restore, uphold, and utilize the democratic process that makes our state and nation great. And now we are asking the governor to join us.