Six ways Tuesday’s election may change Michigan

The impact of Tuesday’s election will extend far beyond who sits in the White House. The potential ripple effects in the state capitol were the talk of Lansing Wednesday.

The 2016 version of the now well-worn political phrase “Change” could include more infrastructure spending, and Michigan families with less or very different health insurance. It could lead to a further weakened governor and a more conservative legislative agenda. It could result in another change of course in how public school students are educated. And it shakes up the prospects of the next election – for governor - just two years away.

Here are six ways the rise of President Donald Trump (and those who rode his considerable coattails) may change Michigan:

Tough sledding for Snyder?

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will again have Republican majorities in the House and Senate, but that won’t help him push his ideas through the Legislature. Not only is Snyder a lame duck -- he will be term-limited out of office in 2018 -- he will be dealing with a Legislature that is in some ways notably more conservative than him. “Policies that are anywhere near the middle (of the political spectrum), difficult anyway, will be tougher,” said Ken Sikkema, a policy consultant who previously served as majority leader in both the House and Senate. (Disclosure: Sikkema is also a consultant to The Center for Michigan, the parent organization of Bridge Magazine.)

Health insurance turmoil

One of the cornerstones of President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign was the promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. About 345,000 individuals and families in Michigan get health insurance through the ACA, with 88 percent qualifying for tax subsidies to help pay for the insurance. Through the ACA, uninsured rates have plummeted across the nation.

Marianne Udow-Phillips, executive director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan, said analyses of the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act show that it would increase the number of Michigan families without health insurance, and increase costs at least for those buying health insurance on the individual market.

Udow-Phillips said she anticipates that the ACA wouldn’t be repealed overnight. More likely, an ACA repeal would allow the program to operate for at least a year to allow families and insurance companies to sort things out.

“It’s important for people not to panic -- it will take awhile for this to play out,” Phillips-Udow said. “People should continue to sign up for coverage for 2017.”

More infrastructure spending

One of the few areas in which Trump agreed with Clinton, and rebuffed Republican orthodoxy, was in his call for greater infrastructure investment. Trump proposes spending $1 trillion on infrastructure improvements nationwide over 10 years.

Mike Nystrom is a member of Gov. Snyder’s 21st Century Infrastructure Commission, tasked with studying the state’s needs in that area and presenting a plan for modernizing Michigan’s roads, bridges, sewers, drinking-water facilities and other framework of cities and industry. He said he is cautiously optimistic about Trump’s promise of massive investment.

“Both Clinton and Trump had plans (for this). Where they come up with the money is a question mark. But the focus is still important to the general public and the electorate,” said Nystrom, executive vice president and secretary of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association, a Lansing nonprofit representing construction trades.

“The unmet needs are massive, when you start talking dams, roads, bridges, sewers, drinking water,” he said. But he wouldn’t take his optimism too far.

“I have as much faith in him as in any politician,” Nystrom said.

Helen Taylor, state director of the Nature Conservancy’s Michigan chapter, is also a member of the infrastructure commission. She said she believes the commission, and its forthcoming report, is one area where a politically diminished Snyder can still have influence. Infrastructure projects can ease traffic problems and protect the environment, she said, making them safely nonpartisan areas for both Snyder and Trump to direct resources at a time when the country is still divided.

“People have more in common than they realize,” said Taylor. (Disclosure: Taylor serves on the Bridge board of advisors.)

The House of Representatives takes charge

Republicans were expected to lose seats in the House of Representatives. But their 63-47 majority stayed exactly the same, and many of the roughly 40 new members who will take office in January are “at least as conservative if not more” than those who will be leaving the House in December, said Sikkema.

That unanticipated mandate will likely “make a bolder and more aggressive majority” in the House, Sikkema said.

Because Republicans maintained their majority for the next term, the lame duck session -- the several-week period after Tuesday’s election leading into the end of the term in December - may not have the urgency to pass legislation as shown in past years. Although Democrats may look to compromise on some pending bills, fearing that reintroduced bills next term could be even more conservative than they ones they’re considering in lame duck.

Education retrenchment

Toward the bottom of the ballot were races for two seats on the State Board of Education, positions that few in the public know much about and that pay $3,000 per year. The seats were held by Democrats. Both were won Tuesday by Republicans. One of the people who lost was the State Board President John Austin.

Austin was replaced on the board by Tom McMillin, who was perhaps the fiercest legislative opponent of Common Core State Standards while serving in the House of Representatives. His stature on the board is likely to fortify efforts by conservatives to weaken the drive for more rigorous, statewide education standards in favor of more locally controlled policy, although Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the pro-charter Great Lakes Education Project, said a majority of the new board still supports Common Core.

The election changes the makeup of the board from six Democrats and two Republicans to an even 4-4 split. That change may have a bigger impact on the state Department of Education than the board itself, according to several people familiar with the workings of the board who spoke to Bridge.

Michigan Schools Superintendent Brian Whiston, who is head of the Department of Education, was hired by and answers to the board. One person said the change on the board would have a “chilling effect” on any major reform efforts that Whiston and the department might consider.

“They may not want to put their head up,” this person told Bridge.

The changed makeup of the Board of Education and the even more conservative Legislature make reform efforts unlikely. One possible exception: additional funding for early literacy efforts aimed at helping all kids read at grade level by third grade. Helping kids learn to read at an early age is big policy push for Snyder, and has bipartisan support.

“I think that’s a place where we all agree deserves investment and attention,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of Education Trust Midwest, an education reform advocacy group based in Michigan. “After this election, we need something to bring us together, like early literacy.”

A shifting political landscape for 2018?

Three separate Lansing politicos – one Democrat and two Republicans – offered the same insight Wednesday: If you’re a Democrat with eyes on the governorship, 2018 might suddenly look a lot brighter.

A Hillary Clinton presidency suggested an easier path for a Republican successor to Rick Snyder. At least that was the conventional wisdom before Tuesday night. Because Michigan has a habit of protest votes two years after a new president is elected.

Republican Snyder became governor two years after Democrat Barack Obama won the presidency. Democrat Jennifer Granholm became governor in 2002 two years after Republican George W. Bush won the presidency. Democrat Jim Blanchard became governor in 1982 two years after Republican Ronald Reagan won the presidency. The only exception to this trend in the past 40 years was Republican John Engler, who ousted Blanchard in 1990 two years after George Herbert Walker Bush became president.

Already Wednesday, potential gubernatorial candidates from both political parties were making inquiries with Lansing insiders to begin crafting strategies to tap into the disaffection so evident in Trump voters.

One new strategy? “Screw the pollsters,” one longtime Lansing political adviser said. “Polling is dead this morning. Look for candidates of all stripes to go much more with their gut in 2018 – just like Trump did.”

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Barry Visel
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 9:46am
I'd be interested in your thoughts on the rural/urban split that seemed to happen across the Country, not just Michigan.
Sat, 11/12/2016 - 9:55am
That's easy to answer. Hillary Clinton. She tried to persuade the American public that were all racist, sexist and bigots. She damn near got away with it if not for them meddling deplorables!
William C Plumpe
Mon, 11/14/2016 - 7:12am
You conveniently ignore Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon alt right media exec and known supporter of hate groups and conspiracy theories as his Chief Strategist. If you think Bannon is anything other than a wild eyed radical extremist hate monger you are really nuts.
Disgruntled Taxpayer
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 10:30am
Well done highlighting the State Board of Education. John Austin was arguably the most dangerous person on the ballot, period. Thank God and the people of Michigan for at least temporarily alleviating that terror.
Hunter Van Valk...
Sun, 11/13/2016 - 2:12am
Terror? Really? How exactly did he terrorize either the children or the parents of Michigan schools? Please be specific, or apologize for talking smack.
John Kroha
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 12:32pm
it loo0ks as like the counties that went for Clinton were all urban areas. Do these counties also have the highest population of welfare recipients?
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 2:19pm
Yeah, cause all Democrats are on welfare. LOL
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 7:30pm
I hope you were joking!
Kevin Grand
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 1:41pm
In no particular order... Since health insurance costs along with deductibles have gone up for everyone, to say nothing pertaining to the staggering losses by those insurance companies naive enough to be involved with Obamacare in the first place, the (un)Affordable Care Act couldn't be repealed soon enough! People still keep confusing a laminated wallet card as bona fide health care performed by an actual health care professional. If the patient still cannot afford the bill, really, what good is it? The failure of the RTA tax has now freed up several hundred million in funding that can be easily transferred from mass transit to roads (since it was siphoned away from roads in the first place via the Comprehensive Transportation Fund). All that is required is the will to make tough decisions, which brings us to... Republicans love to "talk the talk" on the campaign trail, but as soon as they get inside of the Capitol Building they become milksops to the party leadership eagerly looking to push the latest batch of crony capitalism. I'll believe this newfound "conservatism" from Michigan republicans when I see it. The now former Board President John Austin's days were numbered the second he began pushing this bunk! Schools are supposed to be a place of learning...not social engineering (to say nothing about the legal Pandora's Box that would've been opened had this became mandatory). Boys walking into girl's restrooms and visa versa...what can possibly go wrong? No thanks, I'd rather see my tax dollars going towards learning and not lawyers. And finally, there is a fatal flaw in the theory that the democrats might have a chance at anything to do with the next gubernatorial race...we're still dealing with the same players here (and all are members of the political establishment). If (when) democrats attempt to replicate Trump's strategy, it will be even more fake than a professional wrestling match. Michigan Voters will see it for what it really is, and it will blow up in the democrat's faces like an Acme Dynamite Kit.
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 2:22pm
Yeah. We should just gut the party system and give Republicans the reigns. What could possibly go wrong? LOL
Kevin Grand
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 3:00pm
If you read that link in my post above, Terry, you would know the answer to that question.
Reed Swanson
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 2:27pm
I think that the biggest difference is that small town people feel self sufficient and want to be left alone. People in urban areas are more interdependent and need more public services and infrastructure. They want and need the govenment to take the initiative and lead. The American people need a government that can give each group what they need. I think this could take the form of federal block grants to local municipalities to address those needs. This would avoid having to impose "urban" regulations on small town people, which I think is where much of the friction and disagreement comes from.
John Q. Public
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 6:19pm
Yes, that's been my experience, too--rural and small-town people just want government to "leave us alone." That is, until the biggest employer in town shuts down, taking 1/3 of the town's jobs. Or a natural disaster like a flood or tornado hits. Then they sound just like their urban counterparts--"Help us, help us!" That self-sufficiency meme is a big, steaming pile.
Sun, 11/13/2016 - 9:34am
Yes. But it isn't even the natural disasters or large employers leaving that's the 'wake up' issue for the rural, uninformed Trumpers -- it's that 'big government' is what sustains their communities. They don't really get it and think that if 'big government' goes away that they'll be so much better off. Most rural communities are subsidized by the urban communities to a far larger degree than the rurals understand. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the rural folks realize that Trump and the GOP's moves will have a devastating impact on them.
Sun, 11/13/2016 - 4:35pm
RICK, It is disappointing that you only believe that Washington matters more than the people, that the people in Washington are smarter than the rest of the nation and that they should be deciding how each of us live our lives. Have you ever talked to one of those Washington types that write the rules? As much as they want to do good they have no clue about how things work outside of Washington and they have no way of knowing how the rules they write will impact people outside of Washington. What you seemed to fail to have learned on Tuesday was that the people in these rural areas and in so many other parts of Michigan believe they do know how to live their own lives with all the ups and downs that entails. Nor do you seem to understand that those employers you are so concerned about leaving have been doing so for a long time with the help/results of what the government has/is doing. You seem to fail to understand that the public has been saying for decades we want change, but this election we need change. The need for change was so deeply believed they were willing to risk their vote on someone, that proved by being rude and crude was willing to kick over the establishment, that was the most likely to work at change. You may feel the importance of life is the material comforts, so you want to see other people's money flowing through Washington to you, but I would offer that an overwhelming number of those voting for Trump found the personal freedom and accountability more important that material comfort.
James Wright
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 3:05pm
The Republicans have two years to become more proficient. The next time they poison a city they'll know how to kill all the residents.
Hunter Van Valk...
Tue, 11/15/2016 - 11:41am
You have it all wrong. They weren't trying to kill kids in Flint, but to leave them brain-damaged enough to vote Republican.
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 7:06pm
For all the folks who are so quick to criticize or limit or deny any care plan which provides a way to obtain coverage for health care: How many of you have had to sign the death certificate for someone who died because they delayed getting care or were unable to get suitable care because of no insurance? How many of you provide your services knowing you won't get paid but do it anyway either because the law requires it or you do it because it is the right thing to do? How many have worked in an ED taking care of folks who have conditions resulting from no or inadequate or incomplete care because of lack of access? If you answer no any of these questions then you don't know much about the problem!
Kevin Grand
Fri, 11/11/2016 - 1:03pm
Chuck, how would you like to be the one who had to sign a death certificate because the patient had insurance through the ACA? You might want to read up more on the so-called "solution". Sounds a little too much like a "final solution" to me.
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 7:23pm
Trump poked the head of a boil that has long been growing dangerously beneath the skin of civility that we want to believe represents who we are as a nation. What spewed forth is the pus and disease that we now have to emit was within. The Alt Right and other darker, more openly malevolent groups now know they have some legitimate power. It will be interesting to see how Republicans at the federal level and in Michigan pursue the Trump agenda, especially because the Tea Party wing has moved the party to a place where tax is a dirty word. Infrastructure and education certainly need to be addressed seriously, but infrastructure work requires lots of money. So does education reform, but I expect more of a push for charters and sleazy, for profit online schools. Our Republicans seem to have forgotten that a free public education is the foundation of an informed electorate and ultimately of our democracy.
Thu, 11/10/2016 - 9:36pm
The Repugnants know full well that "a free public education is the foundation of an informed electorate" and will do everything in their power to make sure that public education is even further degraded. Studies have proven that the less education a person has, the more likely s/he is to vote Repugnant.
Fri, 11/11/2016 - 11:51am
Yep, That's why we have all these well educated kids out smashing windows, rioting and burning stuff because their side lost the election Tuesday. Refresh my mind but I don't recall the Tea party Poor White Trash crowd rioting after Obama's elects.
Kevin Grand
Fri, 11/11/2016 - 12:53pm
Publius, And you think that the democrats are not above using you as a pawn either? From the Wikileaked e-mail between Clinton supporter and appointee Bill Ivey to Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta: "And as I've mentioned, we've all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking - and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging." Remember: Even though they have pointed fingers at the alleged "source" of the e-mails, NO ONE from the Clinton campaign has denied the contents either.
Michigan Observer
Fri, 11/11/2016 - 6:02pm
It is not the case that “a free public education is the foundation of an informed electorate”. A good education, whether public or private, is what is necessary for an informed electorate. And it is only necessary that it be free to parents. It is far too often the case that public education is far from good. As long as government provides funding, parents are perfectly capable of selecting a school.
Sun, 11/13/2016 - 5:29am
Very good analogy of what just happened.
John S.
Fri, 11/11/2016 - 5:03pm
What will happen to Medicaid? It seems likely that Republican state legislatures and governors will look first at this expensive program and think about who they can trim from the rolls and what services they can limit.
Frank Hibbert
Sun, 11/13/2016 - 12:23am
Much of our state is rural and we don't ask for much, keep the lights on and that's just about it. I do have a complaint, string a little cable out our way. Sattelite Internet is sub par. Check that budget and throw us a bone.
Chuck Jordan
Sun, 11/13/2016 - 11:47am
The bad news is that Trump was elected President. The good news is that Hillary wasn't.
Sun, 11/13/2016 - 4:37pm
Chuck, I will go with you half way, and reserve judgment on the other half. Let's give Trump a chance, let's see what he does. What will you be looking at to see if he is more than that politically incorrect, rude and crude, campaigner, and is a results oriented President? I will be interested in if he does undo President Obama's rule by executive order, if he enforces the border security and establishes a physical barrier to illegal entry, if he changes ACA to allow people/employers to have choices in how to manage the burden vs benefit, and if he is moving regulation from command/control to performance. I will watch to see if he will govern as Obama's "I won." statement to Republicans on February 16, 2009 set the tone for the next 8 years or he will be about getting results. I have hope it is the latter, but I will wait to see. What are you expecting/wanting to happen?
Sun, 11/13/2016 - 8:23pm
I cannot stand Snyder for taxing our pensions . That was horrible to put more burden on retires that have to find part time Jobs to make up for the added expense
Mon, 11/14/2016 - 11:01am
First of all Alan FACT -seniors are our wealthiest demographic, the money that went into their pensions wasn't taxed in the first place, seniors on average are big users of public services and finally the poor seniors that you are concerned about when all is said and done pay very little in taxes anyway. Who should we tax? Parents of college students? Young families just starting out? College grads paying back their student loans? Everybody has their struggles. Then why should your group be excluded?