Anger brewing against NAFTA and the TPP has changed the political debate.
Image by Gage Skidmore
The pollsters, including Nate Silver of 538 Blog, famously got this state wrong—dead wrong. Predicting a 99% chance of a Hillary win, reality struck the Democratic party establishment across the face on Tuesday, March 8 when the Sanders campaign pulled a win in the state’s primary.
Cheryl Weston, an RN and member of Michigan Nurses Association, attended the Sunday night debate in Flint, Michigan with some coworkers. Although she is firmly in Bernie’s camp, some of the people with her were “on the fence.”
I asked her what she saw at that debate.
“We’ve become a right to work state in recent years, and it’s been a real struggle for some of the unions here,” Weston observed. “When Sanders spoke, he really was speaking to us every day working people. That’s why he won, I think. Some politicians are all about corporations and the wealthy. He’s firmly about us, he’s honest, sincere, and down to earth.”
Weston also commented that working people in Michigan feel both bullied and ignored by Michigan Governor Snyder over the last six year. Snyder, one of the crop of Republican governors elected in 2010, got help in his first campaign for office from some labor unions in Michigan, partly by promising to not push for so-called “right-to-work” legislation. However, when his fellow Republicans in the state began to advocate for it (and other states were moving ahead with it), he helped get it written into law. Snyder was also involved in enacting the “Emergency Manager” legislation giving city bosses the power in financially distressed cities to break contracts, eliminate unions, and renege on pensions for city workers in cities all across Michigan.
But back to Cheryl — as we talked about Bernie Sanders more, she kept using the word, “genuine.”
“Clinton never answered questions at the debate. Bernie did,” she observed. “In fact, by the end of the debate, one of my coworkers who was on the fence and even somewhat in the Hillary camp when we got there said, ‘I’m voting for Bernie.’”
“Twenty years ago when my grandfather was still alive, he predicted an uprising by the people — the everyday working people — of this country. I think we’re seeing it now,” she concluded.
Cheryl has worked with people in Flint, as well, as a part of a coalition known as “Flint Rising,” which organizes people for the “long-haul fight of creating the justice and future that Flint families need and deserve.”
“To me, all these little groups that have come out of the crisis in Flint, and others across the state of Michigan—we’re tired of it! Since the government’s not going to support us, we’ve got to do it ourselves. And we will,” Weston added.
“During that debate, I felt a tide change.”
It’s a tide that’s changing the way people in Michigan and across the U.S. are seeing the Democratic Party in 2016.
Brandon Weber has written for Upworthy, Liberals Unite, and Good.Is magazine, mostly on economics, labor union history, and working people. He is working on two books, one on forgotten labor history and one on the fatally flawed foster and adoption system, and some ways to fix it.