Before he introduced himself to the state as “One Tough Nerd” during the Super Bowl in February and won the Republican nomination for governor in August, Rick Snyder came to Eastern Michigan University. It was a small gathering of fewer than ten people held last December in the Walton/Putnam Lounge.
He wasn’t discouraged by the low turnout. After all, it was finals week and snow was falling around our largely commuter college. Snyder spoke for only a few minutes about his plan to reinvent Michigan and his biography before asking the group if they had any questions.
Many of the questions focused on the economy. Snyder discussed his record as a businessman and his desire to make state government run like a business. He said he would bring customer service to Lansing because the government works for the people, and not the other way around.
The brilliance of that idea is unquestionable. Too often, people see government as a mountain of red tape and regulations. It’s a place where progress goes to die and deadlock is all in a day’s work. But, government can be something else. It can be efficient.
Even if we disagree about the responsibilities of government, we can all agree that it can be managed more effectively. Snyder, the nerd who had an MBA and a law degree before his 24th birthday, says he’s the one to make it happen.
Lansing needs many things in post-Great Recession world, but above all, it needs leadership. Michigan needs a governor who isn’t afraid to make tough choices and take unpopular positions. Someone with the integrity to stand for something meaningful, even if it means losing the next election.
Snyder is that candidate. He’s like the brainy younger brother of New Jersey’s Chris Christie. Snyder is willing to change things that aren’t working and fall on the political grenade if those changes are unpopular within Michigan’s powerful lobbies.
Normally, this columnist would be weary of a candidate with no political experience and is often critical of the president for that reason. But, Snyder has an answer for that criticism.
After he was finished telling the group at EMU about how he was going to change Michigan and bring customer service to government, one question remained. How was he going to do it? How was someone with no political experience going to get a bunch of career politicians and lobbyists to play his game? How was he going to avoid the same mistakes the president made?
So I asked him when he spoke last December. Snyder told me he would persuade them to see things his way by going to the districts of the opposition and taking it up with their voters. He said he’d challenge them to explain to the people why they weren’t supporting plans that would revitalize Michigan’s economy and he would do it in person. He would use his popularity with the people to convince the legislature to follow his lead.
The power of a governor or president is the power to persuade. The way to persuade the people you need to persuade is to use your position in government, your reputation in the capital, and your popularity with the voters.
Snyder, despite his lack of experience in politics, has a complete understanding of that role. More than any other politician I’ve ever seen, Snyder fully understands the nuance of the office he seeks.
Not all of his policies are perfect, but few executives truly craft policy. They direct it. They lead. They create a broad vision of where the state needs to go and they work at the margins.
In a state on the edge of collapse, we don’t need massive spending and big government works projects. We need someone who can shepherd us back to prosperity. Someone with the integrity to see his plan through to the end. Even if that end comes in 2015.
Michigan needs a reinvention, and for that much needed reinvention, Michigan must elect Snyder as its 48th governor on Tuesday.