Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroiter Magazine > From the President: Michigan’s Political Health Will Drive Our Economic Health

From the President: Michigan’s Political Health Will Drive Our Economic Health

December 15, 2022 sandy baruah

Sandy K. Baruah | President and Chief Executive Officer, Detroit Regional Chamber

Many of us breathed a sigh of relief as Election Season 2022 came to a close. Not because certain candidates or parties were victorious, but rather for Election Night’s lack of drama and the return to normal candidate behavior. For the most part, voters were able to cast their votes without impediment, election officials and volunteers were able to do their important work without unwarranted protests or harassment, and candidates that fell short engaged in the proud American tradition of conceding their election contests with a spirit of goodwill. Whew.

The 2022 election confirmed what Americans and political pundits know – we are a divided nation. As Michigan moved more toward “blue” state status with decisive victories by Governor Whitmer and other statewide Democrats, Florida moved more toward “red” state status with an equally decisive victory of a sitting Republican governor over a well-known former governor and member of Congress.

An element of Michigan’s “blue” shift in 2022 was the historic seizing of control by the Democrats of both chambers in the legislature after a generation of solid Republican control. For many in the business community this is cause for pause. History shows that as minority political parties regain majority control, political overreach is a likely outcome.

The unspoken truth is that America’s business community is no longer fully aligned with the Republican party. The demographics and interests of our two primary political parties have shifted dramatically over the last 15 years. On tax policy and regulatory issues, businesses still have a reliable ally in the Republicans. However, on matters such as addressing workforce and higher education
issues – critical to the talent pipeline into businesses – and investment in critical infrastructure, the Democrats have become a newfound ally.

As businesses navigate the changing landscape, the Chamber has some suggested guidelines for our new legislature.

Stability Matters.

After 40 years without control of the legislature, the new majority would be wise to remember that overreaching on a political agenda that caters to the few, risks not only their hard-fought majority, but sends a destabilizing message to the rest of the nation and world. Businesses invest in places that exhibit long- term stability and have sustainable policies – not places that veer from one ideology to another.

History Matters.

Every minority party feels mistreated by the majority. While the new majority has earned the right to pursue policies that are different from the prior majority, it would be wise to treat today’s minority party as tomorrow’s majority party. Our politics work better when both political parties recognize that neither party gets it right all the time. Overall productivity is enhanced when each party treats the other with the knowledge that their current majority is temporary at best and bipartisan cooperation is the most successful legislative strategy.

Civility Matters.

In Washington, we see daily reminders of how not to behave and treat others. The yelling, demagoguery, demonizing (and yes, even disinformation) that comes from the city of my birth and the bulk of my professional career is a regular abject lesson in what we don’t want our children to mimic. Such incivility can paralyze governing bodies, distract from significant issues that require bipartisan solutions, and result in clumsy or ill-fated policy changes that harm the economy. Here in Michigan, we can do better, and we deserve better. I urge our new legislature and its leaders to borrow an old (and sadly, outdated) Washington refrain, “the other party is not my enemy, they are simply my opponents today – for tomorrow they may be my ally.”

Let’s hope for a better Michigan.