Like we’ve been saying for weeks….the arguments in support of Proposal 1 insult voters’ intelligence.


Ken Braun: Proposal 1 proponents aren’t treating their own argument seriously

The 2006 Michigan Civil Rights Initiative asked voters to prohibit the use of race and gender based affirmative action in public hiring and university admissions. This simple to understand enactment of color blind, equality under the law governance, was approved as part of the Michigan Constitution with 58 percent support. The side that presents the most simple and credible concern often prevails when Michigan voters are confronted with a ballot question. Herein lies a lesson for supporters of the Proposal 1 road funding measure on the ballot this May.

In the weeks leading up to the MCRI vote, polling showed the ‘yes’ side in serious trouble. Given the ‘yes’ side’s subsequently decisive 16 point victory and disproportionately meager funds, the accuracy of this poll has been debated ever since.

One thing that should not be in dispute is the political malpractice displayed by the ‘no’ forces in response to their alleged opportunity. Rather than fight on the merits of the simple decision facing voters, the ‘no’ campaign run by One United Michigan trafficked in wildly improbable assertions. One notorious TV spot alleged a ‘yes’ vote would lead to the the end of cervical and breast cancer screenings.

This attempt to fashion a winning coalition out of the type of people who credulously bankroll bogus televangelists backfired. If there ever was a potential majority to oppose MCRI, then the outlandish hyperbole frittered it away by Election Day, along with the millions of dollars One United Michigan donors shoveled into the effort.

A simple Proposal 1 would offer to fix roads, identify a payment method (tax increase and/or budget cuts), and nothing more. Instead, it is a $2 billion annual tax hike dedicated to a shopping list of higher government spending and spending rules, such as a $116 million annual boost for city buses and mass transit. If the objective of its authors was to fix potholes, then they did a fine job talking us out of their sales pitch.

But that’s nothing compared to the campaign effort to pass it, which harkens back to the MCRI opposition that couldn’t treat its own argument with respect.

To begin with, there is the assertion by Gov. Snyder and others that there will be no ‘plan B’ if Proposal 1 goes down. “Vote ‘yes,’ or we will let roads crumble to dust,” is the implied threat.

Then there’s the advertising. We all know busted tires and blown axles will be our fate if roads are not repaired. As with MCRI or any other measure, submitting the most believable argument that addresses the concern is the path to victory. But rather than honestly presenting voters with just the proposal’s realistic trade of higher taxes to prevent mangled wheels, the Safe Roads Yes campaign is also running a TV spot implying we’ll all be mowing down school children and smashing into their buses to avoid potholes if we don’t say ‘yes.’

Even if mass carnage for the little tykes were a credible concern, it’s absurdly out of touch with the rest of the messaging. We’re told the kids will die from our pothole dodging if we don’t say ‘yes’ to paying hundreds of millions for city buses and other non-pothole spending. And if we dare say ‘no’ to this curious offer, the politicians say they won’t try a ‘plan B’ to avert the predicted slaughter of innocents.

The electorate can be forgiven for thinking they’re negotiating with unstable North Koreans, rather than with their own public employees. Neither voters nor Proposal 1’s supporters are treating it seriously. It will be no shock when it fails.

Ken Braun was a legislative aide for a Republican lawmaker in the Michigan House and worked for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He has assisted in a start-up effort to encourage employers to provide economic education to employees, and is currently the director of policy for His employer is not responsible for what he says here, on Facebook, or Twitter … or in Spartan Stadium on game days.