Rick Snyder, the Republican Governor of Michigan, was, once upon a time, regarded by Those Who Are Supposed To Be Experts On Such Things as serious presidential timber, a potential member of what is supposedly the finest crop of GOP White House candidates ever assembled in a single election year. Curiously, despite that fact, he took a pass on joining this year's crop. Lest you think this may have been a act of modestly on his part, one word should dispel that thought, or should at least make you think that he was trying to avoid a PR and human disaster: Flint, a nightmare in which the scope of the disaster is only outweighed by the duplicity behind it.
How did this happen? Because constitutional government was thrown out the window, that's how.
Twice (because the first attempt was repealed by citizen initiative), Governor Snyder signed into law a bill that allowed him to appoint emergency managers of state subdivisions that are accountable, not to the people under their authority, but to the state--and, ultimately, to Governor Snyder. The individuals, with a limited amount of review by state government, have the power to make financial decisions that are ostensibly designed to assist Michigan cities and counties in preventing insolvency. However, they can do this without input from the elected officials of those cities and counties, or even from the people who elected those officials in the first place.
One assumes that this is yet another misbegotten Republican attempt to introduce private sector "efficiency" into government. No doubt that is how the concept was sold by Snyder. But it has nothing to do with efficient or cost-effective delivery of public services, with the final say given by the people who receive those services. That's called democratic government. Having those decisions overridden by appointed "managers" whose sole mantra is cost control can only be called "autocratic" government--if it can be called government at all. Despotism might be a better word for it.
Good political leaders focus on balancing a concern with the bottom line with a refusal to satisfy it at the near-total expense of public needs. And there is no more basic public need than the need for abundant, clean water--the substance that makes up the majority of our body chemistry. Flint's public manager, in what was at best a misbegotten effort to save money and was perhaps at worst a deliberate attempt to sacrifice the health of a largely African-American city to promote the political fortunes of Rick Snyder and his party.
So much for that promotion. Even Snyder's acknowledgement that Flint's disaster is his Katrina doesn't help him navigate the political consequences; after all, as Flint's most famous native, Michael Moore has pointed out, "Bush didn't cause the hurricane." If Snyder had an ounce of human decency in his psyche, he would understand that Flint demonstrates a complete forfeiture of the public trust he was given as governor, and resign. And that resignation should come with no immunity or prophylactic, Nixon-style pardon protecting either him or anyone else from criminal or civil liability.
I sincerely doubt that Governor Snyder has that level of decency. The mere conception of the emergency manager program demonstrates that. Certainly, the mismanagement of Detroit under this system is a testament to that. Not only has Detroit suffered through its own water crisis, but its schools are every bit as toxic as Flint.
At the very least, the program should demonstrate to everyone that, when it comes to government, Republicans aren't opposed to "big" government. They're opposed to representative government. They're opposed to accountable government. And, above all, they are opposed to government that is concerned about anything, even public safety, that might threaten their grip on power. Don't think that the GOP is going to learn anything from Flint's suffering; if you can really delude yourself into believing that, take a look at this, and see if that delusion is still possible. And shame on you if it is.
And, the next time any Michigan Republican tries to blame its woes on public employees and their pensions, consider this. It's not enough to undo the damage Snyder and his cronies have done in Flint, Detroit, and other parts of Michigan. But, hopefully, it should give you some idea of who you should really trust in the Wolverine State.