Every election provides a moment to reset and evaluate assumptions, values and priorities. The 2016 presidential election is no different. The pundits — the very ones who were so utterly wrong with their predictions — have rushed to explain what it all means.
The important thing is for everyone to learn the correct lessons. At the Mackinac Center, we’ve decided this is not a moment for self-indulgent emotions. Some Americans feel elation, some feel despair, and some simply feel relief. Leaders must have grace, courage and good cheer, and those qualities are needed now. We will continue dedicating ourselves to careful and open-minded dialogue with both those who agree with us and those who are more skeptical.
We reject the simplistic and inaccurate narrative now offered by the media — that this election was simply about anger or fear. I see a deeper theme: a revolt against the idea that we can only live and think in manners that are approved by political leaders or institutions. That’s wrong. The government must serve the people, not the other way around. As one state constitution says: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”
A presidential election does little to change the Mackinac Center. We stand for free markets, liberty and restraints on governmental power. Whether the president was Ronald Reagan in our first years, or Barack Obama or Donald Trump today, our role is to research and explain the ideal path for addressing the public policy challenges of the day.
Here in Michigan, lawmakers are wrapping up the 2016 legislative session. The most significant opportunity for them is to address the unfunded legacy costs in the public pension system. We are $26 billion in the hole for school employees, and that doesn’t include retiree health care costs. This can be a legacy issue for Gov. Snyder.
Looking to next year, we will continue to advocate for labor reforms that give employees choices about union membership. Building on the enactment of the right-to-work law in Michigan, we shared our expertise in Wisconsin and West Virginia as those states adopted worker freedom laws. We expect similar opportunities in Missouri and Kentucky in 2017. The U.S. Supreme Court will take up another case like the Rebecca Friedrichs case, which would extend First Amendment protections in employment to public employees nationwide.
Michigan could become even more attractive to new people and businesses by eliminating the personal income tax. And we are pursuing ideas that would help the most disadvantaged: choices in education, criminal justice reform and occupational licensing reform.
So here we are. The task is before us. In 1776, George Mason wrote: “No free government, nor the blessings of liberty can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.” The Mackinac Center will continue to remind our leaders and fellow citizens of those fundamental principles.