The Next Governor’s Vision

Michigan voters will select a new governor this year. The campaigns are well underway, though most people will not tune in until autumn.

Many factors can define a governor’s race: the candidates’ stories, the mood of voters, a repudiation of the outgoing administration.

So far, the candidates are easing into the political rhythm. Each will pursue routine political activities: Each will attend fundraising events, seek endorsements and test campaign slogans.

Each candidate will pledge support of predictable issues: jobs, a good education system, strong families and relief from the opioid crisis.

We can anticipate some themes. National politics will intrude in the race and every candidate will explain how he or she aligns (or not) with President Trump. Ghosts of governors past will be summoned. Republican candidates will attack Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s record while the Democrats will recount their every grievance against Gov. Rick Snyder. These comparisons are inevitable, and incomplete. This race should be more than party affiliation or labels or slogans.

I think voters are ready for a different conversation. Voters do not want to be pandered to, but spoken to as intelligent individuals who built businesses, raised families and brought the economy back through hard work.

I hope Michigan’s 2018 gubernatorial election will focus on ideas. Ideas will best distinguish each person running and will give voters a sense of what the state’s political leaders think is possible. The candidate who articulates a big vision will capture the imagination of voters.

Our candidates could candidly assess the challenges facing the state in the coming years. We were in a survival mode for some years and when you’re in that spot, all you can think about is ending the crisis. Michigan is now on a promising path of recovery and the decisions of the next governor will influence that trajectory. With the state’s economy starting to hum, we have something to build on.

A visionary candidate could explain the crossroads we face. Where do we want to go? How will we do it? Who will we imitate? Here’s one example. Digital technology is disrupting every sector of life, from transportation to entertainment to retail. How might technology disrupt education? Will we continue investing in an educational model designed for the Industrial Age or is it time to reimagine how we educate both children and adults? What will education look like a generation from now, and are we preparing for that future?

I hope candidates will explain what they will do as governor, and what they will not do. Such an argument would illuminate their beliefs about the roles and limitations of government.

All policy changes move through a political process, and politics is incremental, which is why political leaders usually offer incremental ideas. Here’s an idea for the debates: Each candidate must explain his or her best idea for promoting opportunity and prosperity for all people, with this proviso: The idea must be admittedly outside the window of political possibility.

The ideas that will save the state, and the country, are anything but incremental.