Here’s a very big secret some people don’t know: Not everything that happens is political, even if it’s something people in government need to do something about. One of the things that is not political is when millions of gallons of water overwhelms freeways, floods basements and traps people.
Water is not ideological. It’s just wet.
So when government officials do their job and respond to it, that falls under a category that is entirely unfamiliar to much of the punditry. It’s called governance. They’re not familiar with it because it isn’t an election, which is the only thing they understand. They don’t really know much about the trash getting picked up, the roads getting fixed or the budget getting balanced, but they can understand if the polls say Republican Prescott C. Wetherington IV is leading Democrat Arlo Hashhead 53 percent to 44 percent with 3 percent undecided.
So they write about that. And if other stuff in the news is not about that, they make it about that.
With that in mind, I give you, Michigan, the purported “dean” of the Lansing press corps. Mr. Tim Skubick, who is famous for asking presidential candidates if they think people would rather have a beer with them than Barack Obama, somehow managed to squeeze an entire MLive.com column out of the political implications of Gov. Rick Snyder looking at the flood waters from a helicopter.
Skubick informs us for some reason that Snyder was in the Upper Peninsula when a reporter asked if he was going to Detroit. This was around 8:15 a.m., and Snyder at that time was not planning to do so. But oh, the drama that followed! Take it from here, dean!
But something sure happened between 8:15 and 11:15 when a fixed winged state airplane touched down at Capitol City airport, and who deplaned?
Yep. The governor, who promptly advised capitol scribes, “I’m just here to mention to you that we’ll be making a tour of the damage down there,” as he reassured everyone he was on top of this.
Shortly thereafter he boarded the state police chopper and made a personal tour of the damage and it just so happened that he also got his face on the evening news demonstrating to all the voters…err, motorists in Southeast Michigan that he was on the job.
You see what he did there? With that clever little reminder that those commanding the motors are voters?
Furthermore, why am I complaining about a political writer finding a political angle on a story? Isn’t that what they do? Yes. And that’s exactly what I’m complaining about.
People can decide for themselves if Snyder was thinking about the election when he decided to fly to Detroit. They don’t need Tim Skubick to tell them that maybe he was (which is actually telling them nothing at all). If people think the governor was doing his job by surveying the damage, and might be more likely to vote for him as a result, then substance won the day and it is really not necessary for any pundit to explain to us that when a politician made a decision he might have hoped you would like the decision. We pretty much assume that. We just want to know if the decision was a good one.
Many other politicians did what Snyder did, and more, on Tuesday. The mayor of my hometown of Royal Oak is a pretty liberal Democrat named Jim Ellison, with whom I disagree on many things ideologically. But on Tuesday, Mayor Ellison did a wonderful job making sure water was being dealt with, debris was being picked up, emergency declarations were going forward, people were OK, people were informed, people understood how the sewer system worked, etc. He did not spend the day doing political things. He spent the day governing. So did many other mayors and elected officials.
You didn’t read about them because no one could find a way to turn their work into a silly column about an election.
But you might be interested to know that once you have voted for public officials, this, governance, especially in times of emergency, is their actual job. And you might stop reading political pundits who insist on obsessing over the electoral implications of everything (including me, if you ever find me guilty of it), and pay attention to the substance of governing, and how well they do it.
Then, vote accordingly.