Molly Ball’s in-depth analysis of the 2020 election, focusing on Michigan’s unprecedented GOP-generated turmoil:
The Secret Bipartisan Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election | Time
Michigan’s 37-year Attorney General, Frank J. Kelley, sat down for wide-ranging interview on his historic reign as the state’s top lawyer, published by the Michigan Political Historical Society:
James J. Blanchard Living Library Of Michigan Political History | Frank J. Kelley
Frank J. Kelley – Wikipedia
The American Relief Act
How $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus plan will impact Michigan | Bridge Michigan
Progress Michigan Monthly Poll
Monmouth University Poll Released 03/03
Morning Consult Poll
EPIC/MRA Survey – Late February
Divided Senate Passes Biden’s Pandemic Aid Plan – The New York Times
Here’s How the Senate Pared Back Biden’s Stimulus Plan – The New York Times
Democrats Agree to Trim Unemployment Aid to Keep Stimulus Bill on Track – The New York Times
Biden stimulus shows new era of politics – The Washington Post
The Rise of the Biden Republicans – POLITICO
Annotated Guide to the For the People Act of 2021 | Brennan Center for Justice
A GOP Lawyer Says the Quiet Part Out Loud in SCOTUS Voting Rights Case – Mother Jones
Proposals to curtail absentee and early voting advance in Georgia
Republicans aren’t fighting Democrats. They’re fighting democracy. – The Washington Post
McConnell asks the Supreme Court to obliterate the Voting Rights Act – Popular Information
Biden signs executive order promoting voting rights on 56th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ – The Washington Post
Will Democrats scrap the filibuster to pass big election package? – The Washington Post
The Trailer: Is election reform headed for passage, courts, or nowhere? – The Washington Post
Opinion | Stacey Abrams on American Idealism and American Betrayal – The New York Times
Opinion | Republicans’ rhetoric on H.R. 1 is apocalyptic. Are they that afraid of democracy? – The Washington Post
The Georgia legislators pushing voter suppression bills are backed by millions in corporate cash – Popular Information
How to fix democracy: Move beyond the two-party system, experts say – The Washington Post
We Already Got Rid of the Filibuster Once Before – The Atlantic
The white to vote – Popular Information
Mark Brewer 0:04
Hi, I’m Mark Brewer for 18 years I ran the Michigan Democratic Party. These days. I’m a lawyer and consultant to progressive nonprofits, political parties, candidates and ballot question committees.
Jeff Timmer 0:15
I’m Jeff Timmer. I battled with Mark and the Democrats for decades as executive director of the Michigan GOP can while advising Republican candidates at the local, state and national level. Now I’m a political Nomad who’s put what’s best for the country above carrying water for my former political party.
This is a “A Republic, If You Can Keep It”: inside the backrooms of Michigan politics with veteran political strategists Jeff Timmer and Mark Brewer.
Mark Brewer 0:45
Thanks for joining us. Later in the podcast, we’ll be joined by Molly Ball, Time magazine’s national political correspondent, talking about voter suppression, the prospects for congressional action, as well as state efforts to suppress the vote in the wake of last year’s election.
Jeff Timmer 1:02
We’ll start today with the politics of COVID relief. With the President’s $1.9 trillion bill passing on a straight party line vote in both chambers. It clearly becomes the first big debate of the 2022 campaign.
Mark Brewer 1:16
I think that’s right, Jeff, because, you know, the party line vote, as you indicated, means that there was united Republican opposition to this massive relief bill, which is very popular with the American people. And Biden. And his team kept pointing to that. He would say, Well, where’s the bipartisanship? They said, it has bipartisan support in the country, among voters. And that is certainly true. But I think you are, we are going to see attempts to link this to the risk of higher inflation, the deficit growing again, and so forth by Republicans, as they attempt to push back on this bill over the next several months and into 2022.
Jeff Timmer 1:58
Yeah, I mean, you and I have both done the game of politics and messaging for a long, long time, and I don’t get the the unified unanimous opposition to an 80%. Yes, that’s what doesn’t make any sense. I mean I, you know, hear the Republicans find their orthodoxy again, on balanced budgets and deficits after, you know, four years of, you know, spending like drunken sailors. But, you know, you’re at this point, you know, $1.9 trillion here and $1.9 trillion there at this point, you know, what the hell does that matter? You know, when they’ve already run up the deficit so much, it’s, it’s essentially, you know, you’ve got Republicans overwhelmingly across the country, not in Washington, Republican voters support this. The fact that they’re their representatives are elected senators and members of Congress didn’t, just really seems to put them behind the eight ball in much more focused on primary elections than winning in November elections. And that’s, that’s what I don’t.
Mark Brewer 3:07
I think you’re right, Jeff, I think these votes by the Republicans are explainable by primary politics in the Republican Party. You know, you look at the senators that are going to be up next year, they’re fearful of being primaried and even if they’ve been around a long time. “ We see this over and over and over again, how primary politics particularly in gerrymandered districts, congressional districts, seems to be driving what’s going on in Washington. I think from a political perspective for the Democrats and for Biden, this is the old adage about good policy being good politics. I think it is a great thing politically for the President to focus on this issue off the bat. It’s what the American people want. They’re not interested in the culture wars, and don’t want to be distracted by that. And he’s been remarkably disciplined in that regard in these few weeks focusing on this. And then I think it’ll be moving on to other things. We’ll see how this all plays out. I mean, one of the problems we have had here in Michigan, obviously is the money can come here. But then does the legislature authorize it to be spent? We’re still sitting on billions of dollars in Lansing, because of a fight between the governor and the legislature over how to spend it.
Jeff Timmer 4:23
Right. And we saw today that the governor doing some line-item vetoes on money she clearly wants to spend and that and that needs to be spent because of the strings that the Republicans in the legislature had had put on the spending of that money in, in the legislation. And so yeah, we’ve got they’re playing an inside political game, that it’s going to quickly turn to “who’s going to be held responsible” in voters eyes. And, you know, I think that the the nameless folks in the legislature -you’re going to be nameless when it comes to most people — are going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to a politician, as popular as Whitmer has remained throughout this last year.
Mark Brewer 5:12
Yeah, but I think again, it’ll be a battle of messaging and all the finger pointing who is really to blame for this. Now the governor has shown, according to the polls, outstanding leadership. And I think that’s right, in the pandemic, but I think the Republicans are going to continue their efforts to try to point out negatives, you know, the, the nursing home controversy, they will blame her for the fact that there’s money is not being spent properly. That’s I think, the price you pay for visibility, you’re right about the anonymity of the legislators that they can take advantage of. But governor is clearly the visible leader on this issue. And I think she’s got to be very skillful to matter. She doesn’t blame because of the gridlock in the legislature.
Jeff Timmer 5:59
You mentioned the the nursing homes in that’s just made me think I saw it today that Pete Lucido, the former senator, and now the prosecutor in Macomb County, has bandied about the idea of bringing charges against the governor. And that’s just kind of the Pandora’s box that may have been opened when the charges were brought against former Governor Snyder. I know that that’s been a concern you and I have talked about. And that’s the danger of using, you know, the criminal system to perhaps satisfy political agendas
Mark Brewer 6:35
Right. That’s right. I mean, there were folks who when the Snyder charges came out, were worried about it being used as a weapon against either the current governor or governors in the future. When you have policy disagreements and so forth, then you know,Lucido is out there soliciting clients, essentially in Macomb County, asking people to come forward with information that he can use to bring these charges and would not surprise me to see him attempt to do that.
Jeff Timmer 7:03
But in the meantime, this spring, now Michiganders are going to start to receive, you know, $1,400 checks for every member of their family. That’s going to in all likelihood, bolster Biden’s already solid favorability ratings. You’re going to continue to see I’m sure the unemployment rates tick downwards, at least as the more people become vaccinated as the COVID numbers drop. And we start to get back to some kind of normal we’ll see some uptick in economic activity and a downtick in the joblessness. I think the interesting thing, we’ll be able to see if Biden is able to maintain and kind of ride that wave into 2022 that will benefit Governors Whitmer and other Democrats running across the country in 2022, that could defy that historic midterm malaise that the party in the White House usually suffers.
Mark Brewer 8:08
Right. I mean, you know, he’s done a great job with the increasing the acquisition of vaccine doses. Right, it now appears that by the end of May, we’ll have enough doses to cover the entire population, it’s a matter of getting the distributions out, but even that the rate of vaccination is going up of the good kind until we couldn’t see a large portion of the population vaccinated. I think you’re right, that while people are going to give him credit now for boosting the economy, and he’s gonna get credit now for boosting the vaccination rate, many voters are like, what have you done for me lately, and we’ll see what the political climate looks like when we come around to the summer of 2022. Hopefully, for him, the economy is going strong, by then as a result of the stimulus and so forth, and hopefully people getting back to work and back to school. But all that remains to be seen in terms of whether it plays out that way, or whether there are other stumbles or other issues that the Republicans can try to use during 2022. There’s still that historic path of the first midterm of a president usually being a bad one for that President. The margins in the house are so close. And of course, the Senate’s in a dead heat, that it wouldn’t take much to flip either body, to the Republicans.
Jeff Timmer 9:30
Sure. And then with redistricting looming here in Michigan and resetting the congressional lines and the lines for the legislature, where control is so narrow for the Republicans. It’s going to be quite a battle in 2022.
Mark Brewer 9:43
And I think what we’re going to see is as you as you indicated, efforts by Republicans on all fronts, trying to maximize advantage not only with voter suppression, like we’re going to talk about with Molly here shortly, but also researching to the extent they can in states where they still have control to try to chip away at that Democratic majority in the Congress and it’s so tightened can be very, very close in terms of which way that goes.
Mark and Jeff will be back after a brief message.
EPIC/MRA is pleased to be a sponsor of this podcast. EPIC/MRA is in Lansing based market research and public opinion polling firm with decades of experience measuring public opinion about politics, ballot proposals federal, state and local issues. Our clients include media outlets, school districts, colleges and universities, state agencies and local governments across the state. When it comes to measuring voter opinions EPIC/MRA has been known as the go to Michigan pollster for over 25 years. Visit www.EPICMRA.com to learn more.
Stacy Abrams 10:52
What we saw happen on January 6, the insurrection in Washington DC, was a violent version of what we’re watching happened in state capitals across the country. What they are trying to do is to undo the election by silencing those they didn’t agree with and that is by and large communities of color, young people and the poor.
Mark Brewer 11:12
That’s Stacey Abrams on efforts nationwide by Republican legislators to suppress the vote. Upwards of 240 proposed state laws have been introduced across the nation to discourage high voter participation primarily in swing states with Republican legislators, including here in Michigan.
Jeff Timmer 11:31
Joining the conversation now is Time magazine’s national political correspondent Molly Ball. Before joining Time, she covered US politics for the Atlantic and Politico and worked for newspapers, in such diverse places as Nevada and Cambodia. She’s the author of “Pelosi,” a best selling biography of the first woman Speaker of the House. Welcome, Molly.Thanks so much for having me.
Molly Ball 11:53
Great to be here. Hello, Mark and Jeff.
Mark Brewer 11:56
Good to have you. Thanks for being with us. So I want to start out by talking about this effort that’s going on nationwide, that bill on what you reported so thoroughly about last year, in terms of the election issues, and where that’s going to take us, what the Republicans are going to be doing over the next several months or a couple of years to try to suppress the vote.
Molly Ball 12:18
I have been interested in these what you could broadly call a book of democracy reform issues. You know, we saw during the over the course of the Trump administration, it was so commonly remarked that he was you know, testing norms, testing the guardrails of American democracy, testing the mechanisms for accountability, the Constitution in various ways. But it wasn’t really a front burner issue for a lot of people, particularly sort of rank and file voters. But even for the parties, I some of the people that I was, I’ve been talking to, for that piece, and others were a little bit pessimistic going into the new administration, that this kind of thing, whether you’re talking about voting rights, voting reforms, or other, you know, reforms to the impeachment process, the Justice Department independence, all these kind of things, worried that this was not not top of mind for the new administration, right, that it was clear that the COVID and the economy, were going to be the front burner issues, then maybe, you know, immigration, infrastructure, a whole bunch of other things. And then maybe you’d get to this, even though, you know, this bill that’s currently been being introduced at the federal level HR-1, it is called HR-1, because the house sees it as a preeminent importance as as they did in the in the previous session as well. Ironically, Trump’s actions post election and the tremendous, you know, strain that he put on our democracy, the insurrection, all the attention that he called to these issues of election mechanics, election logistics, and who gets to vote and how, ironically, that has raised the profile of this issue for Democrats and Republicans alike, and I think voting in particular, is now the sort of Central partisan battlefield. And it’s partly because Trump’s obsessed with it and whatever Trump’s obsessed with the Republican Party is obsessed with, but apart but it partly, as I’m sure you’re both aware, reflects the Republican Party’s increasing awareness that it represents a minority coalition and that gaming the system is the best hope to continue to hold power in its current configuration.
Jeff Timmer 14:36
The piece that you wrote about the shadow campaign to save the 2020 election that was in Time in February was an extraordinary piece of reporting and areally in-depth look at what was going on in several states behind the scenes and you did write a lot about what was going on in Michigan. For example, in that piece. And, you know, some of the same players who were, I guess wearing black hats in that piece are some of the same actors who, you know, are looking they’re potentially going to be changing or challenging some of the election laws here in Michigan. And a lot of the folks wearing the white hats are going to be the ones trying to stop it. And so that it’s going to be a very interesting period that we head into but perhaps you could shed some light on some things that you found most surprising or how close we came in Michigan when it came to certifying the election and Michigan’s electoral votes with Joe Biden.
Molly Ball 15:44
Sure, yeah. I mean, I sort of used Michigan as the case study in that piece. But it was it was just one example out of many, right? You had similar coalitions working behind the scenes to protect the vote and the vote count in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, in Arizona, in Georgia. And I chose Michigan, because it was sort of the climactic turning point right that that that meeting, that Shirkey and Chatfield talk with Trump in Washington, multiple people on the national as well as state level describe that to me as sort of the turning point. And I think I quoted Norman Eisen in the piece saying that was the scariest point in the whole election for him because that was really the point, the fulcrum at which it could have broken bad to coin a phrase, right. And the fact that so much pressure was applied, as you told me about, as others told me about from both the left and the right, to try to keep these guys sort of on the straight and narrow. Keep them from throwing out the votes of you know, millions of Michiganders, hundreds-of-thousands of Detroiters. And that was really a crucial moment in that whole post election saga. But of course, ended in bloodshed on January 6. I can’t speak to what the legislature in Michigan is doing right now, I would love to hear hear that from you, and whether you think it’s going to be successful. But this is, you know, this is now that what we’re seeing, and, you know, this isn’t new, either, as as I’m sure you’re aware of was for as long as I’ve been covering politics, there have, you know, efforts largely partisan, you know, on the part of the right to impose things like voter ID laws and limit things like early voting, on the part of the left to expand things like that. It doesn’t have to be partisan. I wish it weren’t, frankly, I would like, you know, democracy and the rule of law not to be partisan issues. I would like them to be things we all agree on as Americans. And, you know, some of these things, they’re reasonable to debate.
Well, you know, if you have a six-week early voting period, is that going to pervert the election process in some way people picking their candidates when the election is still, you know, very much underway? We had a presidential debate in this past election that occurred after early voting had started in some places. What are the protections? But I think what’s different about the current debate is, it’s pretty clear that these are not good faith efforts to ensure the security of the vote. Again, there there can be and there shouldn’t be good faith efforts to prevent things like voter fraud that are that are not imaginary. But most of this seems to be, you know, a solution in search of a problem. And, and that problem of, you know, the supposedly widespread fraud among male and ballots, it just doesn’t exist as far as anyone who’s studied it has been able to find it. In fact, you know, in states like Utah, a quite solidly red state, Republicans have not been hurt at all by the fact that that state now has complete complete mail elections. Florida relies in large part on mail-in voting, and I believe Trump won that state twice. So it’s not a new partisan battleground, but we do see it taking on a new intensity and taking on a new absurdity, I guess, where there’s there’s a little bit of cutting their nose off to spite their face on the for the Republicans, right, because one thing we saw in this past election, we have record voter turnout. And as Donald Trump loves to remind us, he got the most votes of any incumbent president in history. And the most votes of any candidate in history exceeded only 9he doesn’t like to mention this part) but exceeded only, of course, by the votes that Joe Biden got. But you would think the Republicans would look at that and say, oh, maybe when more people vote, we benefit also, right? They obviously didn’t win this election, but a lot of people came out to vote, particularly in places like rural Michigan, rural Minnesota, rural Georgia, people who weren’t voting before, weren’t voting for Republicans before. So you would think Republicans would look at that and say, maybe we should make sure those people can keep voting, make sure it remains accessible to them. But the absurdity of this debate is that is that it is not following that logic
Jeff Timmer 20:13
Sure. And it made a big difference in some of those states where Trump may have lost: Maine, for instance, where Susan Collins, you know, was able to win and kind of defied the expectation there, and then some of the Senate races down-ballot, and maybe it made a big difference. And so yeah, you can look at that and say, there is benefit to excite turnout that can apply to both sides, depending on the intensity, you know, we got surrounding a given candidate at a given time.
Mark Brewer 20:44
And Molly, it probably won’t surprise you to find out that, you know, the legislative hearings that we had last fall, which basically served as platforms for disinformation, are now forming the basis for legislation here in Michigan, in front of our legislature. I suspect, they’ll do things like tighten up our photo ID law, they may try to ban drop boxes, put restrictions on the mailing of absentee ballot applications (hat was very controversial here last year) and other restrictions. I expect, we’ll see that turned into legislation which our governor will veto. But then under Michigan law, they can attempt to take that to the ballot itself in the form of a ballot proposal. And another little wrinkle that others have exploited here, the legislature can adopt that proposal, without the governor being able to veto it with a simple majority vote. So I think some of the actors that you talked about at the TCF center, and other places in Michigan last fall are going to resurface as part of this effort first, again, try to do legislation, but then ultimately push it bound proposal to do voter suppression here, like is being done in other states.
Molly Ball 21:59
I’d be interested to see, I mean, I’m sure you don’t want it to get to that point. But I wonder how popular these types of proposals are. I mean, I know that generally, voter ID is broadly popular. But some of these, you know, more partisan or newer things that are being raised, whether it’s, you know, the counting and processing of ballots, you know, I’ll be interested to see how that plays out as a political issue in the minds of voters. I feel like, you know, if I were a candidate from from whatever party I would go in front of people and say, we’ve got real problems in this country. And yet, here’s what, you know, these people are preoccupied with, they want to make it harder for people to vote as a way of protecting their own power. Are voters going to see through that, or, or having, you know, been been convinced by the many partisans who are obsessed with this issue, that it is, in fact, a pressing thing that needs to be fixed.
Mark Brewer 22:56
Yeah, I worry about the latter, frankly, that, you know, there’s so much misinformation out there now. And again, frankly, they don’t intend to actually take this to the ballot. They gather the signatures and the legislature can adopt it, regardless of popularity. At that point, we’re probably off to court here in Michigan, arguing that the things that they adopt may violate the Michigan constitution. So again, I just I foresee this battle going on here in Michigan, certainly for the next two years, if not longer, just different tools being used here, as opposed to other states.
Jeff Timmer 23:30
And this is a weird position for Mark I, to find ourselves in because for so much of the last 25 or 30 years, we’ve been opponents when it came to many of these election laws or changes in the system. And so now we find ourselves in agreement on the larger issue of protecting democracy.
Mark Brewer 23:51
No, I think that’s right. I mean, Jeff and I have our longtime relationships as foes. But he’s always been very good about fundamentally believing in democracy and the Democratic process. And I think that’s what we’re seeing now that these are really threats to the process itself. As you mentioned earlier, Molly is this, you know, moves beyond a real genuine concern about integrity. This is about suppressing the vote so you can win an election. It’s pure partisan politics,
Molly Ball 24:20
Which of course, none of us are any stranger to pure partisan politics. But one of the things that I find interesting, you know, this is a little bit far afield, but it’s a little bit of a preview on some stuff I’ve been working on. I’ve been talking to some people who do comparative politics, looking at other countries, and talking about, you know, all of the political craziness we’re experiencing right now, particularly the sort of, you know, moral panic and culture war that seems to have taken over our politics, you know, civilized people like you and me, we’d love for our politics to be a sort of genteel debating society where Congress gets together and you know, has has reasonable discourse and comes together with the compromises that suit everybody. That is not the world we live in. And a lot of people think that the reason for it is this demographic transition that we’re going through as a country, right, the coming threshold of majority minority population and the threats that that represents to historical power structures, yada, yada, yada. But so what you see in other countries that have gone through that kind of transition, it’s eerie, the parallels you see, In every case as that majority, whether it’s an ethnic majority of religious majority, what have you a caste majority, as it sees its power, beginning to slip away due to demographic change. There are always these attempts to game the system, there’s gerrymandering, there’s restrictions on voting, there’s attempts to change the rules. So it’s a very common symptom of this sort of, you know, last gasp of a minoritarian coalition.
Mark Brewer 26:03
And Trump obviously was very good about playing on those fears. And now his acolytes are doing the same thing. We’re seeing that locally here in Michigan, but also nationally, I would not be surprised to see somebody who was a very strong Trump supporter, end up being a candidate for governor here. And again, adopt this message: no fear, the other voter suppression, etc, in order to preserve out those majority rights.
Jeff Timmer 26:34
For so long, most of the post war politics in Michigan has been kind of governed by certainly since the 60s, the white flight shaped so much of our politics now it’s white freight, at the changes that are taking place.
Molly Ball 26:50
What do you see is the trajectory of it?
Jeff Timmer 26:54
I think we’ve seen such a shift in the kind of the geographic alignment today in Michigan, where the the higher educated suburbs, the Oakland counties, western Wayne counties. Now Kent County has become a real bellwether battle, in that. I think that is a big change. That’s more socio-economic. It’s not sustainable, I don’t think for the Republicans, because these are the areas that are gaining in population and gaining diversity. And the rural areas where they are running up the score are shrinking as a share of the vote. And so that’s I guess, that that drives these efforts, these cynical efforts to game the system through putting restrictions on voting and participation.
Mark Brewer 27:49
Right. But I think there’s a real question, though, and we talked with Bill Kristol last week, about what he calls red dogs, which are Republicans who support Democrats, in that case, Biden. Stan Greenberg has also talked about that recently, what he calls Biden Republicans. I think the question is, how permanent that is, and whether it extends down the ballot. Right. And we saw that here in Michigan, where there obviously were a large number Republicans who voted for Biden at the top of the ticket, but then they voted Republican down ticket. So the lot of things are in flux here, and also happened in Democratically so either the Macomb county where we did see strong turnout for Trump. And it carried down ballot in Macomb and hurt Democrats down to the local government level. So things are really in flux in the world has changed dramatically from the one that Jeff and I have been practicing and for the last three decades.
Molly Ball 28:45
Yeah, I think it’s a it’s as you as you sort of said, it’s a real challenge for Democrats as well as Republicans going forward because their coalition is changing too. And it’s a such a diverse and divergent coalition, it’s very hard to speak to the concerns of that very diverse population, on the one hand, you know, sort of upper middle class white college graduates and on the other hand, inner city black voters in Detroit, that’s a, that’s a lot.
Mark Brewer 29:14
And I think Biden is making an effort. He’s very conscious of this. This is an example of where good policy makes good politics that the, you know, the COVID bill, in terms of the way it’s structured. And so I think the things he’s already done I think will have great appeal to these, you know, blue collar working class voters, we’ll see if we can bring them back. Trade policy is another area where he may be able to pull some of those folks back who were drawn away by the size of Trump.
Molly Ball 29:45
Yeah, I’m gonna be really interested to see that going forward. You know, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. There have been a lot of comparisons recently to 2009, right? with Democrats especially saying, Oh, you know, the Republicans are just repeating the strategy that they did. under Obama, where they just oppose everything that he does so that they can say it’s all partisan legislation, and then they can be united in opposition to it for electoral purposes. The difference that strikes me is that none of the stuff that Obama was doing or trying to do was this popular. The stimulus was never this popular. You look at the Rescue Plan 70-75-80% of the public, including substantial proportions of Republicans support this legislation, despite the ginormous price tag, or maybe because of it, people feel like you know, these are these are important problems that demand big solutions. The stuff that Obama was doing, particularly the Affordable Care Act, but the stimulus the TARP before that, which was a Bush thing that he continued — that was pretty unpopular. So it’s pretty easy for Republicans to get together and say and say they were opposed to it. I wonder if it will be the same dynamic when the legislation, the partisan legislation being passed with all democrat votes, is overwhelmingly popular with a broad swath of the public, it’ll be interesting to see.
Jeff Timmer 31:11
Well, thank you very much for joining us, Molly. We really appreciate it. And it’s great to have you on here. Molly Ball national political correspondent with Time magazine has joined us here. Please read one of her most recent articles about the shadow campaign to save the 2020 election.
Mark Brewer 31:31
Thanks for being with us, Molly, and keep paying attention to Michigan. Lots of interesting politics here.
Molly Ball 31:36
Yes, as someone who loves spending time in Michigan, I need you to stay a swing state. Can you please do that for me?
Jeff Timmer 31:42
I think we’re working on it.
Molly Ball 31:45
Mark Brewer 31:45
Jeff Timmer 31:50
Michigan lost a legend. Last Friday, the “Eternal” General Frank Kelly passed away at age 96. Kelly served a remarkable record-setting 37 years as Michigan’s top lawyer. He was both the youngest and oldest person to ever hold that office. He titled his memoirs after his philosophy as Attorney General. He was first and foremost, “The People’s Lawyer.”
Frank Kelley 32:11
When and if a constitutional question comes up of concern of the public, you should intervene, protect the public. And so in order to do that, I felt that the attorneys general prior to me had not taken enough initiative in various areas. And so I became the first Attorney General to set up a consumer protection activity, first with a couple lawyers and then I set up a division. I was the first Attorney General in the United States to have a fulltime Consumer Protection Unit. That was a time when Ralph Nader was in high school. So you can imagine that was considered rather radical. And then I set up the first Organized Crime Unit of any state of transient United States. And I was the first one to set up an environmental Task Force, first Attorney General in the United States to actually start suits on the environment with a team of lawyers who were assigned to it every day. That’s all they worked on.
Jeff Timmer 32:57
That’s from a one hour interview recorded with The Michigan Political Historical Society. (We will have a link to on our website.) But the story of someone who serves for so long in statewide office goes well beyond their official conduct. Mark, like so many political leaders, you worked closely with Kelley. There was a lot more to him than official opinions and legal challenges over his nearly four decades in office. What do you think made him so successful and so beloved, as we’ve seen this last week by the outpouring?
Mark Brewer 33:25
Well, I think he was the people’s lawyer in another way, not only the ways that he described all the path-breaking things he did as attorney general, but he was a real people person. I know when we were setting up our annual Jeff-Jack dinners at the state party he was always one of the most popular speakers, always loved him as the emcee. He was witty, he was entertaining, smart, but also too I watched him campaign so many times. And he’d work a room like you wouldn’t believe: shake every hand, look people in the eye, engage with him. And he always used to tell me and he’s told others is that I like to start the election 100,000 handshakes ahead of the other guy. I mean, he was a classic Irish politician, in the good sense of the word. You know, a real people person who wanted to work with folks and earn their votes, not only by being their champion as attorney general, but also by being a good person with them. I would just add, you know, one other thing about him as well: he worked with Democratic and Republican elected officials, particularly governors, and he always was true to his oath as a lawyer. He was their lawyer. He got along from what I can tell pretty well, john Engler and Bill Milliken. He didn’t let partisan politics get away of him doing his job as their lawyer as well as the people’s lawyer
Jeff Timmer 34:53
We’re out of time for this week. Thanks for sharing the half hour of your time with us..
Mark Brewer 34:57
You can make sure you don’t miss one exciting episode of our adventures by subscribing to the podcast. All the details are on our website, www.ARepublicPodcast.com or you can subscribe directly on Apple podcast, Google podcast, TuneIn or iHeartRadio.
Jeff Timmer 35:17
And take a minute to share your review of the podcast on Apple podcasts. The more people saying they liked us, the higher we’re going with Apple listen..and that’s a good thing. I’m Jeff Timmer…
Mark Brewer 35:28
and I’m Mark Brewer. And if the Republic is still standing, we’ll be back next week.
You can subscribe to “A Republic, If You Can Keep It” on Apple podcasts and Google podcasts or go to our website, www.ARepublicPodcast.com. A Republic If You Can Keep It with Mark Brewer and Jeff Timmer is a production of Michigan Citizens for a Better Tomorrow.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai