“The test of a civ­i­lization is the way it cares for its most vul­nerable.” These words, written by nov­elist Pearl Buck, provide the ultimate lense through which we should view pol­itics.

When eval­u­ating can­di­dates, the most important thing to look for is account­ability. In some coun­tries, politi­cians reflect the cit­i­zenry attitude; in the United States, however, our political system follows demands of the wealthy and polit­i­cally engaged class. This aris­tocracy con­trols vast amounts of capital and have much to gain through influ­encing elec­toral pol­itics, often at the expense of the most vul­nerable. While no Michigan guber­na­torial can­didate com­pletely reflects the public and their interests, Demo­c­ratic can­didate Gretchen Whitmer’s pro­posals offer more relief than Repub­lican Bill Schuette’s.

If Schuette and the Repub­licans suc­cess­fully defend right-to-work leg­is­lation, which bans certain union con­tracts, the woking class will con­tinue to become more vul­nerable. Wages among blue-collar workers will con­tinue to fall as union strength does.

Unions have played a large part in American pol­itics and the economy for over 100 years, and since their con­ception, estab­lishment politi­cians have made an effort to undermine or destroy them. Right-to-work laws — adopted by 27 states, including Michigan — are just the latest attempt. But by now, it’s over­whelm­ingly clear that right-to-work results in lower pay across the board.

Schuette has also failed to protect the minority rights of LGBT cit­izens. In July, after the Michigan Civil Rights Com­mission voted to expand the inter­pre­tation of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include dis­crim­i­nation based on sexual ori­en­tation and gender identity, Schuette, as Michigan’s Attorney General, issued an opinion inval­i­dating the ruling.

Since then, LGBT activists and politi­cians alike have con­tinued to ask the state leg­is­lature to amend the Elliott-Larsen Act to include sexual ori­en­tation and gender identity. Whitmer has endorsed and speaks fre­quently about this idea; Schuette, on the other hand, has been vir­tually silent.

Unlike Schuette, Whitmer has defended the rights of immi­grants, albeit, not as strongly as other guber­na­torial can­di­dates, like Democrat Abdul El-Sayed, who lost to Whitmer in the primary. When Pres­ident Trump’s wildly con­tro­versial child sep­a­ration policy took effect, El-Sayed called for the abo­lition of Immi­gration and Customs Enforcement and encouraged local law enforcement not to coop­erate with federal agents. Whitmer isn’t nearly as hard-line. Her response to the con­tro­versy was: “I’m not going to let the Trump admin­is­tration come in and mil­i­tarize any of our police forces.”

But even this is better than Schuette’s blatant defense of ICE. He com­mended the agency’s efforts to thwart violent immi­grants, even though 98 percent of those stopped by Customs and Border Pro­tection in the state of Michigan do not have criminal records, according to the American Civil Lib­erties Union. Regardless, Schuette has said: “As gov­ernor, I will enforce our immi­gration laws, ban sanc­tuary cities, and support the police and [ICE] offi­cials who are putting their lives on the line each day to protect Michigan.”

It’s important for Michigan to elect a can­didate who will stand up to the federal gov­ernment on immi­gration. The state’s unique geog­raphy places the entire state in a “border zone.” This clas­si­fi­cation gives CBP extra-con­sti­tu­tional power to set up check­points and conduct oper­a­tions without war­rants. On Grey­hound buses, a popular trans­portation company in Michigan, cus­tomers reported several inci­dents in which CBP agents either boarded a bus or waited at train sta­tions to make arrests. ABC-13 reported that CBP agents boarded a bus in May and asked every pas­senger to prove their cit­i­zenship, without probable cause. Those who didn’t were imme­di­ately taken into custody. This is a fascistic policy the state of Michigan should not tol­erate.

This year, Michigan res­i­dents will vote on a mar­i­juana legal­ization ballot ini­tiative. Whitmer sup­ports it; Schuette does not. Whitmer seems to under­stand that mar­i­juana legal­ization isn’t really about giving people the freedom to smoke pot, but rather ending the prison pipeline for poor com­mu­nities of color. By reg­u­lating mar­i­juana, Michigan can keep the sub­stance safe and out of the hands of youth while elim­i­nating violent gang activity asso­ciated with the drug trade.

As Attorney General, Schuette proved himself an inef­fective leader. He oversaw the Flint water crisis and the pros­e­cution of those who caused it, but his department was respon­sible for signing off on a “sham” admin­is­trative consent order that could have averted the dis­aster entirely. He only indicted Flint and state offi­cials after tremendous public pressure and failed to hold current Repub­lican Gov. Rick Snyder accountable for his role in the scandal. Whitmer would be a com­petent leader and take action to help the city of Flint. She plans to speed up the replacement of Flint’s lead pipelines, which, as of now, won’t be com­pleted until after 2020.

Whitmer isn’t perfect by a longshot. Both her and Schuette failed to endorse single-payer healthcare and instead support expanding or main­taining Oba­macare, respec­tively. (Both can­di­dates received sizable dona­tions from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Michigan’s biggest health insurer, which could have been a con­tributing reason).

Whitmer also refused to sign a pledge against accepting dona­tions from the fossil fuel industry. This is a topic Whitmer should take seri­ously: In Detroit, air pol­lution presents a par­tic­u­larly chal­lenging problem for a city with an already strug­gling and unhealthy pop­u­lation. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Ser­vices, in 2013, asthma rates in Detroit are nearly 50 percent higher than throughout Michigan, and even greater in zip codes with petroleum refineries.

Schuette, as Attorney General, went even further, backing some of the world’s biggest pol­luters, namely, writing an amicus curiae brief in August defending Exxon Mobil against the accu­sation that it know­ingly lied to share­holders and con­sumers about the effects of its business.

In pol­itics, we take what we can get. Whitmer has her flaws, but Schuette has all of them and many more. Should Schuette get elected, the impli­ca­tions for our vul­nerable cit­izens would be dev­as­tating.

Cal Abbo is a sophomore studying the liberal arts.


  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    After 8 dreary years under Jenni Granholm why would anybody want to go back to glib talk and zero accom­plish­ments? Whitmer is a Granholm clone, her voting record is in lock-step with Granholm-who left Michigan 2 minutes after she left the Governor’s Mansion and now resides in Cal­i­fornia, where she belongs

    Schuette is hardly impressive, but he’ll work with the GOP con­trolled Leg­is­lature and Senate to get things done. Whitmer would preside over gridlock. And the com­po­sition of our State Leg­is­lature and Senate is not likely to change much.

    Dems no longer have any solu­tions to the problems which afflict our state, the points Mr. Abbo brought up to support Whitmer are mainly ‘warm fuzzies’ rather than sub­stantive. Enough.