I have a new piece up at A2Politico, a review of former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s new book A Governor’s Story, co-authored with her husband and partner, Dan Mulhern. The book, released today, is an important contribution to the political discussions taking place in America today.
Here are a few excerpts from my review.
A Governor’s Story is a first-person account told in Granholm’s voice. However, as is made clear from the start, it is a collaborative effort between her and Mulhern. The book tells four different stories. First, it is a history lesson about the impact on Michigan of the Great Recession of this decade, a state with seven times more manufacturing jobs per capita than any other state.
Second, it is a behind-the-scenes look at how states are run at the highest level. It shows the tightrope walking that must be done, the non-stop compromising, cajoling and effort that it takes to get things done, particularly during the time when Granholm was governor and the state legislature was either partially or entirely controlled by Republicans.
Third, it is an important textbook describing the successes and failures Michigan experienced as it dealt with the economic collapse—including an entire chapter devoted to outlining concrete things that can be done at the federal level to help our country out of the recession, all based on lessons painfully learned in Michigan.
Finally, it is a love story between Jennifer Granholm and Dan Mulhern. Few married couples deal with the types of challenges these two did and come out of it on the other end clearly still a dynamic and loving team.
Perhaps the most important aspect of A Governor’s Story is that Granholm and Mulhern have some critical observations and recommendations for the country based on failures and successes in our state. The final chapter is devoted to nine specific recommendations.
In their suggestions, Granholm and Mulhern show that a laissez-faire, let-the-market-lead approach is devastating in a time economic crisis. We aren’t just competing among our own domestic companies. Even at the local level, companies are competing against companies in other countries, some a half a world away. And these foreign competitors typically enjoy a business climate helped by government assistance, universal health care (which relieves them of the health care burden borne by U.S. companies), and inexpensive labor. We need to help our own companies compete on that global playing field. “Why do Americans say they hate an active government, then get mad when government does nothing while their jobs disappear?” Granholm asks. “How can we compete against rivals like these when we insist on government passivity?”
The parallels between Jennifer Granholm’s time in office and what Barack Obama is confronting in his first term as president are unmistakable. Both came to office facing frightening economic challenges but with bold ideas for change. Both faced stiff headwinds from ideologically-motivated opponents intent on thwarting everything they attempted. Both are, frankly, blamed for things that were beyond their control. As Granholm and Mulhern exit stage left, they are leaving us with a thoughtful, well-informed and honest accounting of what went right, what went wrong and what lessons we can learn from Michigan, a state Granholm called a “laboratory of democracy” in a New York Times interview this week. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal or independent, A Governor’s Story teaches important lessons. Let’s hope our leaders are willing to learn from them.
Read the entire review with excerpts and some rather surprising revelations from the book at A2Politico.