For the third election in a row, Proposal 2 asked Michigan voters to prove they are open-minded and willing to advance their state to the progressive forefront of this country. And for the first time yesterday, it looks like a majority of them has accepted the invitation. With most precincts reporting at press time, it looks like Proposal 2 — the ballot initiative seeking to allow otherwise-discarded embryos to be used for stem cell research — will narrowly pass. For a state trying to court the businesses that will move it into the 21st century, this is strong affirmation that Michigan residents are ready to move forward too.
Though Proposal 2 looks like it will pass by a narrow majority, getting to this point was a tough fight. Bankrolled by ultra-conservative organizations and thousands of shadowy donors who may never be identified, the initiative’s opposition tried shamelessly to lie its way to victory. First, there was the claim that the initiative would allow human cloning; then the false argument that it would raise taxes; and finally, the outrageous comparison between embryonic stem cell research and the racist, tragic Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
It would have been easy for people to believe these lies — or at least fail to see through the muddied waters. But to voters’ credit, they saw this initiative for what it really was: a question about whether we should simply discard the embryos from our fertilization clinics or use them for life-saving and economically beneficial embryonic stem cell research. And they rightly chose the latter.
Scientists in Michigan can now move forward with research into a biomedical area with almost limitless potential. In a biological sense, embryonic stem cells are literally a blank slate — potentially able to form any other type of cell. By using embryos that would have been otherwise discarded, scientists can now potentially cure some of our worst diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Almost equally as important, Michigan’s stumbling economy stands to gain. If the federal government loosens its restrictions on stem cell research — as many expect it to do now that Barack Obama is president and Democrats control both chambers of Congress — a lot of federal money could pour into Michigan to support this research. Along with that money, universities like our own can now attract and retain some of the most innovative faculty in the country, bringing jobs and brains to our state.
On a symbolic level, passing this initiative also shows how serious Michigan is about opening itself up to new industry and the changing world. Though Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been trying to attract the high-tech businesses that will bring Michigan out of its Rust Belt recession, this message never rang true when Michigan residents were overwhelmingly voting against the progressive measures that show its open-mindedness, like same-sex marriage and affirmative action.
Regardless, any day in which reason defeats fear and lies is a joyous one. Today is one of those days.