While the rest of the country fights about who will be our next president, Michigan is fighting for its voice to be heard. Now a do-over primary is out the window, according to the Michigan Democratic Party. And whether our delegates are divided between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton or don’t get seated at all, both options will mean the same thing: Michigan voters have been rendered irrelevant in the Democratic primary. The best the state can hope for – and the option that the Democratic nominee must take if he or she hopes to win this state – is to be influential in the general election and make sure the candidates pay attention to the issues facing Michigan.

Tom Haynes

How Michigan ended up in this mess is no mystery. Though the state had every right to want its issues to be focal points of the primary campaign, it was punished for challenging the Iowa-New Hampshire stranglehold on the presidential nomination system. The Democratic National Committee was particularly ruthless, promising not to seat Michigan’s delegates at the convention.

Democratic candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards followed the DNC’s lead, renouncing Michigan’s Jan. 15 primary and taking their names off the ballot. Michigan voters were left with the pressing choice of whether they wanted Clinton or “uncommitted.” Not surprisingly, Clinton won.

And now the DNC and the state Democratic party have egg all over their faces after realizing that it disenfranchised two entire states, Florida included.

The DNC has gone back on its word to keep Michigan out of the convention. Then numerous proposals for a “do-over” primary or caucus followed, and an inevitable stalemate occurred. What’s good for Clinton- like awarding delegates based on the vote in the Jan. 15 primary – is bad for Obama. What’s good for Obama – like holding a do-over caucus or dividing the delegates based on the nationwide popular vote – is bad for Clinton.

Last week, the flawed idea of a do-over primary finally met its end. At this point, most people are just hoping that Michigan will be represented at the convention, with the delegates divided in some fair way – in other words, in a way that will not make Michigan the deal breaker for one candidate.

No matter what happens, Michigan has been disenfranchised and neutralized by the DNC. Grumbling among some voters is making it a real possibility that Michigan – usually a state that goes Democratic – might turn red in 2008. If this November shapes up to be anything like the ones in 2000 and 2004, Michigan could be the swing state that decides the election.

Needless to say, the DNC screwed up and should be reforming its primary system so that this doesn’t happen in the future. But in the present, Michigan needs to be a focus in the general election. What has happened to Michigan’s economy is both unique and representative of what has happened to the nation’s economy. If the Democratic nominee wants to solve the problems with the country, he or she should focus on the state’s issues, like the loss of heavy industry and the struggle to re-train a workforce.

Although we have been thwarted at every attempt to have our say in the election so far, the tables are about to turn. Once the contest between Clinton and Obama is decided, it will be time for Michigan’s voice to be heard. The Democrats better be listening this time.

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