Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm asked Republican Attorney General Mike Cox to write an amicus brief, a brief interested parties may file in a legal proceeding in order to express their point of view, on behalf of her administration. In a display of partisanship that has not been seen in the attorney general’s office for years, Cox refused to prepare the brief; far from being a powerful policy statement, this move was petty and politically motivated.
Cox is using his position in this instance solely to irritate a Democratic governor. As the attorney general, it is his duty to represent the governor even when he disagrees with the position he must take. While the attorney general does have some discretion in these matters, the attorney general traditionally aligns publicly with the governor. When Granholm was attorney general, she often took positions with which she did not agree at the request of former Gov. John Engler.
Granholm’s decision to file a brief supporting the University in the affirmative action cases that the U.S. Supreme Court will review was undoubtedly correct. Both the state of Michigan and the federal government are so necessary for the University’s daily operations that it would be a mistake for these institutions not to stake out a position on this issue. Fencesitting on issues of such historical significance is an abdication of leadership responsibilities.
The governor came down on the correct side of this issue. She clearly understands the importance of ensuring that the University’s student body is diverse and representative of the state that she represents. In addition, affirmative action helps many of Granholm’s underprivileged constituents obtain college educations and gives them an opportunity to create a better life for themselves. It also helps achieve racial equality and understanding in a state so often divided by racial lines.
It is important to note that because Cox did not cooperate with Granholm on this issue, private attorneys drafted the brief. While this will not cost the state a great deal of money, at a time when the state is in such a fiscal crisis, the fact that it must spend money on private attorneys because elected officials will not do their jobs is troubling.
Cox’s refusal to fulfill the duties and responsibilities that his office entails in a manner devoid of political maneuverings has already tainted his tenure as the state’s attorney general. In a state government so evenly divided across party lines, Cox should not be poisoning the state’s politics with partisanship. The members of this divided government need to be able to work together and cooperate on a wide range of issues. Cox’s decision to sacrifice this necessary cooperation and good will in order to score a few points with his political base does no good for the state or the people whom he was elected to represent.