A great blog and some idle musing for the thought leaders among us

I met and talked with Chris Savage, the owner of Eclectablog, at Netroots. I read Eclectablog for Michigan politics but the site does national issues, too. Full disclosure – I also have donated to the site, will donate again, and have emailed them on public school issues. I set up the meeting with Chris, so this wasn’t a chance encounter.

I love state-specific blogs because I firmly believe Democrats and liberals don’t spend enough time and energy on state law and policy, and Eclectablog is a great one.

Eclectablog is ten years old this year. Chris started with a different blog, but he “revealed too much personal stuff” on that initial outing, had some blow-back regarding the work he does for a living so shut down the first and started a second, presumably older and wiser. He doesn’t consider himself a journalist although he has done some original reporting on the site, MSNBC has picked up his work, and he pays his writers.

On that subject, I know we do a lot of media criticism on this site, but the truth is I love newspapers. I pay for three (national, state and local). I think journalism is good, important, difficult work and believe journalists should be paid for doing that work. I get a little uncomfortable with the media criticism too, because I think it can veer into Palinesque “lamestream media” sloganeering and I don’t think that’s fair or accurate. Most working journalists don’t make anywhere near what the tippy-top celebrity tier make, and that is also true of doctors and lawyers and novelists and musicians and many other kinds of workers.

Chris and I also talked about the Michigan governor’s race (after my detour into blogospheric navel gazing and the nature of work.) Chris says Governor Snyder can be defeated but voters in Michigan are going to have to decide if “running government like a business” is working out for them. The polling seems to show the race is pretty much tied up. Winning in Michigan (and Ohio and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Florida) would do a lot towards repairing some of the damage the 2010 Tea Party wave did at the state level. Governor Snyder isn’t a Tea Partier, but either is Governor Kasich and in many ways the corporate wing of the GOP are doing much more lasting damage at the state level than the Tea Party could ever do.

PPP’s newest Michigan poll finds a tied race for governor this fall between incumbent Republican Rick Snyder and Democrat Mark Schauer, along with a close race for the open Senate seat between Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters.
In the Governor’s race, Snyder and Schauer are tied at 40% apiece despite Snyder’s highly negative job performance rating. 37% of Michigan voters approve of Snyder’s performance while 54% disapprove. However, while voters have a negative opinion of the incumbent, they tend to have no opinion at all on Schauer. Among those that do, Schauer has a slightly positive rating with 27% favorable and 24% unfavorable. 49% of voters have no opinion either way. Schauer actually leads Snyder within every age group except older than 65, where Snyder leads with 49% to Schauer’s 38%.

25 replies
  1. 1
    HinTN says:

    How much of a nothingburger is this guy if 49% have no opinion one way or the other?

  2. 2
    rikyrah says:

    I love Eclectablog.

    thanks for your reports, Kay.

  3. 3
    Kay says:


    People don’t really plug into state races until after Labor Day, as far as evaluating the challenger to the incumbent. Generally, the thinking is you just want the mushy middle open to the idea of the challenger.

  4. 4
    Betty Cracker says:

    @HinTN: Could be just low name recognition at this point.

    @ Kay — you’re right about the media criticism; it often lacks nuance, and I count myself among the bloggers who should be more precise. The national celebri-pundits deserve every bit of criticism heaped upon them and a lot more, and overall, I’d say our national political coverage sucks big green gators.

    But that’s not the whole story; locally, and occasionally even nationally, hard-working journalists are doing fine work. They just don’t get as much attention as Politico.

    I read or heard someone say once that journalists should cover goings-on in DC the way they cover intrigues in foreign capitals, which tends to be less personality focused and more driven by analysis. That seems about right to me.

  5. 5
    Baud says:


    He’s got a good blog.

    I get a little uncomfortable with the media criticism too, because I think it can veer into Palinesque “lamestream media” sloganeering and I don’t think that’s fair or accurate. Most working journalists don’t make anywhere near what the tippy-top celebrity tier make

    Also too.

  6. 6
    Kay says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I just think about Tom Troy, who is the political reporter at the Toledo Blade. The idea that he’s some kind of “villager” is bizarre. He’s like slumped against the wall for hours at the rallies I sometimes attend with his legal pad out and I would be surprised if he’s making even 40k. A world without local media should be terrifying to people.

  7. 7
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Kay: Yes, it should. A childhood friend and I went to college together, and she majored in journalism and went on to have an illustrious career at a well-known newspaper. It has been fascinating to follow the plight of the craft through her perspective as the news media was roiled by the Internet and corporate newspaper consolidation. Fascinating like watching a train wreck on a bridge over a nuclear plant located on a fault line, so yes, scary as all hell. Without local media to shed a light on what the corporations and corrupt politicos are up to, we’ll be totally screwed.

  8. 8
    Elizabelle says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Wow. Could we get your illustrious friend to blog here occasionally, under a pen name and deep, deep cover?

    I’d love to hear what she has to say.

  9. 9
    Elizabelle says:

    I whine about the media with too broad a brush, but my hometown paper is the Washington Post, and look what’s happened to it since Katharine Graham died in summer, 2001.

    Used to be so proud of it. Now, it’s got a few bright spots (some interesting narrative nonfiction with photos articles; allegedly Dana Priest still works there, but you see the Loch Ness monster more).

    However, it’s dragged down by Fred Hiatt and his band o jackwad neocons. Scooter Libby convicted? The horror, the horror, we say. Plus George “Don’t believe in climate change” Will.

    WaPost stops publishing the TV schedule and my favorite comics and that is it.

  10. 10
    Linnaeus says:

    I grew up in Michigan, and almost all of my family is there, so I like to keep up on what’s going on in the state. Eclectablog is one of my favorite places to go to for Michigan political news.

    I have to say I’m surprised at Schauer’s poll numbers right now. I thought they’d be worse.

  11. 11

    Down here in Florida we have a good number of bloggers who write about local politics, covering issues that the local mainstream doesn’t cover in depth. More than once a local blogger has brought up an issue — Everglades encroachment by developers or Big Sugar’s total dominance of the state legislature — only to have the papers pick it up as if it was their own work. I guess sourcing to a blog is still considered to be “getting it off the internet.” We’re the kids in the basement.

    ETA: But of course when it comes to campaign season my inbox is inundated with press releases and requests for “guest posts” by candidates of both parties.

  12. 12

    @Linnaeus: I spent a lot of time in Michigan including a year as a news reporter for a little station in Frankfort, and I listen to Interlochen Public Radio at work. I can’t imagine how Gov. Snyder could keep his job, but then again, I never thought John Engler would win, either.

  13. 13
    tybee says:

    the local paper here is owned by morris communications and it’s an insult to mullet to be wrapped in that thing.

  14. 14
    Linnaeus says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Could be just low name recognition at this point.

    That’s a big part of it. Schauer began his political career in the state legislature representing districts on the west side of the state (and that’s where the U.S. congressional district he represented is), away from the major population centers of Michigan. So there’s a lot of people who just don’t know much about him.

    I’d still give Snyder the advantage, because of incumbency and the big money behind him, but Schauer has a better chance of defeating Snyder than I thought.

  15. 15
    Linnaeus says:

    @Mustang Bobby:

    Engler beat Jim Blanchard in 1990 in part due to the bad relations between Blanchard and then-Detroit mayor Coleman Young. From what I’d heard at the time, this meant that Young didn’t work to get the votes out for Blanchard. I’m not sure if that made the difference, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Snyder is going to campaign on being the no-nonsense governor who “gets things done” and will probably try to disassociate himself from the wingnuttier elements in the state legislature, since he has carefully cultivated an image of being a moderate. But that’s a bit of a tightrope, since many of his wealthy backers are very closely tied to the wingnut faction in the Michigan GOP, especially the west Michigan folks. I also think he’s really banking heavily on Kevyn Orr wrapping up his work as EM of Detroit, so that Snyder can claim that he stepped in and made the tough decisions necessary to save the city.

  16. 16
    ruemara says:

    I love Eclectablog. He retweeted something I said & I had a fangirl moment.

  17. 17

    @Linnaeus: What’s always fascinated me about Michigan politics is the way it does the tightrope between the Democrats and Republicans. In the last fifty or so years the governors have gone from moderate Democrats (Williams, Blanchard, Granholm) to moderate Republicans (Romney, Milliken) and, I suppose you could include Engler as a moderate compared to the Teahadists today. There’s always been some borderline wingnuts in west Michigan and the militia kids stomping through the woods in Vanderbilt, but on the whole the state seems to be at least more common sense than the loons running rampant in places like Texas and Arizona.

    Footnote: In my job in news reporting, I became friends with Connie Binsfeld when she was in the state legislature. She was a very charming and level-headed person so having her serve as Engler’s first lieutenant governor gave me a sense of relief. But I did let her know in 1991 when I was living in Petoskey that I was not happy when the legislature slashed funding for the arts.

  18. 18
    Anne Laurie says:


    WaPost stops publishing the TV schedule and my favorite comics and that is it.

    Yeah, I dropped my Boston Globe sub to Sunday-only, which gets me online access plus print versions of the weekly book section & the coupon flyers.

    But I also pay for an online-only WaPo sub, because national politics is the industry in your company town, and it’s fascinating to see how the ground-level industry of politics — who’s worried about losing their house because a particular piece of legislation will affect the local economy — really works. The NYTImes just doesn’t care about stuff like that; its ‘company town’ heart is finance, and at heart the Sulzburgers seem to think of national politics as a topic for the “Style” section.

  19. 19
    Linnaeus says:

    @Mustang Bobby:

    Michigan’s politics really are an interesting mix. I would say that for most of its history, the state has leaned progressive (in the context of the time), but there was also a conservative element that had to be dealt with in some way. The ruthless conservatism of the Michigan GOP now is a fairly recent development and I hope is not one that lasts.

    Engler wasn’t what we’d call a Tea Partier now, but he was pretty instrumental in pushing the Michigan Republican Party into a more conservative direction. He helped create, for example, the Mackinac Center, which has been the intellectual factory for Republican policy in Michigan. After Engler, a Bill Milliken type wouldn’t make it out of the Republican primaries.

    You lived in Petoskey? Fancy that – my grandmother lives in Alanson and I’ll be going up there to visit her next month during my summer trip to Michigan. Lovely place.

  20. 20

    @Linnaeus: Yes, I lived in Petoskey for five years (1990-1995) working for my dad’s window and door company that was based in Traverse City. Alanson is very nice place and the summers there are wonderful; have a great time. If you get into Petoskey, have a wave at the Perry Hotel for me; we used to stay there when we went skiing at Boyne when I was a kid.

  21. 21
    Cervantes says:

    @Kay: The Toledo Blade is one of the best newspapers in the country.

    I pay for three (national, state and local).

    What state-level newspaper do you read?

  22. 22
    Ksmiami says:

    @Linnaeus: I dunno I moved here and I can’t really think of anything Snyder has accomplished

  23. 23
    beagleowned says:

    Eclectablog has been one of my primary source materials for learning about Michigan’s political intricacies. I moved to the state three years ago and followed some Michigan folks on the intertubes from DKos to Eb.

    I attended the Michigan caucus Friday at NN14 so it was gratifying putting some faces together with names. In addition to the excellent work by Chris Savage we would be remiss if we did not mention LOLGOP!

    Mark Schauer is the real deal. It is true that his name recognition is low, the upside is that he has almost no negatives. The people in the state that know him have a positive opinion of him.

    Now it is up to us to pin the Michigan GOP tea party idiocy and lawmaking firmly to the enabler Snyder.

    BTW I have read this blog for quite some time but this is my first post. Y’all don’t know it but you have been putting me to sleep, most nights, for years….

  24. 24
    BruinKid says:

    Shoot, never was able to see you there this week, Kay. Oh well.

  25. 25
    brantl says:

    Governor Snyder isn’t a Tea Partier, but either is Governor Kasich and in many ways the corporate wing of the GOP are doing much more lasting damage at the state level than the Tea Party could ever do.

    Only because they can’t get elected in workable numbers, to forward their agenda.

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