A lot more of Michigan is in play than conventional wisdom suggests. Where to go and how to win Michiganders over are the keys to success in 2024.
MICHIGAN—Michigan saw a rising blue tide in the 2020 election that helped carry President-elect Joe Biden back to the White House. Ten counties voted in majority for Biden, while scores of others experienced a “blue shift” with rising Democratic votes over their results in 2016.
What lessons does Michigan teach the incoming administration? What are the major takeaways from Michigan’s results? And how does the attempt to change the outcome of the election in court play into the Biden presidency?
Stay Engaged With Black Voters
The victory of President-elect Biden would not have been possible without Michigan. The victory in Michigan would not have been possible without Detroit. Winning Detroit would not have been possible without Black voters.
Nearly 80% of Detroit residents are Black, according to US census data.
“You can’t win Michigan without Detroit,” Lateshia Parker, press secretary for NextGen Michigan, told The ‘Gander. “It’s the biggest city in our state.”
While Michiganders are celebrating both the victory of Biden and the historic nature of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the work for racial justice is far from over.
“I don’t think racism will be solved because Biden is elected because it’s an issue we need to work on over the years. But I feel that with Biden being elected, there will definitely be more progress,” said Black Michigander Nia Crutcher. “I’m hopeful.”
Since 2008, Black men have been slowly drifting away from the Democratic Party, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. In the Midwest, 1 in 3 Black men voted for Trump, according to AJC. As the Washington Post reports, this was noticed by the Trump campaign, which heavily invested in trying to win over young Black men.
That means not only should Detroit not be taken for granted by Democrats, but it can’t be. The Biden-Harris administration seems to have noticed this, with Biden campaigning in Flint and Detroit alongside former President Barack Obama the weekend before the election and Harris spending a large chunk of Election Day rallying voters in Detroit.
Ride the Blue Tide
While Michigan wouldn’t have turned blue without Detroit, the tide of Biden’s victory in the state is felt in a majority of Michigan’s counties. While it may have been smaller than the “blue wave” elections of 2018, that rising tide shows potential to capture voters in areas of the state Republicans take for granted.
A county-level analysis by the New York Times shows most of Michigan’s counties shifted further to Democrats without overcoming Republican majorities in those counties. Even the deep-red Upper Peninsula saw a surprising increase in Democratic voter engagement. Meanwhile, the northwest of the Lower Peninsula saw some of the largest surges in blue votes.
The shift in the northwest corner of the Mitten was so massive it turned the pinky finger blue. But if Democrats want to capitalize on that success in Leelanau County, they need to commit resources to the area.
Jim Muennich of Suttons Bay told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that though Leelanau is a more Republican-leaning county, he wasn’t surprised with the results, and noted that further down the ballot the county still supported Republican candidates. He also said that he doesn’t believe there was any fraud or cheating in the counting process.
Ultimately, the lesson to learn from this blue tide across the state is the other side of the coin presented by the increasing dissatisfaction of Black men with Democrats—areas once thought not contested are very much in play in 2024 for both sides of the aisle.
A long-held strategy of both political parties has been to discount areas assumed to be safe in their column, and in Michigan that leaves a lot of potential support on the table.
Political Organizing Is Essential
To accomplish the kind of massive outreach needed to contest so much of the state, activists and organizers play an important role.
When Republicans intimidated election workers counting votes at the TCF Center in Detroit, it was progressive activists who first reported the situation to The ‘Gander and mobilized a rapid response. Activism in Republican strongholds like Lenawee County played a part in the small but measurable blue shift that the county saw on Election Day.
That isn’t just a lesson for the Biden administration, but for Michiganders as well.
In Lenawee, local races are often decided by extremely small numbers of voters. A controversial city ordinance in Lenawee’s county seat, Adrian, was delayed by about 30 people. Small numbers of people can effect great change in rural Michigan working together.
“Our activism is in a state of deferred maintenance,” Lenawee County activist Will Garcia told The ‘Gander. “We haven’t really built those institutions of activism, and I want to see those get built because we have real problems.”
Court Challenges to the Election Go Nowhere
As The ‘Gander announced, the first court challenge to the state’s election results was tossed out before ever going to trial because of insufficient evidence. The Trump campaign wanted to block the certification of Michigan’s election results through a court order called a preliminary injunction, and its attempts to do so were dismissed.
Monday, the Michigan Court of Appeals also refused to consider the case on procedural grounds. Lawyers for the campaign failed to provide documentation necessary for the court to even hear a case.
Even should the case be heard, it is unlikely to succeed as noted by Judge Cynthia Stevens in the decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals, because the evidence supplied by the campaign is almost entirely inadmissible in court.
In fact, legal analysis from law communicator and practicing attorney Devin Stone on his YouTube series Legal Eagle found that in total, the Trump campaign’s lawsuits nationwide are unlikely to have any impact on the election whatsoever. Most, he said, lack evidence for courts to consider, and all challenge too few votes to change the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.
“There are just too many states that would need to flip,” Stone explained. “At the end of the day, none of the cases involved challenges to enough [ballots] in any of the states to change the results, let alone change the results in several of the states.”
The lesson from Stevens and Stone is a clear one: Challenging the results of an election is asking courts to do something extraordinary, and is a request for which extraordinary evidence is needed. In Michigan, the Trump campaign not only failed to provide extraordinary evidence, but it failed to provide evidence a court even considers valid.