Can Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero Create A Movement For Real Change?


It has always been my contention that the history of any popular movement is rooted in the history of mass mobilization and organization.

If nothing else makes you, the cynic, find logic in this political fact, at least the 2008 presidential campaign of President Barack Obama is testament.

Rising with boldness, temerity and audacity, defying every form of conventional wisdom and traditional presidential political template, Obama began what was an improbable political journey in Springfield, Illinois, that landed him in the White House.

Because the man who would dare to stake a claim on the historic presidency was all along cast as the underdog of the presidential campaign. The smartest political thinkers in Washington had ruled out that the invincible political machine of Hillary Clinton would wipe the Obama campaign out on Super Tuesday.

They got the math wrong because theirs was a math that hinged its calculation on deep pockets and institutional support instead of a grassroots movement.

Even during our first sit-down interview at Cobo Hall in May of 2007, the future president of the United States made it clear he was the underdog of the presidential race. But he quickly reminded me during that conversation that he was in this race to win and would stick to it to the very end.

And so as Michigan Democrats faced with the specter of political misfortunes in a 2010 gubernatorial season where, shockingly, there is no clear leading Democratic contender, an underdog has emerged.

Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing is staking a claim on the governorship in a way that no other Democratic contender has so far.

He announced his run for governor on Feb 8 in three cities, including Detroit, because he has been touting the fact that reinvesting in cities are crucial to the economic revival of the state.

But anyone who has been following this underdog candidate will quickly realize that he’s been out pounding the political pavement well before he officially entered the race.

Whether it is on national television advocating for jobs in Michigan, rallying mayors of automotive cities around the country to demand support for the ailing auto industry in Washington or meeting with young Democrats in the Cass Corridor to talk about his plans, Bernero is pushing his case.

While other Democratic powerhouse candidates with so-called institutional support are waiting in the wings as directed by their political playbooks and at the urging of the soothsayers, Bernero is showing Michiganders the urgency of now.

Yet, this little known Lansing mayor may not be the favorite choice of the Almighty Democratic Party and their bosses, but like the Obama campaign, he stands to create a watershed in a Democratic movement that is hungry and thirsty for change.

The notion that we have a godfather-like political tradition that places premium importance on candidates with deep pockets who are strongly urged to come bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh instead of a real desire for change among the people who are suffering the most is ridiculous.

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