Politically, the state has traditionally been a stronghold of the Republican party. One of the major developments of the post–World War II years in Michigan, however, was the emergence of a competitive two-party political arena. Starting during the Depression, the Democratic Party made major inroads in the state.
Labor union leadership, including the powerful United Auto Workers, became much more active in postwar politics, reflecting the union’s interest in larger social issues and quality of life outside the workplace. The electoral support of African-Americans, whose population had more than doubled between 1940 and 1950, also helped strengthen the Democratic Party. In 1948, Democrat G. Mennen Williams won the first of what would be six terms as Michigan’s governor.
Beginning in the 1950s and continuing through today, Michigan politics reflect a highly competitive two-party state. Among the current Michigan politicians in the spotlight is Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, who became the state’s first female governor in 2002, following John Engler’s 12-year term. As governor, Granholm has worked to diversify Michigan’s economy, expand educational opportunities for residents, and create universal access to affordable health care.
Also worth watching is former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer, who took over from controversial mayor Coleman Young in 1992. While Young was best known for antagonizing the suburbs and championing the rights of urban African Americans, Archer proved much more of a peacemaker, striving to mend the seemingly insurmountable rift between the predominantly black city and its predominantly white suburbs. While he refused to run for reelection in 2001, he recently announced his possible intention of running for governor in 2010.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel