Rachel Maddow made a splash yesterday by claiming to report on shocking political events in Michigan.
On her MSNBC show Maddow claimed Republicans are “circumventing Democracy,” in the Michigan state legislature and their actions are “the most radical thing Republicans have done anywhere in the country.” She also accused them of “eliminating democracy and voting rights.”
This story is spreading quickly throughout the liberal blogosphere, including on Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook blog on Washington Post’s website.
Even without the hyperbole, the viewer is left with the distinct impression that Maddow has discovered some fairly sinister action by Michigan Republicans. So what exactly is she talking about?
Maddow explained that Michigan Republicans have been passing laws with a majority vote and attaching an “emergency” immediate-effect clause that allows those laws to be implemented immediately.
The Michigan Constitution usually requires that laws do not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the current legislative session. However, the immediate-effect clause allows bills to become law right away with a two-thirds vote.
Maddow’s outrage stems from the facts that, according her data, 546 out of 566 bills passed by the Republican legislature since January 2011 have included this clause. She reported this as an unprecedented action and “new in Michigan governance.”
But there’s one huge problem with Maddow’s breaking report – it isn’t accurate.
Michigan Republicans have used the immediate-effect provision, but it certainly is not something new. When Democrats controlled the Michigan legislature in 2009, they passed 240 out of 242 laws with the same exact procedure. In 2010, 365 out of 383 of the bills passed by the Democrat-led House included an immediate-effect clause.
In other words, Democrats had used this same procedure for years in the Michigan legislature. Their actions were not contested or considered controversial, but now Maddow and other liberals are claiming Republicans are abusing the system doing the very same thing. Maddow blames Michigan Republicans for doing something that is “radical beyond radical,” but her whole report does not once mention the history of Democrats using this exact same procedure.
Maddow also tries to use the report to hurt Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by mentioning several times that his father, former Michigan George Romney, chaired the state convention where the constitution was amended to include the 90-day rule.
Maddow’s rhetoric in this report wasn’t just hyperbolic, it was completely dishonest. Democrats played by one set of rules when they controlled the Michigan legislature, and they want to play by a different set now that they are in the minority.
One can argue that the 90-day rule should be enforced differently, but there is nothing controversial about what the Michigan House Republicans have been doing.
The fact that Rachel Maddow spent a majority of her show portraying Michigan Republicans as democracy-opposing radicals for doing something that has been done for years by both parties is exactly why MSNBC has become such an untrustworthy source for factual information.