|Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, ally of Michigan youth
In 2008, a clear majority of voters in the state of Michigan sent a strong message to their legislators that they approve of stem cell research and want it to go forward in their state universities. The University of Michigan has gained a reputation as a world leader in stem cell research for cures for several diseases and the people of the state rightly wanted that reputation - and the valuable research for which it was justly earned - to continue unmolested by partisan politics fueled by powerful special interest groups. So, of course you can guess what is coming.
Last year, Michigan house Repubicans, to please their socially conservative corporate backers, decided to execute an end run around the will of the people by inserting language into education funding bills demanding detailed - and unnecessarily burdensome - reports on details of the stem cell research over and above what had previously been required by the law. During the contentious debates which followed, the Republicans went as far as suggesting that the university was evading established rules of accountability to obtain funding underhandedly. Using the most devastating play in the conservative right-wing's handbook, the Republicans appealed to the well-tended public distrust of intellectualism and science, conflating them with their liberal anti-god conspiracy fears which have been equally carefully nurtured over the past few decades by the religious right and its political arm, the Republican party.
Democrats trying to prevent yet another Republican religious attack on higher education argued passionately to repeal the onerous language which had been inserted into the funding bill last year (and which threatens to be continued this year). In spite of these efforts - and in direct defiance of the will of the people who voted in November 2008 to allow stem cell research to proceed - the Republican controlled House and Senate passed the punitive, research-suppressing measures.
It seems that the corporate and religious right is perfecting its strategy to completely bypass the democratic process, undermine the republic and achieve its goal of near total power through a puppet democracy. Thanks to Citizens United, they can now operate as super citizens - a tiny, elite and powerful group controlling 99% of the country's wealth - by pouring money into campaigns to ensure the elections of their personal agents in legislatures across the country. Using the Republican party as their political arm, powerful special interests - nearly always an alliance of churches and corporate "citizens" - now effectively rule the United States. Sadly, they have achieved this oligarchy with the willing compliance of millions of "moderate" Americans who have remained unwilling to rock the boat of their comfortable religious communities by speaking out against religious influence on public policy.
Senator Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, spoke out on the education funding nightmare, defending the right of American students and researchers to continue to receive the funding which the people of Michigan have declared they are entitled to receive.
In addition to fighting to save the world-class reputation of Michigan universities, Senator Whitmer has also stood up courageously for gay Michigan youth. In the fall of 2011, she gave this powerful speech on bullying after the Senate passed the Matt's Safe School Law. The outrageous law, cruelly named after a young Michigander who had been driven to suicide by relentless bullying by religious schoolmates, was touted as an "anti-bullying" law, but in fact gave legal protection to bullies whose persecution of others is justified by their religious beliefs.
Watch Sen. Whitmer's brief, but powerful remarks:
While religious conservatives and their corporate allies celebrate their almost total dominance of American government and society, there still remain a few dedicated voices for social justice and liberal ideals. Senator Gretchen Whitmer stood up for Michigan youth, for education and for scientific research, all anathema to the oligarchy which seeks to reduce American society to an uneducated feudal state.