Partisan Arsonists

A few days ago, six anonymous lawyers and a helpful journalist whistled up a media firestorm against a good man doing his best to serve the people of Michigan. Their smear campaign against Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is couched in deep concern for Democratic voters and the people of Michigan, tainted by racism, xenophobia, and the clawing hand of authoritarianism, poorly disguised as “the letter of the law”.

Their roadside caricature of a kangaroo court has drawn a crowd, and some spectators are starting to nod along, some even joining in the threadbare carnival. Let’s take a step back onto some firm ground and clear away this stink of fake smoke and bad theater.


Democracy and the Law

To believe in democratic government is to believe, at minimum, two things.

  • “All political power is inherent in the people.”
  • “Equal benefit” of all the people is the purpose of democratic government. [1]

The purpose of every law is to serve We The People democratically: in the public interest, for the common good, to the benefit of everyone equally. We have a legitimate democratic interest in keeping unqualified candidates off the ballot. For that public purpose, Article V Section 22 of our state constitution reads in full,

“To be eligible for the office of governor or lieutenant governor a person must have attained the age of 30 years, and have been a registered elector in this state for four years next preceding his election.” [2]

The age requirement is not there because we think something magical happens on your thirtieth birthday. It’s a gross gauge of complex qualities like maturity, life experience, and informed competence. At 25 you can run for the US House. The governor’s chair is a bigger job; we require a higher minimum.

The “registered elector” requirement is not there because we think something magical happens when your name celebrates four consecutive years on our list of registered electors. It’s a gross gauge of complex qualities like knowledge of local issues and current roots in our community.

If we apply the same letter of the law to our registration requirement as we do for age, we’re done. El-Sayed’s name was on the list of registered electors for fifteen years immediately preceding the election. Nearly four times the minimum required by the letter of the law. Dr. El-Sayed overperforms the minimum by a wide margin.

But that’s not the letter of the law they’re concerned about, they say.

The democratic purpose of the registration requirement is to ensure each candidate on the ballot has sufficient ties to our community. Our statutes supplement our constitution with lists of circumstances the law recognizes do not break a person’s ties to Michigan. [345, 6].

Looking at those statues, you quickly realize the comic absurdity of the whistlers’ position. By the letter of our statutes, what’s their argument for keeping him off the ballot?

He got a job.
Except, that doesn’t hold up under the law.

By the letter of the law, he can work for the US government, or navigate the high seas for any number of employers, or hold any job while a student at a learning institution, out of state or overseas, to name just a few circumstances specified by the letter of the law. Simply having a job outside Michigan is not disqualifying. So what’s their new argument?

The particular job he held made him ineligible to run for governor.
Except, the law contains no list of jobs that make anyone ineligible to run for governor. So what’s their argument?

His job is not one of the several circumstances specifically mentioned in the law (maybe a judge will disqualify him for it).
This is their argument, once you clear away the smoke and innuendo.

It’s their only argument, despite what you might have heard. There is no law saying you can’t be registered in two places, though you can only vote in one place in a given election, nor does having an out-of-state driver’s license affect residency or registration.

They keep saying they’re just following the letter of the law. What they mean is, the law doesn’t say anything about being professor of epidemiology at one of the most academically prestigious universities in the world. This is the circumstance they find so deeply concerning.

The sole purpose of our law is to serve We The People. It is in our best interest to ensure the best people willing to serve are on the ballot for us to choose from. The law recognizes that many of our native sons and daughters will travel far and wide, often for many years, learning and experiencing much, increasing their maturity and competence. The law recognizes their absence from our state does not diminish their deep ties to our community.

Family doesn’t stop being family because they’ve been away for a while. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is a native son of Michigan. He has deep ties to our community. Dr. El-Sayed far exceeds every standard of eligibility that could conceivably serve our common good or our public interest.

No one disputes this fact.
Not even these arsonists.

Dr. El-Sayed is eligible to serve us as governor of Michigan.
He has nothing to prove.

We do.
This is a democracy test.

Do we hold our laws valid only to the extent of their purpose – to serve We The People?
Do we hold our laws valid to whatever petty private purpose its letters might be twisted to serve?

A democrat can have only one answer.
Some Democrats aren’t so sure about democracy.