Jeff Irwin was heading to an AATA event in June when a journalist stopped him on State Street. Asked how it felt to be out of Lansing for the day, the freshman Democrat replied, “Great! Because it means we’re not in session so we can’t do anything else stupid–like the emergency financial manager bill we just passed.”

In a subsequent phone call, Irwin explained his beef with the bill. “The argument was that we should have objective triggers to govern when an emergency manager would be appointed. It was a good idea, because an emergency manager should be used only in extreme circumstances, and we should have objective triggers in place to say when.

“Instead we made it easier for the state to take over local governments and get rid of officials,” continued the former county commissioner. “Because along with the objective triggers, we added a totally subjective trigger: the state treasurer–and that really means the governor–can appoint an emergency manager whenever he deems it appropriate.

“But of all the bad public policy we’ve passed this year, that’s not the worst,” Irwin continued. “The worst was the budget: cutting education funding and changing the tax structure so the old and the poor pay more and businesses pay less.”

The GOP budget’s biggest winners, Irwin said, will be “people who own LLC and S corps, because their tax liabilities will be zero.” Its biggest losers will be “schoolchildren and the people who teach them. The focus is on school kids and teachers. Because of political activities of the teachers’ union, Republicans are taking it out on the entire educational system!”

And Irwin believes we’ve seen only half of the Republicans’ reinvention of Michigan. “In the first half of the season, they focused on ultra-conservative economic issues. In the second half of the season, I predict they’ll switch to a social agenda: the environment, a woman’s right to choose, domestic partner benefits, and stem cell research to start with.”

Irwin wouldn’t predict whether Republicans would succeed with their social agenda as they’ve succeeded with their economic agenda. But he did predict that “the conservatives are going to lose, not in decades but in years.”

“Fear is a weapon for short-term success,” Irwin concluded. “Conservatives leverage people’s fear, but over successive generations, hatred grows weaker and weaker. People today aren’t being brought up to hate blacks, and the same thing is going to happen with sexuality. Maybe I’m naive, but I believe love wins.”