In Michigan, Still Waiting for the Renaissance

In Michigan, the death of the auto industry has been going on so long, it's become a way of life

Christopher Morris / VII for TIME

GM assembly plant

If you grew up in Southeast Michigan in the past four decades, as I did, you were raised among reminders that things used to be better, once, before you came along. The empty factories. The abandoned blocks in Detroit. The grade-school U.S. maps with the retro pictures, on Michigan's mitten, of Model T's and '57 Chevys. The headlines from the 1970s read like the headlines of 2008: The mayor of Detroit was in trouble. The Lions were losing. And the auto industry was disappearing.

When a state lives with a story line of decline for so long, it doesn't just affect...