It is no secret that Governor Gretchen Whitmer is likely on the shortlist of women being evaluated to join Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket. However, in recent weeks, Whitmer’s actions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in her state have come under criticism. Maybe that’s why Politico decided to try and rehabilitate her image. The field of potential running mates is thin on appeal and experience. Whitmer is the only one with executive experience.
The piece is a glowing full biography that points to proof-positive that the governor is well-liked in political circles and very relatable. Pictures of her as a child and teen dot the article along with endorsements from friends, former colleagues and potential opponents. “Moreover, just about everyone likes her,” Politico wrote. “She is genuine, secure, quick to give a hug or share a dirty joke. She is a mom, a sports nut, a lawyer, a politician with a perfect record of winning races and a long history of flustering opponents.”
Somehow, they frame the ability to tell a dirty joke as a good thing. I am not sure how that works in the #MeToo era but maybe it’s good to be a woman. I guess there are different standards for what is acceptable.
In a piece that seems to endeavor to paint Whitmer in a positive light, they offer up some bizarre evidence. First, they frame her as a political insider—when a significant constituency on the political left is anti-establishment.
“Reared in the cradle of Michigan’s back-slapping establishment, Whitmer is the quintessential insider, one-part policy aficionado and one-part student of the game.”
Next, they note significant failures in her executive ability prior to the pandemic. Everything from reading the political winds to budget management. These deficits are particularly noteworthy given there is significant public sentiment that Biden will not be the one leading. It has been posited that his vice-president selection may be the most consequential in U.S. history, as it is assumed she will have outsized influence.
Having toiled for 14 years in the legislature—every minute of every day spent in the minority—Whitmer had grand designs on the governorship. She took office in January 2019 with big ambitions, none bigger than to “Fix the Damn Roads,” the campaign slogan that had proved so effective in the pothole-stricken Great Lakes State. And then everything went sideways. The Republican-controlled statehouse had little interest in Whitmer’s agenda. Flexing her executive muscle, she miscalculated with a proposed gas tax that both parties rejected. The state budget fell into disarray. The rookie governor took the brunt of public criticism. For the first time in her life, Whitmer was floundering.
In a very strange turn, the author says none of her previous missteps matter because she will now be solely known for her leadership in the COVID-19 epidemic.
None of that feels relevant anymore. George W. Bush wanted to be the education president; the 9/11 attacks dictated a different fate. Both in terms of politics and public policy, Whitmer’s legacy as governor will be defined by one thing: her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Every elected official is under pressure right now, but there are few who feel it more than Whitmer.
Other than draw ire from the president for her comments early in the outbreak which she memorialized with a t-shirt on a late-night show, what has the governor accomplished? Her commentary was in direct opposition to other governors who not only said they received needed resources but seemed much more capable of marshaling the required resources at the state level.
The profile today says hospitals in Michigan are still struggling with PPE. Project Airbridge has delivered 100s of millions of pieces of PPE across the nation based on CDC data. It reduced delivery from weeks to days and half of the supply was directed to COVID hotspots which Michigan clearly qualified as. Why is Whitmer’s state still struggling?
Whitmer’s initial orders drew wide support as her state faced the crisis. Then, her additional moves led to significant backlash. Her social distancing policies were some of the toughest in the nation. It led to some law-enforcement agencies saying they would not enforce them.
The second round specified what people could buy, prohibited outdoor work such as landscaping and construction and even put in place travel restrictions that stopped people from going to their own second properties. Motorized water sports, which easily meet social distancing guidelines, were also banned.
These actions caused both the state legislature and citizens to react. Michigan resident Garrett Solano started a Facebook page to try and influence policy. With over 350,000 members the page is well on the way to getting to the goal of one million. Legislators pointed to blatant oddities in the decisions about what could remain open and intended to create an oversight committee with the ability to reign in the governor’s actions.
Then the governor was hit with at least two federal lawsuits from both residents and businesses. The suits allege the governor has violated the constitutional rights of residents with her enhanced program. Attorney David Helm said, “It’s taking a sledgehammer to an ant. We believe it is over-broad and over-reaching. There is a way to do it appropriately without infringing on Constitutional rights like the governor has.”
Hate to break it Politico, but their rising star may be remembered as the governor who outlawed buying seeds. Her increased restrictions had nothing to do with cases declining in Michigan. The numbers started going down a few days after her edicts. The virus has an incubation period of 14 days. If she is going to be remembered for her COVID-19 response rather than her significant early missteps, it is likely she will be remembered for her overreaction. Even “Saturday Night Live” got in on the game putting this parody of the governor online.
Nevertheless, the corporate media never stops trying to make Fetch happen. Just like they put Alyssa Milano out front advocating for Joe Biden despite every candidate she has ever backed outside of California losing. Just like they tried to make Lena Dunham a thing. I guess it’s Governor Whitmer’s turn, and it is very possible residents there will remember her early foibles. They will also remember the severe restrictions on their businesses and personal freedoms. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Michigan go red if she is the number two on the ticket.