Gretchen Whitmer rules her state with an iron fist.
By S.T. Patrick
One of the epicenters of the anti-quarantine protests has been Lansing, Mich., home of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who enacted one of the country’s most restrictive stay-at-home orders. The national attention that has been paid to Michigan since the order was issued has done two things. For detractors, it has furthered a heated national debate on restrictions. For supporters, it has made Whitmer a household name, even garnering support for her as a possible running mate for Joe Biden.
Whitmer’s Covid-19-related executive actions prohibited citizens from traveling to another instate residence of their own, forbade the use of motor boats, declared most businesses “nonessential,” and ordered large stores to close off sections “dedicated to carpeting, flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries or paint,” among other sections that remain closed. Because garden centers are closed, residents have reported extreme difficulty finding seeds for planting food. In a time when people are encouraged or even threatened by fines or criminal prosecution to stay home, those with gardens should be encouraged to plant their own food in any way they can for the remainder of the year. For someone in a small Michigan town with one large big-box store, this is now illegal. But how illegal is it?
In states like Illinois, similarly titled stay-at-home orders have been in effect for close to a month. However, there is a lack of bite to these orders, as they are not enforceable by law, which also means they’re not punishable by fines or arrests. An “order,” therefore, is just an official suggestion in these cases. New York City was one of the first cities to enact fines for violations. Mayor Bill de Blasio has since encouraged residents to snitch on one another to encourage social distancing. Repeat offenders in America’s largest city receive $1,000 fines. Whitmer quickly followed suit, approving fines up to $1,000 for individuals and businesses that violate any of the executive orders.
Whitmer’s self-proclaimed motivation, of course, is fear of Covid-19 spreading throughout her state. “Michigan has the third highest number of Covid-19 cases in the country, and we’re still on the upswing,” Whitmer said. “We must continue to do everything we can to slow the spread and protect our families.”
Making light of the situation when many are without work and struggling to stay afloat financially, Whitmer recently released a video stating she had spoken to both the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy to ensure them they are essential workers and could keep doing their jobs.
Michigan Republicans are pointing out the hypocrisy in the orders rather than arguing against them on their own merit. Marijuana dispensaries and the state lottery program have stayed open, while lawn care, garden centers, and hair salons have not. Spacious parks and golf courses are closed whereas small, cramped liquor stores remain open. Whitmer suggests avoiding all crowds larger than two people, while she and other unmasked governors are often flanked by at least two unmasked advisors at every briefing.
Since Whitmer has garnered the wrath of Michigan’s most conservative residents, she has become the same sort of “corona hero” that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has become—someone with past political issues who has a newfound celebrity status due to their “tough” stances in these difficult times.
Whitmer came to national prominence in 2013 when, as the Michigan Senate’s first Democratic leader, she made a pro-abortion speech on the Senate floor detailing a sexual assault she had suffered.
Whitmer may end up being a problematic choice for Biden, depending on what fraction of the Bernie Sanders camp he wants to retain. Her story of assault makes the Tara Reade story more difficult for a Biden ticket. [See related story on page 13.—Ed.] How can Whitmer defend Biden in light of the Reade allegations and not be an enabler in doing so? Whitmer’s father, Richard, was also the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. She preaches “affordable” care, which means private care. She is not on board with “Medicare for All,” the main policy point of the Sanders campaign.
The anti-Whitmer protests in Lansing saw 3,000-4,000 people gather to protest the policies of a state with 27,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. The media predictably covered the relatively few Confederate flags on site rather than investigating the arguments being made by the protest’s leaders. These flags prompted one African-American commentator to allege on national television that the Michigan protesters “just want to see more black and brown people die,” a ridiculous claim that should have been immediately condemned even by the leftist media. But to Whitmer, such comments are music to her ears—and fuel for her rising political aspirations. She would like nothing more than to be portrayed as the white savior of Michigan’s large minority population, the vast majority of whom are Democratic voters.
But there are still valid questions regarding the numbers: What counts as a Covid-19 death? What is the percentage of false positives returned on test results? Michigan is microcosmic proof that no one has perfected this kind of an event, neither those who believe it’s an overblown hoax nor those who believe it’s the onset of a medical apocalypse. It could be that both sides are overreacting. That said, when a government overreacts, as Whitmer’s office has done throughout the crisis, it tramples on the constitutional rights of its people.
Everyone in every state wants to flatten the curve of illness so that things can “return to normal.” There wasn’t as much of a backlash when people were advised to simply wear masks, be careful, wash their hands and stay home as much as possible. When governments panic, they often clamp down on liberties too quickly and too harshly. Whitmer has been a prime example of that, especially now that she has the eyes of the DNC on her as a possible running mate for Biden.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]. He is also an occasional contributor to TBR history magazine and the current managing editor of Deep Truth Journal (DTJ), a new conspiracy-focused publication available from the AFP Online Store.