(Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
(Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

This is President Trump’s first Michigan visit since the state of emergency was declared. Here are some of the topics Michiganders care about most right now. 

YPSILANTI, MI — President Trump will be visiting Ford Motor Company’s Rawsonville manufacturing plant in Ypsilanti Thursday (get the details of his visit here). After touring the plant he is expected to give remarks. 

While the president is known to talk off the cuff, there’s some hot topics Michiganders are eager to get answers about. 

The Michigan Perspective 

President Trump is visiting a plant producing tools to combat the coronavirus in one of the deadliest states to contract the virus. Nearly one in 10 Michiganders who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus have died to date. In nearby Detroit, that number is closer to one in eight. Meanwhile, Michigan has seen a series of high-profile protests against policies meant to protect Michiganders from the disease. 

That makes Rawsonville the right place to address concerns about the virus. We’ve outlined five topics that Michigan is a great stage for the President to address.

  1. Wearing a Mask

One of the things Rawsonville produced was PPE, like personal face masks. In Michigan, wearing masks in enclosed public places is required by law. But that hasn’t been received evenly by Michiganders. As the Metro Times reports, enforcing requirements to wear face masks has been met many times with physical violence. 

This ranged from wiping a nose on someone’s sleeve to premeditated murder

While addressing these instances of violence directly while in a facility producing PPE in Michigan would be a welcome act, residents will take notice of whether the President will lead by example and wear a mask to protect others

While he’s not known to wear masks in public like now commonplace in Michigan, President Trump recently announced he is also taking hydroxychloroquine, the controversial drug he supports as a treatment for the coronavirus. Medical experts do not back taking this drug for treatment of COVID-19 or to prevent it and COURIER notes that the push to adopt it as a treatment for the coronavirus worries lupus patients who rely on the drug for proper use.

  1. The Protests

Michigan will have seen four high-profile Lansing protests by the time President Trump lands Thursday. He’s been largely supportive of these protesters calling them “good people” and has defended them. Meanwhile his allies, including Fox commentator Sean Hannity, have been critical of the violent nature of these demonstrations. 

“Everyone has the right to protest, protect themselves and try to get the country open,” Hannity said, showing video of Lansing protesters. “This, with the militia look here, and these long guns, uh… no. Show of force is dangerous. That puts our police at risk.” 

Hannity was addressing the April 30 protest, the American Patriot Rally, where armed protesters stormed the Capitol Building in Lansing, demanding to be let into the House chambers to observe a vote while legislators wore bulletproof vests. 

READ MORE: This Black Lawmaker Had to be Escorted To Michigan’s Capitol By Armed Guards

Subsequent protests have been less dramatic, but stranger. They featured video game mascots with assault rifles and people cutting their hair on the capitol lawn. The ‘Gander reported Tuesday that these protests have risked spreading the coronavirus across state lines. 

Among the most recent news spurring from opposition to Gov. Whitmer’s protections is a threat to her life, landing a Detroit man a felony charge that could carry 20 years behind bars. 

Michiganders will take note whether or not President Trump denounces such opposition rooted in violence. 

  1. Reopening Michigan

The protests have been a response to the debate between President Trump and Gov. Whitmer over the pace at which Michigan – among the hardest hit states – returns to normal economic activity. While some areas of Michigan are set to reopen businesses like offices and restaurants Friday, others pose more risk to open. 

Detroit has one out of every five confirmed cases of coronavirus in Michigan, and 12% of sick Detroiters have died based on data reported by The ‘Gander

Michigan is having trouble enforcing efforts to keep the highest-risk businesses closed, as sheriffs have openly refused to enforce coronavirus protections issued by Gov. Whitmer. An Owosso barber has become an icon for the movement calling Whitmer a tyrant, and his example is what inspired the “Operation Haircut” protest Wednesday. 

Ypsilanti is just 40 miles from Detroit and 75 miles from Lansing. Speaking from there, Trump could address both the wildfire of infection in Detroit and the refusal of Michigan sheriffs to enforce Whitmer’s orders. 

  1. The Value of Ventilators

President Trump is in Michigan to praise Ford and GE for their manufacture of tools vital to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Ventilators in particular were tools Rawsonville produced, with high goals set for their production into the summer. The facility hopes to produce 50,000 ventilators by July 4.

This is at odds with remarks the President made earlier in the pandemic, where he cast doubts that ventilators would even be needed en masse, as Newsweek reports

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump said. “You know, at a major hospital sometimes they’ll have two ventilators. All of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?”

Speaking to people producing those ventilators would be the right time to clarify how many ventilators are actually needed. Producing too few ventilators risks lives, but producing more than needed means resources aren’t going into other PPE Rawsonville could be making. 

  1. Essential Pay for Essential Workers

Those people making masks are part of the manufacturing sector of Michigan’s economy that resumed function last week, but the workers at Rawsonville were making ventilators before then. The production of tools to fight the coronavirus was deemed essential work. 

Essential workers also tend to be low-wage workers, though. In a protest that the White House said was in favor of President Trump, truckers lined up blocks from the White House and blared their horns asking for better pay, The ‘Gander reports.

“The American truck driver needs help, and we need it now,” Santiago, a 21-year veteran of the industry from New Jersey, told the Washington Post. “This is our distress call to our commander in chief to address the problems we are facing. He has called us heroes—his heroes need his help now.”

Essential workers have been a backbone in Michigan and will be eager to hear the President echo that sentiment during his visit. 

Behind The President’s Visit 

The visit is to thank Ford and its partner General Electric for transforming Rawsonville to a focus on ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) to respond to the current public health crisis. This partnership set goals of producing 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days when it began in late April. Ford projected producing 1,500 ventilators by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 by July 4.

But this formal event is expected to double as a campaign stop in an important swing state.

The ‘Gander has been looking into how the novel coronavirus pandemic has impacted petition drives and Michigan’s senate campaign, but it’s effects are far more noticeable on the national stage.

The coronavirus has greatly impacted the various political campaigns vying for voters’ attention ahead of November’s elections, and perhaps none have been hit as hard as President Trump. The President has leaned heavily on campaign rallies as a means of voter engagement from his political emergence in 2015 to today, and continued to lean on them even as the pandemic began to take off

UP NEXT: Coming of Age in a Pandemic: ‘This Is My Generation’s WW1’

Rallies are so essential to the Trump strategy that his son, Eric Trump, called efforts to slow the pandemic’s spread sabotage of the President’s campaign. 

“They think they’re taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and being able to fill it with 50,000 people every single time,” Eric Trump told Fox News. “They’ll milk it every single day between now and November 3. And guess what? After November 3, coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear and everyone will be able to reopen.”

RELATED: Whitmer: Taking Care of One Another is the Only Way Through This Crisis

But Trump has adapted to the trouble hosting campaign rallies by increasing the presence of his official White House visits to places like the Rawsonville plant. Though formally these kinds of events are taxpayer-funded Presidential visits, ABC notes he has pivoted these events to focus on making the case for his re-election and generating local media attention. 

This allows Trump to make good on Vice President Mike Pence’s December promise to visit Michigan “again and again” ahead of the November election. Michigan is important to both presidential campaigns, so Trump’s Thursday visit is an asset for his campaign. 

RealClearPolitics data shows Trump currently trails his Democratic opponent, former Vice-President Joe Biden, by about 5%. Biden is eying Whitmer as a potential running mate as well. This makes Michigan an important state in contention for Trump in November. 

What The ‘Gander Readers Want to Hear

We asked you what issues the President should address in his visit. Here’s some of what your neighbors want to know:

  • President Trump’s comment on the dire situation in Detroit and Michigan’s pandemic status overall?
  • If President Trump doesn’t have the coronavirus, why is he taking hydroxychloroquine? 
  • President Trump’s comments on the persistence of the Flint Water Crisis?
  • Are ventilators available to White House staff?
  • Will President Trump lead by example and wear a mask?
  • How should the federal government handle their contribution to unemployment payments?

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Posted by The Gander Newsroom on Tuesday, May 19, 2020