From setting an example for safely voting to being a proactive leader, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is filling what she calls a “leadership vacuum” created by Trump.
MICHIGAN — Recently, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer highlighted the difference between her perspective and that of President Donald Trump as it relates to the protests across the nation stemming from the death of George Floyd.
“This morning, I took a few moments to read a powerful essay written by our former president, Barack Obama, about how we can make this moment a turning point for real change in our country,” Gov. Whitmer said at a Monday press conference. “Then, I joined a call with my fellow governors a couple hours ago with the current administration, and it was deeply disturbing.”
On that call, the president said that if they failed to “dominate” protesters, they would “look like a bunch of jerks,” Whitmer said. She highlighted the contrast between that message and the more optimistic tone of Obama’s essay in Medium.
“Instead of offering support or leadership to bring down the temperature of protests, the president told governors to put it down or we’d be overridden,” Whitmer recounted. “I think these dangerous comments are gravely concerning because of the clear signal that it sends that they’re determined to sow seeds of hatred and division in a time when we need to bring the temperature down. I fear that it will only lead to more violence and destruction, and we must reject that way of thinking.”
This is the latest entry in the feud between Trump and Gov. Whitmer, which dates back to practically the start of the pandemic in Michigan.
Whitmer was critical of Trump’s downplaying of the pandemic and he, as a result, started a lasting spat with the state through press conferences and Twitter. Meanwhile, Whitmer has stepped up, becoming a national-level leader on the coronavirus response effort among various governors.
“I’m never going to apologize for the fact that because there was a vacuum of leadership at the federal level, we had to take action to save people here in Michigan,” Whitmer told Axios on HBO.
Here are five more key questions that show the difference between the two leaders.
How Should We Re-Engage?
Trump notably wants to restore the economy to normalcy as swiftly as possible, with limited concern for the associated risks. Speaking in Ypsilanti, The ‘Gander reports Trump told reporters he refused to consider allowing states to reinstate stay-at-home orders if a second wave of the virus begins to spread in summer as states resume limited economic activity.
It should be noted that the president doesn’t have the power to prohibit that. As Whitmer told reporters, “The government doesn’t get opened up via Twitter.”
Instead of following Trump’s reopening plan — which he has actually pushed on states that didn’t meet reopening criteria — Gov. Whitmer laid out a multifaceted measure of how to assess the state’s readiness to open. She got the rest of the Midwest to adopt similar policies and further defined an intricate, responsible and flexible plan to work toward re-engagement while prioritizing safety.
How to Vote in a Pandemic?
The wildly unsuccessful model used by Wisconsin, which was essentially to conduct an election as normal despite the coronavirus, got more than 60 Wisconsonites infected with the virus, reports the Madison State Journal. But in-person voting during the pandemic is precisely the model put forward by Trump.
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the security of mail-in voting, despite those doubts being debunked by the New York Times — and despite Michigan proving how wildly successful mail-in voting can be.
After Gov. Whitmer decided to send absentee ballot applications to every eligible voter, the May elections absolutely shattered turnout records for a May election. The way that election was conducted was so successful that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson decided to handle August and November elections the same way. As a result, Trump threatened to cut off an undefined form of funding the state receives, citing a large amount of misinformation about Michigan’s process.
How Serious Is the Pandemic?
From the moment the first confirmed case of the coronavirus came to Michigan, Whitmer declared a state of emergency. Quickly and decisively, Michigan reacted to what were thought to be the first cases by closing high-risk vectors of the disease and swiftly issuing stay-at-home orders, which symptom data recently reported by The ‘Gander suggests almost immediately curbed the spread of the pandemic.
This is a stark contrast to Trump’s approach. Notified of the threat posed by the virus in January and February, Trump downplayed the danger the virus posed. He also posed a theory that warmer weather in April would cause the coronavirus to disappear.
On top of that, concerns that the United States was unprepared for a serious pandemic date back to 2017, The ‘Gander reports. The Pentagon warned specifically about the dangers posed by a novel coronavirus, including the risks posed by a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other critical equipment.
Is There Enough Equipment?
Those shortages mentioned caused major problems throughout the pandemic. As The ‘Gander reported, nurses worried that the lack of equipment would put their lives at risk.
“Nurses need a fucking raise and hazard pay,” one nurse told The ‘Gander. “Part of the reason I don’t feel any obligation to be a hero right now is because no one is going to take care of me. I’ve been taking care of everyone else and been screwed over. I didn’t sign up to go into battle without battle gear. What good is it going to do if we all soldier on and get sick? Then who takes care of everyone?”
As he started to realize the scale of the problem, Trump announced that the auto industry would be making thousands of ventilators that he previously told reporters hospitals didn’t need. Even though they initially weren’t aware of the commitment Trump announced, automakers stepped up. One Ford plant alone hopes to produce 50,000 ventilators by July 4.
How to Lead in a Crisis?
The president’s leadership during the crisis has been largely focused on politics, the economy and promoting drugs like hydroxychloroquine that do more harm than good as if they were miracle cures. Trump has also tried to use the crisis to advance a partisan political agenda by threatening states’ coronavirus funding.
At every step of the way, he has made the pandemic a battle, preferably a battle between himself and Democrats, and often specifically between himself and Gov. Whitmer.
This fits a longer-standing pattern of his: making enemies of Democratic women in hard-hit crisis areas. The ‘Gander and our sister publication The Americano compared the treatment of Gov. Whitmer to the Hurricanes Irma and Maria-era treatment of San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
By comparison, Whitmer has been immensely popular. Not only is she more trusted than Trump, but she’s been given send-ups by musicians and comedians. She’s given encouragement to Michiganders in otherwise often grim coronavirus updates. She’s demonstrated her dedication to the rights of the Michiganders protesting her, so long as they do so safely. Her style couldn’t be a starker contrast to that of President Trump.
And the list of differences continues to grow as the pandemic goes on.