Profiles of Tyranny: Gretchen Whitmer

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

It was difficult to decide who should have the ignominious privilege of leading off the Profiles of Tyranny series, but I decided to start off with Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, for two reasons. First, I had actually praised her in an earlier post for her acknowledgement that she could not close churches, but her common sense apparently left her shortly thereafter. Second, she has been among the most—if not the most—determined and unyielding in her heavy handedness in recent days. So persistent and obnoxious has she been that Steve Straub of The Federalist Papers has even referred to Whitmer as “China’s favorite governor.”

On April 17, Sheriff Dar Leaf became one of a number of Michigan sheriffs who expressed that they would not necessarily enforce Governor Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders. “When people are being respectful and using that six-foot range [then] we’re not going to go out and tell people to start going home,” Leaf told FOX News. Several sheriffs joined together to issue a press release stating, “While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions that she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority.”

The order that everyone was so upset about was Executive Order No. 2020-42, which replaced No. 2020-21. The order was headed “Temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.” That heading prompted strong reaction to Whitmer when she said that Michigan would still be allowing abortions. The irony of allowing abortions while prohibiting activity not necessary to sustain or protect life was apparently lost on Whitmer, though. Abortion “is life-sustaining, and it’s something that government should not be getting in the middle of,” she said on David Axelrod’s podcast.

Whitmer’s order was called “the strictest stay at home order in the nation” by Straub. Indeed, it went so far as to ban travel between two residences in Michigan after April 10. Stores of more than 50,000 square feet were ordered to remove from their shelves and/or close off sections of their store that sell carpet, flooring, furniture, paint, garden items and plants. The advertisement and rental of short-term vacation property was forbidden. In response to Whitmer’s order, some 3,000 protesters flooded Lansing as part of “Operation Gridlock.”

Interestingly, according to VOX.com, Whitmer’s handling of COVID-19 is approved by 71% of Michiganders. But as she considers extending her draconian restrictions beyond April 30, she may well find any such approval slipping. Whitmer went on the offensive against protesters, saying, “President Trump called this a war. And it is exactly that. So let’s act like it. In World War II, there weren’t people lining up at the Capitol to protest the fact that they had to drop everything they were doing and build planes or tanks or to ration food,” she said in a press conference. And that’s true. But that’s also because during WWII people were allowed to do something to contribute to winning a war; they were not arbitrarily forced to stay at home and prevented from working because of something that might happen. The comparison is not really appropriate.

The web site Bridge (bridgemi.com), which calls itself “Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source,” reported that Whitmer had warned Vice President Mike Pence about the budget shortfalls facing states due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Apparently the irony of that did not register with Whitmer, either. She did announce that she is taking a ten percent cut to her annual salary of $159,300. That is a nice gesture, but Whitmer’s salary is almost three times the median salary in Michigan, so her sacrifice is not going to amount to much in comparison to what so many others are losing as a result of her executive orders.

According to an article posted by the Detroit Free Press today, “the Michigan Legislature has scheduled a special session for Friday to create an oversight committee to examine how Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has responded to the crisis as well as consider bills that would strip the governor of some of her powers.” That last part refers to a planned review and possible repeal of the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, which is the source of much of the power Whitmer is claiming to have during the crisis.

Whitmer’s response to the called session? “Of course, I will veto bills that they send over to limit the executive power. I’ve been very clear about that from day one. Those blatant power grabs are bad in good times and dangerous in times of crisis.”

Her concern for the danger of blatant power grabs is apparently yet another irony lost on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

 

Photo credit: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan.

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