Republicans are victim-blaming Gov. Whitmer


  • State of Michigan

Sometimes we come across a headline here at the Metro Times quarantine office where the gulf between what it promises and the content of the actual story is so vast that we get whiplash.

Such was the case with an MLive exclusive published Monday. "Michiganders are bitterly divided on the coronavirus response," the headline declared. "Could Whitmer have done more to win Republicans over?"

Nearly 1,300 words later, toward the end, the article refutes a central premise of its own headline. Michiganders are largely very supportive of Whitmer, the article concedes, and her approval rating has been "consistently high," with MLive citing a CNN poll found that 69% of respondents said she was doing everything she could to lead through the crisis. Other polls have found her with more than 60% support.

So where is this "bitter divide?" In fact, the only Whitmer critics MLive got on record were Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and John Truscott, the Republican half of bipartisan PR firm Truscott Ross Rossman.

Even though the MLive lede has Shirkey saying he hasn't seen Whitmer in person since before the pandemic hit in March, he later adds the Senate Republicans and Whitmer’s office "continue to have good communication" and have held regular virtual meetings with her. Shirkey tells MLive that at first he felt like Whitmer was doing a good job keeping him in the loop, but about four to six weeks into the crisis she started cutting him out.

What happened in those four to six weeks? That's around the time of the anti-lockdown protests, where right-wing protesters, egged on by President Donald Trump, carried assault weapons to the Capitol and held signs calling for Whitmer to be hanged.

While Shirkey called those gun-toting protesters "jackasses," he did little to dial down the partisan rhetoric: the very same day, he compared Whitmer's extension of her emergency powers to the attack on Pearl Harbor ("a day in our State’s legacy which will last in infamy") and called her "drunk on the addiction of unfettered power."

Shortly after, Shirkey sued Whitmer over her emergency powers, arguing she needed to seek legislative approval before extending them. Many experts think it's a futile lawsuit: the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 does not require legislative review. Whitmer called the lawsuit a "power grab," while her spokeswoman called it a "partisan game that won't distract the governor." Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens tossed the case, and the Supreme Court refused to fast-track it. It's now heading to the Court of Appeals.

asks what Whitmer could have done differently to win Republicans over. But what could Republicans have done differently to win Whitmer over?

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