That Woman in Michigan

By Gilbert Borman

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This article really will be about Governor Gretchen Whitmer, I promise, but there are a few foundational points I need to make before I can do that.

I had been following the Covid-19 story since early January. There were anecdotal stories from the more “out there” news sites and it was clear that something was happening in China.

Over the next sixty days, the news went from bad to worse. Hopes it would be another outbreak confined to China, like other previous incidents, gave way to the worst case scenario. The virus had not been contained; it was going to be a global pandemic. By early March, I stopped going to any crowded place and severely cut back on going out much. Since the lockdown was imposed, I have only broken quarantine to stand in the cold for two funerals of people I cared for very much. My son delivers food by leaving it on my porch.

I study history, so let’s put Covid and what we are going through into perspective: we are going through 911, the Great Depression, and the Plague of 1348 - ALL AT THE SAME TIME WORLDWIDE.

Simply put, this is a “never before in human history” event and nothing and no one could have prepared us for this. Some years from now, we will look back and analyze things better but we need to have a starting point.
Governor Whitmer easily won the election in 2018. Prior to this year, her work was focused on pedestrian issues such as schools, road repairs, and state budgets.

As we rolled into March, Covid-19 began to dominate the news. In mid-March, over the space of a few days, we went from bans on large gatherings to Michigan being fully closed down for the first time in its history.

Perhaps people thought that we would be able to go back to the old normal quickly. After 911, civilian air traffic was restored within weeks.

But, sadly, Covid-19 is a different beast altogether. From a biological perspective, it is an efficient killer: it is persistent, easily spreads, and quite lethal. It is not done with us by a longshot.

Whatever Gretchen Whitmer thought her first term as governor was going to be, fate had very different plans. She will be forever known as our governor during the pandemic.

Politically, we were already a very polarized society. Naturally, Covid-19 had to hit us in a Presidential election year. In the spirit of never wasting a good crisis to attack the other side, unity and sanity have gone by the wayside.

It is still not clear what Gov. Whitmer did to earn the President’s ire, but he threw down the gauntlet when he called her “That Woman in Michigan.” She should almost thank him. Almost no one in America knew who she was before he said that and now everyone knows her and she is so popular that she is seriously being considered for the Democrats' nominee for Vice President. We shall see.

In terms of her handling of the crisis, Whitmer has only done one thing I fundamentally disagree with: she declared Parking Enforcement workers the first “essential” personnel allowed back to work as we lift restrictions. I know I shouldn’t let my personal feelings about parking tickets overwhelm my analysis, but you have to draw a line somewhere and this is unforgivable.

Aside from that one blunder, I think she has correctly followed the advice from health care and public health professionals in managing the crisis in our state. Whatever her differences with the President, I did not read any reports of equipment or drug shortages arising from verbal jousting with the President; Whitmer was smart enough to focus on the mission at hand. She also was able to keep communication channels open to the Vice President and our state has pretty much gotten what we needed from Washington.

Finally, we get to two very aggressive Lansing protests against her leadership. In both cases, protesters did not keep social distance, wear protective gear, or seem to understand how viruses spread. They were intent on bashing the Governor, proving that our education system is seriously failing. At the most recent protest, proudly carrying their assault rifles, they marched into the State Capitol. That will stop a pandemic! They look stupid.

I get that the extreme financial pain from Covid has hurt people badly. It is going to get much worse before it gets better. Businesses are going to close. The real pain has yet to come. I see the fear in people’s eyes, “How am I going to feed my family?”

That said, if I could sit with the protesters I would tell them that a Republican Governor would be doing the same things and how dare they risk spreading the disease by arrogantly flaunting obvious and needed safety measures. Covid-19 is real. Vaccines and cures are perhaps years away. In places where they did not do lockdowns, they are digging mass graves to handle all the bodies and run crematoria around the clock to dispose of the dead.

We get through this thing by being smart. By working together and following doctors’ advice we can get through this thing. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has risen to the occasion. She has demonstrated leadership and flexibility in the crisis. I get that she is seen as a political lightning rod but painting her as a deranged totalitarian dictator is misplaced and simply not true. She did not create the disease, she just happened to be that Woman in Michigan who was Governor when we got hit with the worst human crisis since WWII.