Letter: Gov. Whitmer followed the political science on COVID-19
Since June 2021, Whitmer has embraced a limited-government approach to COVID
Should the poll data hold, most everyone working in Michigan political media will attribute Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reelection to the hot-button issue of abortion.
But I’d argue Whitmer all but guaranteed herself a second term back in June 2021, when she freed Michigan from the COVID-19 scourge by ending all public health orders.
Everything since has been a sideshow.
In one sweeping move, Michigan’s embattled governor chose freedom over fear, began championing personal responsibility, and co-opted the wisdom of limited government.
Inspired by the science of internal campaign polling, Whitmer tossed mask mandates, social distancing advisories, and hard capacity limits that stifled small business operators into the dustbin of history.
In addition to that, a host of Whitmer’s publicly held positions magically managed to change, seemingly overnight.
Adults in the state were again deemed capable of assessing their own personal health risks. Small businesses were once again entrusted to operate without extraordinary virus-related health measures. The concept of herd immunity – a naturally occurring phenomena provided courtesy of Mother Nature – was no longer dismissed as a conspiracy theory.
Was Whitmer’s conservative approach to COVID-19 only enacted to ensure her political survival? Yes. Will it work? Probably.
The governor’s advisers seem to have guessed right, that once a sense of normality was returned to the state, the people of Michigan would have very short memories about the pandemic. Michigan Republicans have done little to remind the public.
With that, COVID-19 was effectively taken off the table as an electoral issue some 15 months ago.
From a pure political standpoint, the brilliance of that maneuver cannot be overstated. It paved the way for Whitmer – and only Whitmer – to have any chance at politically benefiting from anything having to do with the pandemic.
She who destroyed small businesses up and down the state could now be portrayed as their savior.
Quite similarly, every single school return to in-classroom learning anywhere in Michigan could also be co-opted by Whitmer. In reality, Whitmer deferred reopening decisions to individual school districts themselves, rather than draw ire from teacher union bosses.
Whitmer walked away from the pandemic last June, and left Republicans little to work with.
John Sitkiewicz is a Michigan freelance writer and commentator.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.