Gretchen Whitmer’s Crumbling Kingdom | The American Conservative
In Michigan, an enigmatic COVID surge and cautionary story about the exercise of power.
SOUTHFIELD, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 16, 2020: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer introduces Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is making comments on health care at the Beech Woods Recreation Center. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Last Christmas, Governor Gretchen Whitmer posted one of the wildest, most nerve-wracking videos I’ve ever seen. It starts with her screaming, “Thank you for coming to us !!” via a zoom call before introducing none other than Santa Claus. Several scripted and possibly scared children then urge Santa to talk about wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer at the North Pole before eating biscuits while Whitmer hovers imperiously in the corner like a Christmas season big brother. The video ends with her gently informing the Tykes that they won’t be able to visit their grandparents for the holidays this year.
When I saw this, I kept expecting the Soviet national anthem to start playing or Whitmer’s eyes to turn into rotating vortices. I believe the editorial team here at TAC prevents me from advocating drug use, but holy Moly, this has to be a journey. But it’s also typical of Whitmer, who more than any other governor has used the coronavirus to rise up to be some sort of self-confident epidemiological monarch. Now their kingdom is starting to crumble. Check the New York TimesIf you use the COVID card, you will find that only one state is colored purple, indicating a serious risk of infection: Michigan. In the past two weeks, the daily average of hospital stays nationwide has increased by 9 percent. in Michigan it’s 42 percent.
Whitmer claimed she needed unprecedented unilateral power to fight back COVID. Now your state and your state alone are experiencing a fatal boom.
In fairness, Whitmer was given a hard hand at the start of the pandemic. Michigan was initially one of the hardest hit states, and it couldn’t attribute these numbers to a massive, densely populated metropolitan area like New York. But even among the Democratic governors, Whitmer’s reaction was stubborn. She prohibited all private and public gatherings of any size; It banned the sale of carpet, paint, and gardening supplies. She stopped all golf games and lawn mowing services. And when lawmakers refused to renew the state of emergency that gave her that power, she simply ignored them.
The pesky insiders at the Michigan Supreme Court later confirmed that Whitmer could not simply rule without legislature approval. This removed many of her powers, although she circumvented them by continuing to enact decrees through the health department rather than the governor’s office. The result was the lengthy elimination of any serious democratic deliberations on the Michigan’s coronavirus response. Everything has been done by Her Majesty the Governor’s royal prerogative, who seems to regard her Republican opponents as a mad queen about to reach for the trapdoor.
The old adage about absolute power distortion frees especially strong independent women with Dr. Not Fauci pillows in their offices. And so Whitmer’s reign brought with it an endless, if predictable, series of hypocrisy and abuse. Michiganders couldn’t see their families, but their governor was able to march socially and distantly at a Black Lives Matter rally. They couldn’t go boating, but their husband could try to use his position to get a marina to unload their boat during a lockdown. You should sacrifice for the elderly in Michigan, but Whitmer still won’t publish all data on the deaths of the same seniors. As with Andrew Cuomo in New York, she ordered heavily armed nursing homes to admit COVID patients, but unlike Cuomo, she received little national scrutiny.
But her most breathtaking Do-as-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do has only recently surfaced. After a warning of the dangers of going into the spring break, it was revealed that the Liege von Lansing herself had taken a trip to Florida to visit her ailing father. (Remember, Florida is a shattered heath of disease and anarchy in Democratic imagination right now.) And then it turned out that one of their top aides had gone to a Florida beach while the director of their glorious Department of Health was paying one Visit to Alabama.
I know Michigan winters are rough and the NFL season is harsher up there, but this is getting out of hand. Incredibly, Whitmer tried to defend her sojourn in the Sunshine State by pouting that she at least “didn’t party in Miami”. At this point, everyone in Michigan fell silent so she wouldn’t get ideas and started banning glow sticks and solo mugs.
What can one learn from this rule of error? A snack is simply the saying mentioned above. Power actually corrupts. When you concentrate authority in an elite political class, you get a two tier system split between those who can legislate and flaunt it and those who don’t and are bound by it. Another reason is that unilateral governments, authoritarian governments, are not as effective as we sometimes think. By leaving decision-making to relatively few, serious disagreements are eliminated, with groupthink and epistemic closure being the foreseeable consequences. Even the experts Whitmer claims to be advisory are not immune to it. If it were them, Texas would be a COVID hellhole now.
The most striking lesson from the entire bloodstained 20th century is that there is no such thing as an omniscient, benevolent leader. That’s true no matter how much we might whimper for you in a time of crisis. But she protects us! Unless it’s not, is it? In fairness, Whitmer cannot necessarily be blamed for the current surge in COVID in Michigan. Recently she had eased the restrictions on her state and perhaps noticed her subjects growing restless. It could be that the British variant takes its course. Or it could be the fault of these relaxed regulations (although many states have opened more than Michigan without experiencing similar fluctuations).
The truth is we just don’t know why Michigan is suffering. But we do know this: the reason Whitmer is sitting in all her resplendent glory is because she said she needed one-sided authority to deal with the pandemic. Now it has failed. Your justification is gone. Which justifies everyone else to ask: Isn’t it time that their powers were finally reset?
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