For a solid month, the rapturous reviews for Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s leadership during the coronavirus outbreak made her ascent to a plum role on the national political stage look like a very sure bet in an otherwise uncertain world. There was escalating buzz about her prospects of becoming Joe Biden’s running mate. Admiring testimonials from long-time political opponents. An appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Skyrocketing approval ratings. Even barbs from President Donald Trump, one of her few detractors at the time, only served to solidify her image as a rising star in the political universe.
That was then and this is now.
Whitmer vaulted to national attention largely because of her bold, early actions to combat the coronavirus in hard-hit Michigan—the state has the fourth-largest number of COVID-19 cases in the country (29,263, as of April 16) after New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts and the third-highest death toll (2,093)—along with her public demands for more federal resources. But where those initial efforts met with wide approval from citizens and broad bipartisan support, her latest, toughest-in-the-nation social distancing restrictions have elicited a very different response. Michiganders across the state are chafing over edicts that, among other things, make it illegal for residents to visit neighbors and require big-box stores to close sections “dedicated to carpeting, flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries, or paint.”