Is Gretchen Whitmer the Worst Governor In the Country? Well, one thing you could say about Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is that she often smiles, even when her critics go after the telegenic chief executive for being out of touch and lax about improving the state.
Whitmer took some of the harshest measures in the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to extensive stay-at-home lockdowns, at one point she even banned the sale of seeds for gardeners at hardware stores.
To her credit, Whitmer has admitted that some of these more draconian policies went too far. What should we make of her now?
You Want to Ban Seed Sales?
“We had to make some decisions that in retrospect don’t make a lot of sense, right? You could go to the hardware store, but we didn’t want people, you know, all congregating around the gardening supplies… It was February in Michigan, no one was planting anyway. But that being said, some of those policies I look back on and think that was maybe a little more than we needed to do,” the Democratic governor told CNN host Chris Wallace.
Approval Ratings Are Better Than Average
Despite the Covid frustrations, Whitmer’s approval ratings haven’t been bad.
The last survey in December found that 53 percent of those questioned were satisfied with the job she was doing.
She was re-elected in 2022 by 11 points over Republican Tudor Dixon. This was a strong showing and a surprise to national GOP strategists who thought Whitmer was vulnerable.
She Showed a Brave Face During Kidnapping Attempt
Whitmer has endured some scary moments during her tenure.
In 2020, a group of criminal fanatics planned to kidnap her and do God knows what with her. She retained her positive attitude as the men were arrested and prosecuted. It takes a certain amount of courage to govern in these days of hyper-partisanship and division. Politicians from both parties receive death threats regularly. Whitmer has blocked out these haters and continued to do the job steadily, if not spectacularly.
Wins Re-election on Culture Wars
Whitmer did not run for re-election on her accomplishments. She instead focused on abortion rights and her support for a law that would enshrine the ability for women to be granted an abortion when they wished.
Not Many Achievements While in Office
Those are all culture war wedge issues that were light on policy and lacked concrete results. What has Gretchen Whitmer actually done as governor?
She claimed to have signed over 800 bills, which leads one to believe that Michigan is a state where the government is large and untamed. She said the state had spent more on education and reduced class sizes. Whitmer also bragged about cutting taxes for small businesses and has taken credit for creating 30,000 auto industry jobs.
Where Did She Go During Dangerous Snowstorm?
Whitmer has been criticized for being asleep at the wheel at certain times in office. During a snowstorm when 700,000 people were out of power in February, she went to a show at a theater and posed for pictures with people attending. This made some observers cry that she was out of touch with ordinary voters in Michigan.
Republicans have said that Whitmer is a partisan governor who ignores Republican concerns. GOP lawmakers have put forward proposals for tax relief to reduce the burden of high inflation and they think Whitmer is not willing to listen.
Throwing Red Meat to Unions
Whitmer has delivered the goods to labor unions, a traditional constituency for Democrats. Under her leadership, the Michigan Senate voted to axe the 2012 right-to-work law that made union membership optional at unionized workplaces and created a prevailing wage level as part of this reform. Republicans blasted the vote as robbing workers of their income by forcing them to pay union dues when they preferred not joining. Similar pro-union bills have passed the Michigan House and Whitmer is expected to sign the resulting legislation.
What Is Her Legacy?
While Gretchen Whitmer took Covid defense measures to their limit, she admitted her mistakes. She won re-election handily, and her approval numbers are acceptable. On balance, she hasn’t been the best governor in the country, but she hasn’t been the worst. Having a Democrat majority in both chambers has helped her legislative agenda, but she won’t go down as being loved due to her pandemic record. Republicans are still smarting from that government overreach during Covid, and Whitmer will have a difficult time living that period down.
Author Expertise and Experience:
Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.