Gretchen Whitmer is inside their heads.
Gretchen Whitmer is inside their heads.
She seems to be getting the Trump crowd unusually perturbed, and it seems to be affecting their judgment. Which could be important, since their judgment is suspect to begin with.
It’s not just her obvious competence. Or her grace under pressure. Or that she speaks in complete sentences. All these things are, to be sure, an offense to their sense of male privilege. But it’s her looks that are tying them in knots. They simply cannot accept that any woman — but especially a woman who looks like Gretchen Whitmer — can become a governor. Or even worse, a vice president.
Camera-ready, dressed to the nines, heels and red lipstick, she brings out the adolescent idiocy in men for whom adolescent idiocy is never far from the surface. At Fox News, where male fantasy is enshrined in corporate policy, they don’t know what to make of her. And they sense, correctly, that she’s a lot smarter than they are.
A political thoroughbred from a political family, she knows more than they ever will about carrots and sticks, and she’s utterly immune to their gaslighting. She’s handling the pandemic like the professional she is — thoughtful, transparent, effective — and she doesn’t rise to their lamer-than-usual bait. And when there’s a split screen with Trump, guess who everyone looks at.
Trump seems especially flummoxed. Whitmer’s looks are squarely in the danger zone when it comes to his self-proclaimed “type” — brunettes like Melania and Karen McDougal come to mind — and she seems to be grabbing him by the id.
But the thing that really fries his circuits is that she’s Michigan. The same Michigan where he won by a whisker in ’16 (and where the stench of Russian mischief still lingers). The same Michigan where his party got buried in the midterm under an avalanche of smart women, his worst nightmare. And he knows damn well that if he loses Michigan this time, he loses everything. This whole beautiful kleptocracy he’s built will collapse. He and his cronies could even go to prison.
So yes, she is inside their heads, right where their brains are supposed to be. And it's got them circling the wagons. They’re bringing out the same old tired playbook, looking for cheap smears. They’re putting their media goons on the case — Tucker, Rush, Breitbart, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, the whole menagerie of liars — desperately looking for some timely piece of slime that might gain traction.
Here in Michigan, the state wingnuts are all fired up about her stay-at-home order. They just staged a loud, horn-honking protest from their cars, forcing a huge traffic jam in Lansing. With all the jaw-dropping, science-denying stupidity we’ve come to expect from Trump’s base, they called on Whitmer to reopen businesses — first from their cars, then in an utterly demented Trumpish rally in front of the statehouse, with no masks, no social distancing, and no apparent thought for the dying they might do in a few weeks. After which they dispersed to share their droplets with the rest of Michigan.
In casting Whitmer as the Antichrist, they hauled out all the usual labels: government overreach, constitutional crisis, trampling on civil liberties. They excoriated her for keeping the churches closed, calling it an affront to religious liberty.
And what was her reaction to this inanity? Did she bring in the Lansing Police to clear the streets? No, though she could have. Did she call out the National Guard to respond to an obvious public health emergency? No, though it’s in her power to do so. What did she do? She politely asked them — begged them, actually — to maintain social distancing and please, please, please stay safe. Apparently, she cared more for their safety than they did. Or I do.
But despite all these half-assed efforts — and believe me they are not finished — all they’ve done so far is raise Whitmer's visibility. Trump has given her a ton of free publicity, and he of all people should know better. In the process he’s giving her something she probably hadn’t even considered — a legitimate shot at the vice-presidency.
No doubt she’s considering it now.
P.S. I finished writing this piece two days ago, and it's already old news. Whitmer's visibility is now on an even steeper trajectory, partly due to the suicidal rally referred to here. She also appeared on Rachel Maddow last night, displaying all the poise, intelligence, and competence that brings out the worst in Trump's Michigan base. She seems to take their hatred as a given, and insists on focusing full time on fighting the virus, even as her haters welcome it into their homes. If they insist on removing themselves from the gene pool, there isn't much she can do about it.