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Gretchen Whitmer Is Both Loved And Hated In Michigan — And Still 'Fighting Like Hell'


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The story of the midterm elections is playing out in this closely divided state, where the incumbent Democratic governor stands in the way of MAGA Republicans and their plans.

Jonathan Cohn

Nov 5, 2022


A former actor, business manager and right-wing commentator, Dixon has accused Whitmer of backing “radical sex and gender activists” who put “pornography” in schools, of trying to defund the police rather than fight crime, and of using taxpayer dollars to subsidize Chinese communists. She routinely refers to Whitmer as “Gretchen” rather than using her title and, during a September campaign swing where Donald Trump Jr. was a guest, she used the abduction plot as the punchline of a joke about Whitmer’s COVID-19 closure orders. “For someone so worried about being kidnapped,” Dixon said, “Gretchen Whitmer sure is good at taking business hostage and holding it for ransom.”


Behind Dixon’s rhetoric is a far-right agenda with far-reaching potential to change life in Michigan, especially if Republicans win other statewide races and keep control of the legislature. A school funding proposal backed by former Trump Cabinet member Betsy DeVos could lead to a program that puts public money into private schools. Abortion could become illegal, thanks to a 1931 prohibition that Republicans have said they will enforce. And the state’s election machinery could fall into the hands of Trump supporters determined to “stop the steal” in 2024, when Michigan’s electoral votes could plausibly determine who wins the White House.

To succeed, Republicans need to get past Whitmer. And they’ve got plenty of voters cheering them on. The people here are as anxious about inflation and crime as any in America. Many are angry about the way pandemic restrictions affected their lives, or about what their kids are learning (and not learning) in school. Whitmer has to answer for all of this, just like so many other Democrats running for office this year.

But Whitmer has a lot going for her, too. I have followed her career closely, going back to that 2018 campaign, when I interviewed her as she was making the rounds in suburban Detroit diners. I tracked her efforts to fix the roads and to steer the state through COVID. For the last three months, I’ve been attending campaign events, interviewing people who love her and people who hate her, and speaking directly with her in a series of short conversations.




Top Comment

"Like or dislike Whitmer, she knows what she's doing. Tudor Dixon would be a trainwreck if asked to actually run the state. This isn't like being a Rep. and being more social media focused than job focused like MTG or AOC. This is running a state. Spewing attacks, looking for catchy soundbites doesn't sell people on having you control their futures. Owning the libs isn't a political platform."


"OMG! Every decision she made was a complete disaster! Coronavirus proved she has no idea what she is doing!"


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