The Good Governor
Above: Garlin Gilchrist II and Gretchen Whitmer, Election night. Photo courtesy Ann Arbor News
Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump lost in the 2022 midterm Michigan election.
Their money and influence with the Republican voter did not turn Michigan red. The state has returned to blue, for the first time in forty years.
And it looks like Michigan is going to remain blue for a while.
Why did Whitmer win and the Democrats regain a majority in the Legislature? Why did Michigan’s second woman Governor, who was grossly smeared for managing the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan get re-elected?
In no particular order:
Abortion, Infrastructure, Education, Clean Energy Investment.
In other words, the “second page” boring stuff of being a ‘good’ Governor. The stuff — except for abortion — that President Biden has accomplished to some degree during his two years as President but which have not moved his approval rating out of 42%.
All four of the above reasons voters cited to re-elect Whitmer could be written off as “experience,” but there is more: solidarity with the voters, for one; defending fair elections, for two.
Since the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, Whitmer has played the long game on women’s reproductive rights, using her previous experience as minority Senate leader to her advantage: she sued the state saying that a 1931 law forbidding abortion except in cases of protecting a woman’s life was unconstitutional. She claimed furthermore that she would campaign for women’s reproductive rights as the centerpiece of her office’s re-election.
Strategically, this gave her the advantage over her female opponent. Whitmer’s bold move gave her campaign for Governor national party prominence. Both Biden and Obama came to Michigan to campaign on her behalf and to campaign for an amendment on the ballot codifying Roe; so too, did Trump, to campaign for her opponent and for election deniers ‘down ballot.’ All this on “election prime time,” the Saturday before Tuesday’s election.
Whitmer also dismissed her opponent’s prime financial backer, Betsy DeVos, claiming that her opponent would follow the DeVos agenda of defunding public education, bleeding it so that Michiganders would have no alternative except to adopt private charter schools, a DeVos financial scheme. The ‘good Governor’ touted the largest investment in K-12 public education in Michigan’s history.
The infrastructure and clean energy investment strategy were post-Rust-Belt -industry boilerplate: invest in electric car manufacture and solar panel manufacture in Michigan.
On the ‘flip side’ and ‘down ballot,’ consider why Trump lost. Trump’s strategy of pitching election deniers Karamo for Secretary of State and DePerno for Attorney General landed with a thud. Both were defeated by Democrat candidates Jocelyn Benson and Dana Nessel, respectively.
House Democrat Problem-Solver Caucus (1) member Elissa Slotkin who was seeking a third term in a district that Trump won in 2016 and 2020 beat her opponent by 20,000 votes.
Someone voted for her and they weren’t all registered Democrats.
Here’s a clue — almost a third of Michigan voters identify themselves as independents. And they voted… for Democrat candidates.
1- Notably, Slotkin, a Democrat “centrist,” has a 100% Biden agenda voting record in the House.