President Trump is waging war against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. She fits the qualifications of the ideal Trump villain: She’s a Democrat, she’s a woman, and she declines to show the same deference towards him as most of his sycophants. But Trump’s disdain toward Whitmer isn’t just run-of-the-mill hostility and pettiness unfolding for public consumption; it’s a form of gendered disdain that will exacerbate covid-19's severity in the state of Michigan.
As Trump reprimands and scolds Democratic governors across the United States, he is showing disproportionate preferential treatment for those he favors. For example, Florida, where Trump yes-man Ron DeSantis is governor, has reportedly received multiple shipments of the medical supplies they’ve requested to combat covid-19, according to FEMA documents. Many other states—including Michigan—have not been so lucky. Whitmer has long expressed frustration about the shortage of tests and supplies in her state, and has accused the Trump administration of poor planning for covid-19. While some equipment has arrived in Michigan, it will soon run out. Meanwhile, orders for protective equipment have been delayed or canceled entirely due to bidding wars between states.
Health and Human Services insists that the federal government isn’t playing favorites, and that the distribution is merely based on an assessment of the state’s needs. But it’s hard to take that at face value when the President is publicly attacking Whitmer and blaming her incompetence, rather than a lack of supplies, for the rising number of covid-19 cases and deaths in the state of Michigan. As of Monday morning, there were 5,472 confirmed covid-19 cases in Michigan and 132 deaths, making it the state with the fifth-highest death toll in the country.
During an interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday, Trump claimed that Whitmer wasn’t doing enough to help her state, referring to her as a new governor who wasn’t pleasant to work with.
“We’ve had a big problem with the young—a woman governor,” Trump said. “You know who I’m talking about—from Michigan. We don’t like to see the complaints.”
That evening, Whitmer tweeted, “Hi, my name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me.” She added: “I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan—prove it.”
During a White House press briefing the next day, Trump quipped that he advised Vice President Mike Pence not to contact “the woman from Michigan” because she wasn’t appreciative of his help. He noted that Pence intended to call her anyway.
Later, Trump upped the ante and tweeted that he loves Michigan and is doing a great job handling the covid-19 pandemic, but that “... your Governor, Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer is way in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude!”
But Whitmer has ordered strict social distancing guidelines in her state to help prevent covid-19's spread—unlike DeSantis of Florida, who Trump lauded as doing a “fantastic job” in the face of this pandemic.
It’s obvious who is inept in this situation. It’s not Whitmer.
But Whitmer has now been marked as a difficult, insolent woman, and given Trump’s long history of disdain for strong-willed women—or any woman who dares to stand up to him—he’s eager to punish Whitmer for having the audacity to refuse to play into the narrative of Trump: America’s Covid-19 Savior. So he resorts to his comfort zone: Name-calling and dismissals. It’s the same attitude he deployed against PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor during Sunday’s White House press briefing, when he warned her not to be “threatening” and interrupted her as she asked a question, imploring her to be more “positive.”
In the Trump universe, women should have smiles plastered to their faces and speak of his good tidings. Otherwise, they’re either useless or threats. Trump views Whitmer as a threat for simply asking for the federal government’s help, and because of his own ego and demands for loyalty no matter what, Michiganders may well suffer because of it.