Only in America

Preppers, survivalists, libertarians, and assorted make-believe soldiers of private militias will gather tomorrow around the Michigan state capitol building in Lansing to express their anger over Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, now extended to 31 May. Mrs Whitmer has become the focal point of right-wing protest against measures that seek to limit the pandemic’s impact on society. They argue that the restrictions infringe on civil liberties guaranteed by the US constitution.

Last month, a mob of gun-toting militia members staged displays of civic power and managed to enter the state house in a scene both intimidating to the representatives who work there and reminiscent of apocalyptic disaster movies depicting a world gone mad.

At the time, President Donald Trump suggested the governor strike a deal with the protesters: “Give a little and put out the fire.” In one of his many disjointed tweets, the president had called for the ‘liberation’ of Virginia, also ruled by Democrats, saying that the state was ‘under siege’ and peppering his rallying cry with the obligatory exclamation marks. The implicit approval of the president emboldened the protesters in Michigan.

On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel revealed that her office had detected a number of ‘credible threats’ against elected officials. In a Facebook group set up by militia members, commenters wondered openly how long it would take for the governor to meet with the business end of a shotgun.

Even Republicans are now scrambling to diffuse tensions and create a socially acceptable distance between their party and the mob. During Tuesday’s lockdown debate, Republican state senate majority leader Mike Shirkey called the protesters ‘thugs’ and their actions ‘despicable’: “It is never OK to threaten the safety or life of another person, elected or otherwise, period.” However, Republicans stopped short of banning the brandishing of weapons inside the state capitol as proposed by the Democrats. The sanctity of the second amendment is, after all, not to be violated.

However, ‘that woman from Michigan’, as President Trump insists on calling Governor Whitmer, may yet become a foe to be reckoned with. She stands a good chance of becoming Joe Biden’s running mate on the Democratic ticket. Notwithstanding the antics of local right-wingers, Governor Whitmer enjoys a 72 percent approval rating amongst residents of her state. According to a recent poll commissioned by The Washington Post, President Trump’s handling of the pandemic inspires trust in just 42 percent of Americans – a shockingly high number considering his erratic performance as commander in chief. Only in America.