Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has had a lot to deal with this week, from the coronavirus pandemic and job losses to severe flooding in parts of her state. But where there are real problems, there are also far-right extremists and diehard MAGA voters obsessing over non-issues — and journalist Tim Alberta, in an article for Politico, examines some of the things they have been focusing on in that key battleground state.
On May 21, President Donald Trump visited Michigan — where he hasn’t been shy about offering political red meat for his MAGA base.
“Just 24 hours before he arrived in Michigan,” Alberta notes, “the president launched a dangerous disinformation campaign, accusing the secretary of state of going ‘rogue’ by illegally sending absentee ballots to every Michigan voter. He threatened to block funding to Michigan — a state beleaguered by multiple converging disasters, including one that was unfolding just as the tweet was sent: ‘if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!’”
At a time when coronavirus and flooding are a double whammy in Michigan, Trump and his hardcore MAGA base are worried about mail-in ballots being a source of voter fraud in the state. But truth be told, voting by mail is something that Republicans have a long history of supporting. And as Alberta explains, Trump is promoting fear over a problem that doesn’t exist.
In Michigan, Alberta writes, “Voters were sent applications to vote absentee, a practice consistent with a newly adopted Michigan law — a law that exists in other states, red and blue alike. The Michigan GOP has itself sent out applications. There is nothing sordid or illegitimate going on; both parties here understand the rules of the game and are attempting to master them before November. But Trump is playing his own game.”
Politico interviewed an abundance of MAGA voters in Michigan on May 21, and found that they bought into Trump’s bogus voter fraud claims.
“In conversation after conversation with voters here Thursday,” Alberta reports, “Trump supporters repeatedly — and completely unsolicited — say Democrats are attempting to steal the election from the president.”
Michigan is also where far-right wingnuts have been holding raucous anti-shutdown rallies, declaring that Whitmer’s stay-at-home order is an anti-Trump conspiracy and that she is exaggerating the dangers of coronavirus. “Obamagate” is another non-issue MAGA voters are buying into.
But according to polls, most Michigan residents approve of the way Whitmer has handled the coronavirus crisis.
A statewide poll by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, released May 20, found that 86% of Michigan voters believe that COVID-19 is a threat to public health — not a hoax. The poll also found that 69% of Michigan voters believe that the recent anti-shutdown protests in Lansing sent the wrong message and that only 11% of Michigan voters refuse to wear a mask in public when they go out.
The poll found 64% approval for Whitmer’s coronavirus response; that figure includes voters in general, but the number leaps to 96% approval among Democrats. Among independents, the number was 65%.
Recent polls have also found Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in Michigan by 6% (Public Policy Polling), 3% (Change Research) or 8% (Redfield & Wilton Strategies).