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From the Political Action Club: A Profile on Gretchen Whitmer

At a time when politics can feel so bleak, the Political Action Club at Friends wanted to remind you that there is still great hope to be found. We are starting a series of articles in The Insight to share leaders you should know about and social justice causes you should be aware of. We can all be joyful warriors in the fight for equality and together we can restore decency and enthusiasm to our politics. 

A Democratic governor from a swing state in the Midwest, Gretchen Whitmer is seen by many to be a rising star and a potential future presidential candidate. With a strong Michigan accent and remarkable fearlessness, she has attracted national attention for her strong electoral victories, the progressive but pragmatic policies she has passed, and her viral moments which range from the much heavier personal stories she told to the lighter pop culture campaigns she led. Her first experience in the national spotlight came from a speech she gave as a Michigan state senator during a debate on abortion where she shared that she was a rape victim. More recently, her Governor Barbie project was extensively documented in the New York Times. She has been a persistent champion of abortion rights, and in November 2022 not only was she reelected by double-digits, but she also helped to flip both chambers of the state legislature, resulting in a Democratic trifecta for the first time in 40 years, albeit by slim margins. 

She was on the shortlist to be Joe Biden’s vice president, and several national profiles have speculated that she could have been the Democratic nominee for 2024 if President Biden had not decided to run again. Whitmer even has her own theme song, “Big Gretch,” by Detroit rapper GmacCash. Released in the spring of 2020, the song praises her for the state’s pandemic response with the nickname serving as a term of endearment. However, there was such great backlash to her COVID-era restrictions from far-right extremists that a militia group plotted to kidnap and possibly assassinate her. The FBI foiled the scheme, and nine of the 14 men charged in connection with the plan have been convicted, with the leader of the plot sentenced to 16 years in prison. 

Whitmer was raised in a bipartisan and civically engaged household. Initially she wanted to be a sports broadcaster but after an internship at the state capitol she developed a love of public service. In her second inaugural address, she said that Michiganders expected their leaders “to embody the values they live up to everyday—grit and grace.” A mass shooting last February at Michigan State University, Whitmer’s alma mater, prompted swift action on gun control at her behest, leading to universal background checks and safe storage laws. In addition, the Michigan legislature has passed bills for tax cuts, free breakfast and lunch for public school students, and protections of reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights. For all of the admiration and speculation surrounding her, Whitmer views her role in the political world in more humble terms, remarking in an interview for Vanity Fair, “I am just a normal person, in an extraordinary job, at an extraordinary time.”

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Sebastian Tirschwell, Junior Editor
Sebastian is in 11th grade and is serving as Junior Editor this year. He loves to travel and play tennis. He is an editor on The Insight because he enjoys journalism and its process.

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