Despite Olive Branch from Whitmer, GOP Showing No Interest in Cooperation in 2021

Gov. Whitmer struck a bipartisan tone in her State of the State Address, but it came just hours after Republicans started burning bridges.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is calling on Republicans in the Legislature to work with her, and her third State of the State address stressed the need for bipartisan cooperation. 

But is that possible after a year of Republican undercutting of Whitmer’s pandemic response and a slew of Legislative actions designed to stifle the governor within just the last week?

MichMash hosts Cheyna Roth and Jake Neher talk about whether there’s any room for common ground in Lansing.

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Whitmer’s 2021 State of the State address, was shorter than many expected. While part of that might be because it was held virtually and without long pauses for applause, it might also be because the governor’s speech wasn’t focused on a laundry list of accomplishments or goals. Instead, she went for an inspirational message, attempting to compel Michiganders (who have “grit!”) to stay the course a while longer in order to beat COVID-19.

She even extended an olive branch to Republicans, imploring them to work with her to get the state back on its feet.

“Let’s find common ground to grow our economy and get families and businesses back on their feet. That starts by ending the pandemic. The health of our economy is inextricably linked to the health of our people. Effectively rebuilding our economy this year requires that we protect public health. That hurdle is cleared easier and quicker if we work together.” – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Her passive tone was surprising to some, given that earlier that same day Republicans in the state Legislature blocked 13 of her appointments to positions in state government. Earlier in the week, state House Republicans gave the governor an ultimatum to either give up her pandemic powers or they would withhold billions of dollars in state aid for schools.

It’s a statement that indicates Republicans aren’t willing to negotiate much of anything in good faith.

So why would Whitmer strike such a passive tone toward Republicans in her State of the State speech?

In many ways, Whitmer is playing by the President Joe Biden playbook –- to keep focusing on working together despite the onslaught of pushback from Republicans.

Whitmer may have been ostensibly been addressing Republicans in her speech, but that tone indicates it was as much for regular Michiganders watching from home. She’s hoping to look like the adult in the room.

Many times throughout her tenure as governor when Republicans have given her significant pushback, she has really focused on her message that it’s her job to keep Michiganders safe, and with our grit and our toughness as Michigan residents, we are going to get through this together. In that way, her address stayed true to the messaging she’s been sharing all along.

While it’s not impossible for Republicans and Democrats to work together this year, it feels as though the relationship between the two parties – both in Michigan and nationally – is continuing to deteriorate. It looks like it will be a long 2021 for Michiganders.

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  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.