Governor does not take on hate, despite own call to do so just six days prior.

EAST LANSING, MI—Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered the Democratic response to the president’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

It wasn’t a direct rebuttal; instead, the governor hewed closely to pre-scripted remarks that focused on issues like infrastructure, the economy, and health care.

“I’d need a lot more than 10 minutes to respond to what the president just said. So instead of talking about what he is saying, I am going to highlight what Democrats are doing,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer’s response hit on many of the same topics she addressed in her own State of the State, including a recycled story about a 13-year-old boy who took it upon himself to fill potholes with dirt. The governor did not, however, use the nationally televised opportunity to take on the rising tide of anti-Semitism and other hate speech, despite her own call to stand up to hate just six days prior.

In her Jan. 29 State of the State address, Whitmer said that “we’ve also seen an uptick in hateful, harmful language in Michigan and across the country. A lot of it starts in Washington, D.C. and now it feels like it’s working its way to Lansing.” The governor then called for action, saying, “Let’s all live up to our responsibility to stand up to hate and harassment.” But comments along those lines were entirely absent from her State of the Union response.

(The governor did not reference specific incidents in her earlier State of the State speech or offer specific solutions, and the governor’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Detroit Jewish News.)

It’s unlikely that a call for civility would have been heeded: President Trump did not shake Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand when he arrived at the podium. And after the conclusion of his rally-like address, Pelosi pointedly tore the text of the president’s speech in half.

Whitmer for VP?

The State of the Union response is frequently used to elevate a political party’s rising stars (or at least, that’s the oft-repeated conventional wisdom). And Whitmer — a female Democratic governor of a Midwest swing state that Trump won by a slim margin in 2016 —is certainly in the pool of those who might be asked to join a presidential ticket.

Whitmer has previously responded to speculation that she may run for vice president with a flat “No.” But it’s worth noting that the speech drew a sharp contrast: While President Trump used his speech to rattle off one positive indicator of a strong economy after another, Whitmer offered a stark assessment in which growing inequality is leaving many Americans behind, and asserted this contrast:

“Every Democrat running for president has a plan to expand health care for all Americans,” Whitmer said. “Democrats are trying to make your health care better; Republicans in Washington are trying to take it away.”

Whitmer also used the opportunity to specifically name-check nine Democratic governors and tout their accomplishments — a politically smart way to win friends.

 

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