As the potential for mask mandates and lockdowns returns, Michigan has already taken steps to make sure its executive will not wield as much power this time around, as a grassroots petition drive enabled the Michigan legislature to strip Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D, of unlimited emergency powers.
In a vote of 60-48, the Michigan House of Representatives followed the Michigan Senate’s lead and voted to repeal the Emergency Powers Act of 1945, which granted the governor the unfettered ability to unilaterally lock down the state and control minute aspects of people’s lives.
Whitmer had wielded that power without seeming concern for the distress she was causing Michiganders. Among other things, she banned outdoor winter sports and boating, sued an 80-year-old barber, jailed a female restauranteur, banned her residents from traveling outside of the state, forced ill-equipped nursing homes to take in active and contagious COVID patients (leading to massive and deadly outbreaks among those vulnerable populations), and kept stringent lockdown measures in place long after other states had lifted them. Throughout, Whitmer and her top staff were caught on several occasions violating those very same restrictions.
During an interview with “Fox and Friends First,” Michigan Congresswoman Lisa McClain said, “Yesterday was a great day for Michigan, and yesterday was anything but partisan politics. It was the voice of the people saying enough is enough.”
Indeed, the voice of the people did play a significant role, as the law was brought before the legislature due to a petition by Unlock Michigan. Fred Wszokek, spokesperson for the grassroots organization, said that its “citizen army collected over 540,000 signatures in just 80 days. Now, 292 days later, we’ll complete our mission with a final vote in the Legislature to end Gov. Whitmer’s rule by decree.”
Because the legislation was brought by petition, Whitmer is unable to veto the law, something she did when the state senate attempted to limit her powers in March 2020. The law will go into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session.
Whitmer’s harsh restrictions led to protests and even a kidnapping plot involving the FBI.
As governments consider further COVID restrictions, this action is a prime example of self-governance. The people did not want to be ruled by an executive with nearly unlimited authority so they took action.
Whitmer imposed some of the most stringent restrictions in the country and displayed seemingly monarchical disdain for her constituents, so it was imperative that her powers be limited. The very idea of American democracy is built on the idea of freedom from tyrants. Broad emergency powers allow governors to act as tyrants if they so choose, causing great harm to citizens, particularly business owners.
Local economies cannot handle another shutdown, and it is necessary that individuals stand up for their freedoms.
The American people were misled repeatedly during the COVID situation, and if they simply roll over and allow governments to once again seize unfettered power, they may never return to the ideal of a government by, of, and for the people.
As Thomas Jefferson said, “No government can continue good, but under the control of the people.” Any government left to its own will undoubtedly increase its power. It is up to the people to stem the tide of authoritarianism.
The people of Michigan have shown a nonviolent way to protect against government infringement, but it requires engagement in the political process beyond voting. If Americans are to secure their liberties they must be informed, interested, and active.