Gretchen Whitmer Wants a Gen X President — in 2028

It’s supposed to be about that, but one of the things that I know other Democrats have pointed to is that the Republican Party under Donald Trump has gone in a particular direction that makes that, they feel, very, very difficult. So that sounds great to sit and have a beer with your political adversary, but at the same time, there are huge chasms at the moment. It’s challenging. I don’t ever want to imply that it’s easy. It takes thick skin and a short memory. During the pandemic, when things were really at their hottest, when the former president singled me out and called me “that woman from Michigan” and I was getting a lot of threats, my Republican-led Legislature, who had worked with me pretty well up until that moment, really turned on me. That was the moment when everything kind of changed. I share a picture in the book from the window that I took on my phone when they had a demonstration. People showed up in their cars and shut down the capital city, and they were holding up signs calling me a Nazi. We saw Confederate flags. We saw a Barbie that was dressed like me and hanging from a noose. And it was shocking. I also had a Republican leader who took to calling me names and shared a stage with some of the folks who ultimately were tried for the plot to kidnap and kill me. And yet I had to keep negotiating with that guy, because I had to get a budget done.

Let’s talk about that era, because it was the period when you became a national figure. Very early on, you and then-President Trump were at odds, to put it mildly, and you became a symbol of what Republicans saw as draconian pandemic restrictions. You faced protests, death threats. In October 2020, 14 men ended up being arrested for plotting to kidnap you and overthrow the Michigan government. You write in the book that this was referred to in the press as a kidnapping plot, but you say that’s not accurate. Can you tell me why not? Not long ago, there was a single person that showed up on Justice Kavanaugh’s lawn, and it’s been covered as an assassination attempt. It was one person. He was apprehended well before any threat really became real to Justice Kavanaugh, and I’m grateful for that. I recognize a threat against anyone, no matter who they are, what their political views are, undermines our system of democracy, and I think that it’s really important that we all call it out when it happens. The way that was covered versus how 12 to 14 people who are plotting over a series of months, who were doing exercises — they had what they called a kill house, running through scenarios about how to kidnap me and kill me. And let’s be clear, they weren’t going to keep me for ransom. Their intention was to, like a terrorist organization, have a sham trial and then execute me. It was very clear in a lot of their communications that was the plan, and it was over the series of months they staked out a vacation property that my husband and I have, on more than one occasion. They had plots to blow up bridges and kill police officers as well, to even burn down the capital locking the Legislature inside. All of that has been labeled a kidnapping plot, and it does feel like it is to discount the seriousness.

You write in the book that you want to meet with one of the plotters who pleaded guilty who is in prison now. What do you want to know? I’d like to understand what drove this group of people to take this extreme position. I want to understand it.

You think there’s something to understand? Maybe. Maybe there’s not. But I’d like to see. I’d like to know. Is it because there wasn’t, for that person, economic opportunity? Was it because they got laid off during the pandemic and they were really worried about how they were going to make their house payment? What was it that set them off?

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