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Whitmer’s vaccine political playbook

You don’t want to wear a mask? Get a COVID-19 shot, and you don’t have to.

You want more fans to watch the Tigers lose? Get a shot and you can.

You’re dying to get back to work in the office? Roll up your sleeve.

That’s the upshot of the governor’s newest strategy to guide the state out of its nation-leading coronavirus surge and allow residents to do the stuff they want to do, rather than her telling them what not to do.

But they need the shot to get the freedom they long for.

In fact, that is the battle cry from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who cries out, “Let’s get back to normal,” but it’s up to Michiganders to comply.

Although it was not widely reported, the governor has done a 180 by chucking her dictatorship (as her GOP friends labeled it), thus giving you full control on when the state returns to normalcy. Now, she can step back and watch to see if it happens.

In reality, that is a brilliant political strategy, on a number of fronts.

Because she has linked the return to normal with the number of vaccinated residents, if the policy works and 70% of the population gets the shots, then the governor can take credit for getting us out of the COVID-19 tunnel she likes to talk about.

However — and here is the biggy for her — if folks ignore the shots and the state does not reach target vaccination plateaus, it’s not the governor’s fault. It’s yours.

Neat, hey?

She could run for reelection saying, “I gave the citizens the power to get us out of this mess, and they choose not to do it. So you can’t blame me for all those COVID-19 deaths and the hit our economy took.”

And there’s more.

At the same time she washes her hands of her responsibility, she can blame the legislative Republicans for not stepping up to convince their constituents to get the shots.

Under the heading of “be careful what you wish for,” those R’s for months have blasted the governor for imposing coronavirus restrictions without their input.

“Reopen the economy” was their steady drumbeat. “Get off the backs of the citizens and let them decide to do the right thing” was another.

And she has now done exactly that.

And, while she does not wish for it, the beautiful political benefit is most of the folks who are not getting inoculated are Republicans. Some don’t believe the pandemic is real; the mandatory mask mandate violates their personal freedom; the vaccine doesn’t work.

And the list of excuses for not following the governor’s request to get shots is as long as your unvaccinated arm.

And, at the end of the day, if the state does not relax the COVID-19 restrictions, the governor can also say the blame for that rests with the Republicans in this state who foolishly refused to do what needed to be done.

Call that the “vaccine that reelected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.”

Republicans now find themselves in a political trap they helped to set, not only with their constant harping at her previous “go-it-alone” strategy, which she has altered, but she even invited them to contribute ideas to the new blueprint, which they did.

So she might say — but would never put in these exact words — “It’s put up or shut up time for Republicans.”

She gave them what they wanted, and now they need to work their base to give her what she wants, i.e. 70% with a shot. And, if that doesn’t happen, she can say she tried, but the GOP failed.

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