When I put my hand on the Bible at my inauguration, it did not occur to me that less than two years later, I would have to tell my daughters about a plot against me. But earlier this month, I learned that a multistate terrorist group was planning to kidnap and possibly kill me. Law-enforcement announced charges against 14 people as part of the plot. As jarring as that was, just over a week later, President Donald Trump traveled to Michigan, and when a crowd chanted “Lock her up” after he mentioned me, he said, “Lock them all up.”
I am not surprised. I have watched the president wedge a deeper divide in our country; refuse to denounce white supremacists on a national debate stage; and launch cruel, adolescent attacks on women like Senator Kamala Harris and public-health leaders like Anthony Fauci. And while I won’t let anything distract me from doing my job as governor, I will not stand back and let the president, or anyone else, put my colleagues and fellow Americans in danger without holding him accountable.
Every time the president ramps up this violent rhetoric, every time he fires up Twitter to launch another broadside against me, my family and I see a surge of vicious attacks sent our way. This is no coincidence, and the president knows it. He is sowing division and putting leaders, especially women leaders, at risk. And all because he thinks it will help his reelection.
Look no further than the president calling me a “dictator” on Fox News, Mitch McConnell laughing on the debate stage as his Democratic challenger called on him to save lives by passing a COVID-19 relief bill, or Republican legislative leaders right here in Michigan fraternizing with those who stormed the Michigan capitol, long guns in hand. From the White House all the way down to state and local governments, these leaders have shown a disdain for unity and have failed to rally fellow Americans against a common enemy: COVID-19.
Even now, as leaders from both sides of the aisle call on him to tone down his violent rhetoric, Trump just keeps going, hostile as ever. He is trying to distract Americans from his failure to protect our families and trying to divide us further to win the election. He has taken to Twitter to spread lies and launch cheap insults against those with whom he disagrees. Eight months into the pandemic, he still does not have a plan to protect our frontline workers or rebuild our economy. He has only lies, vitriol, and hate. And as we saw earlier this month, his violent rhetoric puts leaders across the country in danger.
We cannot count on President Trump to rebuild America. We cannot expect him to unite us against violence and hate. Fueling the deep divisions within our country is a tactic he has been using for years, often with the help of social-media platforms like Facebook, which domestic terrorists used to organize the plot against me.
I grew up during a time when Republicans and Democrats routinely worked across the aisle to get things done, whether it was at the federal level or at the state level right here in Michigan. I grew up in a bipartisan household, with a dad who worked for a Republican governor and a mom who worked for the Democratic state attorney general. This was a time when, as the late Representative John Dingell wrote in his last words to America, leaders “observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death.” Our leaders knew that at the end of the day, we are all Americans; we all deserve to be treated with humanity and respect. And they were bound by their calling to public service. Those were the values I learned when I sat down at the dinner table with my parents every night.
That is what this election is about. This election is about looking our kids in the eye and proving to them that we did everything in our power to build a stronger, safer, more sustainable America for everyone.
The past four years have been the worst version of America. Ever since Donald Trump first stepped foot in the White House, we have moved away from the common ideals and values that are supposed to unify us as a country, putting leaders across the country—including me—in danger. This president has failed our country, and it is on all of us to come together to turn things around. We deserve better.