- Vice President Mike Pence traveled by an eight-car motorcade on Mackinac Island.
- The island is a natural gem in the state of Michigan, attracting nearly a million visitors annually.
- After videos of Pence’s motorcade on the car-free island circulated on social media, furious Michiganders slammed Pence’s choice of travel.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Motorized vehicles have been banned on one of Michigan’s prized natural possessions since 1898, save for emergency and construction vehicles.
But on Saturday, eight cars descended upon Mackinac Island as part of Vice President Mike Pence’s motorcade. Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press was the first to capture and share the historic moment:
—Paul Egan (@paulegan4) September 21, 2019
Mackinac Island (pronounced “Mackinaw”) draws nearly a million visitors each year and is regarded as one of the most precious natural resources in Michigan. Just 450 people live on the small destination, and they get around by bike.
“Bikes are just our way of life,” Mary McGuire Slevin, the executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau, told the sustainable-business news site TriplePundit. “They are like a part of our bodies, we don’t even think about it. When I see a tourist go out for a bike ride around the circumference of the island, you can just tell the difference when they come pedaling back into town — they are more relaxed and have a big smile on their face.”
Even Gerald Ford, the only president from Michigan, traveled by horse-drawn carriage when he visited Mackinac in 1975.
Michiganders are slamming Pence
So when Pence broke with tradition over the weekend, controversy ensued. Several current and former Michigan residents reached out to Business Insider over email to share their thoughts.
“(This is) a true gem that has been assaulted in plain sight,” Skaneateles, New York resident Bitsy Jennings Govern, who grew up in Michigan, told Business Insider.
—Kathy (@kathyinbluebell) September 22, 2019
Many bemoaned that Pence’s choice to get around by motorcade besmirched the charm of the island. Along with the lack of cars, Mackinac’s architecture is characterized by wood or log-built buildings, mostly from the late 1700s and 1800s.
“Anyone who has visited the island knows the feeling of peace the moment the step away from the modern technology,” Michigan native Heather Hill told Business Insider.
Chris Young, who lives in Southeastern Michigan close to the Ohio border, said he’s “livid.”
“It might not be the biggest environmental impact, but you’d better believe that it’s perceived as a huge middle finger waved at the entire state,” Young said. “The message, heard loud and clear, is that Trump and Pence will do as they like, no matter what the little people of Michigan think. Let them eat cake.”
—maggie (@MaggieKelli) September 23, 2019
—Julia Pulver, RN (@VotePulver) September 22, 2019
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has dedicated much of her governorship on environmental causes — particularly on water quality following the Flint water crisis. Many have blamed that crisis, which resulted in at least 12 deaths, on her Republican predecessor, Gov. Rick Snyder.
Whitmer’s press office told Business Insider that the governor had no comment on Pence’s choice of transport and that she hadn’t spoken out about it.
But Democratic US Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is from Detroit, wrote on Twitter:
—Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) September 22, 2019
‘No longer do I support these clowns’
Several Michiganders reacted to the video of Pence’s motorcade by recalling that their state actually played a major role in electing Donald Trump to the White House in 2016 — albeit, by a narrow margin of 11,800 people.
It was the first time the left-leaning state threw its support behind a Republican candidate since 1988, when George H.W. Bush won the presidency.
“I agree with those who say that this swings the state to the Democratic presidential candidate,” Michigan resident Young said. “Mackinac Island is beloved by everyone in Michigan — Republican, Democrat, and independent alike.”
—Steph B (@frugirlz) September 22, 2019
“Michiganders viciously protect their natural resources,” said Hill, who lives in Metro Detroit and grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “I think Pence just made the biggest mistake of the 2020 re-election because people will not support an administration that do not respect our state.
“You better expect Michigan to go blue in the upcoming election, because this is a transgression the state won’t forget,” she added.
Shane Treppa, who also lives in Metro Detroit, said the video convinced him to not support Trump in the 2020 election. Treppa did vote for Trump in 2016.
“I cannot believe the disrespect from our representatives to have the gall to run a motorcade on such a cherished part of Michigan,” Treppa told Business Insider. “I truly have lost all respect for Pence and his beliefs. No longer do I support these clowns.”
Some Michigan conservatives are supporting Trump
Still, some sympathetic Michiganders said they were fine with Pence’s motorcade, arguing that it’s a security issue. Alan Tomich, who was born and raised in Michigan, thinks the concern is overblown.
“I’ll bet that the majority of the negative responses are Trump and Republican haters,” Tomich told Buinsess Insider.
“Big deal — he was on the island for a day with probably short trips in a motorcade,” Tomich added. “Get over it and worry about important things! I’ll bet if that was Obama nothing would have been said.”
Republican State Rep. Beau LaFave said on Twitter: “We will not let our VP be in danger because snowflakes think he shouldn’t ride in a car.”
—Beau LaFave (@BeauMattLaFave) September 21, 2019
That take was quickly “ratioed,” receiving 2,100 replies over 159 retweets, suggesting that far more Twitter users disagreed with LaFave. Several folks pointed out that Ford’s horse-drawn-carriage trip to Mackinac took place 12 years after the Kennedy assassination.
As Business Insider’s Emma Court wrote on Sunday, citing The Detroit News, Pence was on Mackinac Island for the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference, long held there, and told the crowd he had visited Mackinac often while growing up and into adulthood.
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