Motorized vehicles have been banned on one of Michigan’s most prized natural areas since 1898, with the exception of emergency and construction vehicles.
Nevertheless, on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, eight cars descended on Mackinac Island as part of the vice president’s motorcade. Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press was the first to capture and share this horrifying historic moment.
“Vice President Mike Pence leaves the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island Saturday in an eight-vehicle motorcade – the island’s first ever.”
Mackinac Island draws almost a million visitors every year and is regarded as one of the most precious natural resources in Michigan. Only 450 people live on the small island and the get around on bicycles.
Mary McGuire, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau stated: “Bikes are just our way of life. 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 Island in 1975.
Therefore, when Pence broke the tradition over the weekend, controversy ensued. Multiple current and former Michigan resident reached out to Business Insider over email to share their thoughts.
“[This is] a true gem that has been assaulted in plain sight.”
Many argued that Pence’s choice to get around the island via motorcade besmirched the charms of the island. In Addition to the lack of cars, the architecture is characterized by wood or log-built buildings from the late 1700s and 1800s.
“Anyone who has visited the island knows the feeling of peace the moment they step away from modern technology.”
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has dedicated most of her governorship to environmental causes – particularly on water quality following the Flint water crisis. Many have blamed that crisis on her Republican predecessor, Gov. Rick Snyder. The Flint water crisis resulted in at least 12 deaths.
The governor’s press office told Business Insider that the governor had no comment on Pence’s transportation choice, and she has not spoken out about it.
However, Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, from Detroit, tweeted: “Banned for a century people, and here comes the Trump Administration trampling all over it, like they do the U.S. Constitution.”
Several Michiganders reacted to the video of Pence’s motorcade by recalling that their state played a major role in electing President Donald Trump. It was the first time since 1988 the left-leaning state threw their support behind a Republican candidate.
“Michiganders viciously protect their natural resources. I think Pence just made the biggest mistake of the 2020 re-election because people will not support an administration that does 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.”
Shane Treppa from Metro Detroit said the video convinced him to not support Trump in the 2020 election. He 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. I truly have lost all respect for Pence and his beliefs. No longer do I support these clowns.”
There are some sympathetic Michiganders who say they are fine with Pence’s motorcade, arguing that is a security issue. Alan Tomich was born and raised in Michigan and he believes the concern is overblown.
“I’ll bet that the majority of the negative responses are Trump and Republican haters. Big deal – he was on the island for a day with probably short trips in a motorcade. Get over it and worry about important things! I’ll bet if it was Obama nothing would have been said.”
Republican State Rep. Beau LaFave tweeted: “Remember last time a President rode around in a vehicle with no roof? His name was John F. Kennedy. The Vice President will not ride in a carriage because it’s against protocol and dangerous. We will not let out VP be in danger because snowflakes think he shouldn’t ride in a car.”
His take was quickly “ratioed,” receiving 2,100 replies and over 159 retweets suggesting that more Twitter users disagreed with LaFave’s perspective. Several people pointed out that Ford’s horse-drawn-carriage trip to Mackinac Island took place 12 years after Kennedy was assassinated.
Pence was on the island for the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference, long-held there. To make matters worse, he told the crowd that he visited Mackinac Island often while growing up.
By Jeanette Smith
Business Insider: ‘Pence has fouled our paradise’: Furious Michiganders slam the vice president after his motorcade descended on car-free Mackinac Island
The New York Times: A Motorcade on Mackinac Island? Pence’s Visit Breaks a Long Tradition
Detroit News: Shepler’s Ferry defends against Pence transport backlash
Image Courtesy of NASA HQ PHOTO’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License