The beloved Mackinac Island has upheld the tradition of remaining automobile-free for over a century- until Vice President Mike Pence visited- arriving in an eight car motorcade. Since 1898, all motorized cars have been banned from the island’s streets with the exception of emergency and service vehicles. Traveling on the island consists mainly of biking, walking, or riding horse-drawn carriages, and this is an important reason of many that the island is able to maintain the quaint and peaceful atmosphere that attracts so many.
As a Michigander, the charming city is one that I value as a source of childhood nostalgia and of pride for my home state. But the recent visit made by Vice President Pence has been the focal point of some serious and well-reasoned criticism. On the Saturday of September 21st, Pence attended and spoke at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, arriving to the Grand Hotel in an eight car motorcade. This heedless and negligent action taken by the vice president was unnecessary and thoughtless, despite the argument that the extra security was paramount.
Pence is not the first official to have visited the island, but he is the first to have so inadvertently compromised the alluring atmosphere by using not one but eight motorized vehicles during the visit, which, considering the culture of the island and its customs, is an act of blatant disrespect to the people he was jointly elected to serve. This is comparable, some point out, to cultural violations like wearing dirty shoes in a Japanese tatami room, and was accurately described by public relations executive Ron Fournier as “sacrilege”. 38th President Gerald R. Ford, who grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the only sitting president to visit the island. While security was also an issue for President Ford, he traveled by horse drawn carriage, with emergency vehicles at hand on the island for extra caution. In no way would a similar security plan have been less effective for Pence, and simply adhering to such an important custom would’ve been at least a gesture of respect.
It seems that the issue was less about safety, and more about the careless attitude of our vice president. Though his actions provoked condemnation and shock for many Michiganders, a representative of the Trump administration exhibiting this type of behavior is neither surprising nor the most outrageous controversial move we’ve witnessed since the beginning of this president’s term.