“I cannot express to you what an insult the sight of anyone in a car on Mackinac Island is to us. It’s like putting your dirty shoes on someone’s lovely dining room table during dinner,” posted Michigan native Joanna Schroeder. Schroeder, along with many others, is deeply critical of Vice President Mike Pence for bringing an eight car motorcade to Michigan’s Mackinac Island, where cars have been banned for more than a century. Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib (D) joined in on the chorus of criticism of Pence, appearing to indicate it was part of the larger issue of the Trump administration’s disrespect on many fronts, tweeting, “Disgusting. I am in such disbelief that this was allowed to happen. This Administration doesn’t care about the law (you know, the U.S. Constitution), so it shouldn’t surprise me so much that they don’t care about our history or traditions.”
Disgusting. I am in such disbelief that this was allowed to happen. This Administration doesn't care about the law (you know, the U.S. Constitution), so it shouldn't surprise me so much that they don't care about our history or traditions. #MackinacIsland https://t.co/jvyMBCakrG
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) September 22, 2019
On Mackinac Island, depending on the season, bicycles and snowmobiles are prominent modes of transport for commuters amid the car ban, although there are apparently particular circumstances where permits to use a car may be granted on a temporary basis, as was the case here apparently. Pence went to the island to attend the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. While Pence’s side would likely argue that the motorcade was necessary for security reasons, one could also say that Pence could simply have chosen not to go to Mackinac Island, in order to respect the traditions its vehicle ban represents – he was there, after all, for political purposes, not for official duties. Or he could have opted to use some other mode of transport, addressing security in other ways. President Ford apparently visited Mackinac Island while he was in office, but was transported around the island by horse and buggy, with a car brought over that was not used. Also, video of Pence’s motorcade shows it being preceded by police officers on bicycles, suggesting speed was not the object. According to The Hill:
Vice President Pence’s arrival in Michigan with an eight-vehicle motorcade to attend the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference over the weekend ruffled some feathers on an island where cars are generally banned, the Detroit Free Press reported. …The ban first took effect in the late 19th century, Time magazine reported. According to the Detroit Free Press, the vice president’s motorcade is the first ever to arrive in the community, where residents generally commute by bike or snowmobile in colder weather. However, residents can be granted a temporary vehicle permit in certain circumstances. It has long been custom for the president and vice president to travel with several armored vehicles by motorcade as a security measure. However, the sight of the vice president’s motorcade on Mackinac Island prompted some criticism from local Democratic leaders.
This tweet includes video showing Pence’s motorcade being preceded by police officers on bicycles, while adding, “Ridiculous, unnecessary Mackinac Island @VP Pence motorcade which is disrespectful of Mackinac traditions.”
— Mark Brewer (@MarkBrewerDems) September 21, 2019
This tweet from journalist Mark Cavitt references visits to Mackinac Island by previous presidents, saying that Ford was the only president to visit while in office, apparently managing to do so without using a car. Cavitt writes, “Photos of Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy visiting Mackinac island. Ford is only sitting U.S. President to visit the island. He used a horse and buggy to get around. (Yes, a vehicle was brought over, but he never used it.)”
Photos of Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy visiting Mackinac island
Ford is only sitting U.S. President to visit the island. He used a horse and buggy to get around. (Yes, a vehicle was brought over, but he never used it.) pic.twitter.com/7JxiQeoIVk
— Mark Cavitt (@MarkCavitt) September 22, 2019
In the scheme of things, where the Trump administration is mired by potential violations of law, by ethical scandals, by the courting of dictators, by the alienation of allies, by the deliberate undermining of environmental protections meant to safeguard human health, by failure to recognize the authority of Congress, by going so far as to ignore lawful subpoenas, this case of disrespect for local tradition is of course a small thing. But it is emblematic of the larger problem of failing to consider consequences and failing to show concern for the will of the people, which on Mackinac Island very clearly involves not wanting there to be car traffic. As Representative Tlaib (D-MI) tweeted, “This Administration doesn’t care about the law (you know, the U.S. Constitution), so it shouldn’t surprise me so much that they don’t care about our history or traditions.” The lack of respect shown by the Trump administration appears across a broad array of topics.