We must re-open Michigan without Rep. Bergman's divisive demagoguery

The pain and frustration of Northern Michiganders is apparent. I share it. COVID-19 has wrecked havoc on our cherished way of life and subsequently divided our region. Yesterday, Rep. Jack Bergman capitalized on that division with demagoguery straight from Donald Trump's playbook with an abrasive op-ed.

Apparently Gen. Bergman wants an unfettered immediate opening of our district. While I agree that the 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' order in its current state cannot last forever, too much is at risk to approach reopening rashly and non-surgically.

In the next few weeks, we'll need a serious plan. Instead of offering one, Bergman accused Governor Whitmer of auditioning for Vice President, called her a totalitarian, and evoked a 'Road to the White House' campaign as the premise for his statements. These partisan self promoting tools won't get us far.

Our Congressperson needs to come to the table with concessions that work within Michigan's six phase reopening plan and draw attention to our regional concerns. I am a proponent of continuing strict adherence to CDC guidelines, and using positive relationships and diplomacy to help us accomplish something more viable for the 1st District.

By contrast, Rep. Bergman supports the Trump Administration's broad brush national approach, trusts the President's judgement, and attacks our efforts to save lives. This is not a solution. This is not leadership.

His rhetoric sows further discord in our communities. Now more than ever, we need to come to the table and map out our future, together. Our district is in one of its most precarious situations in recent memory. Regardless of our frustrations and contrasting philosophies on the role of government, we need unity.

Northern Michigan is distinct, but rural areas are not immune to disease, and we can attribute a lot of our successes mitigating COVID-19 to social distancing. From our geographic position, we have the unfortunate opportunity to see the effects of two different COVID-19 strategies; an open one from our neighbors in Wisconsin and the moderately restrictive mitigation strategies from Michigan. We'll be able to analyze a comparison of the two in the next few weeks, just as Whitmer's executive order expires.

We must ask for patience. At this moment, it's irresponsible to ask our governor to follow the ruling of another state's split Supreme Court without truly understanding the consequences.

We all have heard key phrases like "flatten the curve," "second wave" and "herd immunity" but our understanding of—and protocol for—a novel virus needs to be ever-evolving. It's difficult when expert analysis counters visceral feelings about our own cabin fever, but a leader does not cause chaos by brashly pandering to emotions. Every state, every rural district is facing similar challenges. I do not take this lightly. Businesses and families are struggling.

Michiganders want to get back to work. I've talked to small business owners who are facing real harrowing fears and families who are worried about their immuncompromised and elderly loved-ones. I've looked them in the eye as they shared their concerns and frustrations.

This is a very difficult time for us all. When it came time for Rep. Bergman to support a relief stimulus package that would lift them and the economy from the bottom up, he vehemently opposed it calling the bills "feckless socialism." I respectfully disagree. These are not handouts. It's aid for struggling families and businesses while leaders work tirelessly to establish a new normalcy.

I agree Northern Michigan is distinct and should be approached differently, but reopening must be delicate. If all we're doing is choosing between President Trump's national solutions over Governor Whitmer's regional approach, we're just creating further disarray.

Our comeback needs to be strategic and calculated with a priority on the health, wellness and prosperity of our people. This district cannot afford to be forgotten or swept up in the mudslinging between representatives and executives. We will achieve nothing with destructive criticism. The enemy is COVID-19, not each other.

Dana Ferguson

B.A. (Economics)

Masters (Public Administration)

Democratic Candidate for US Congress, Michigan's 1st District