Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was all smiles at the 28th Annual Webby Awards in New York City on Tuesday, while Michiganders back home grappled with the state’s ongoing decline.

Whitmer on Monday donned a pink dress to match her “Lil’ Gretch” persona and celebrate the “success” of her “Governor Barbie” online campaign last year, which featured the Whitmer lookalike cruising the state in a vintage pink Corvette to tout the governor’s policies on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Threads, and Facebook.

Go Ad-Free, Get Content, Go Premium Today - $1 Trial

“Lil’ Gretch was a way for us to communicate with people the good important work we’re doing in government, but also to make it current and fun,” Whitmer said in her red carpet interview. “So, she’s been great.”

Progressive political operative Amanda Litman with Run For Something presented Whitmer with her Webby Award for public service and activism, heaping praise on the Michigan’s 49th governor for leveraging the popularity of the recent Barbie movie to promote herself.

“This summer, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and her team brought humanity and humor back to the business of governing with her viral series of Governor Barbie social videos,” Litman said. “Governor Barbie was, first of all, really fun. And by brilliantly tapping into a massive pop culture moment via social media, Governor Whitmer engaged the voters in her state and beyond.”

Go Ad-Free, Get Content, Go Premium Today - $1 Trial

Whitmer offered a five-word acceptance speech: “Wear pink. Get shit done.”

While celebrities and influencers applauded Whitmer’s online accomplishments, folks in Michigan were largely focused on the decline her policies have produced back home.

Analysis since the pandemic has shown Whitmer’s unilateral edicts cost Michigan one third of its small- and mid-sized businesses, 81,900 jobs, and years of learning loss in schools across the state.

Those edicts have since been ruled unconstitutional, but have contributed along with other Whitmer policies to a freefall across a variety of metrics experts use to gauge success in governance.

The most recent evidence includes U.S News & World Report’s 2024 “Best States” analysis, which ranked Michigan 42nd for 2024, sliding from 41st last year.

The analysis uses eight categories of metrics that “draw on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens,” and the Great Lakes State ranked in the bottom half of every single one.

The data shows Michigan students have below average math test scores, are less likely to graduate high school, and leave college with more debt compared to the national average. Whitmer’s Michigan also has a higher poverty rate, lower median household income, more industrial toxins, more drinking water violations, less renewable energy usage, worse roads, and higher rates of incarceration and violent crime than most states.

Another analysis of the best high schools from the same site last month ranked Michigan 31st nationally, based on 2021-22 data on college readiness, college curriculum breadth, state assessment proficiency, state assessment performance, underserved student performance, and graduation rate.

“Michigan ranked 31st in a comparison of states with the highest percentage of top-ranked public high schools, dropping five spots from its ranking last year of 26th when it tied with Kentucky,” according to U.S. News & World Report.

Other measures of Whitmer’s performance have come from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall Street, the United Van Lines’ 47th Annual National Movers Study, and the governor’s own Growing Michigan Together Council, which have all documented the state’s lagging population growth that’s predicted to turn into decline by next decade.

The Census Bureau’s estimates for 2022 showed Michigan ranked 49th among states for population growth since 2000, behind only West Virginia, while 24/7 Wall Street used the bureau’s 2022 survey of 43 metropolitan statistical areas between 2017 and 2022 to dub Kalamazoo “the fastest shrinking city in the nation.”

In the United Van Lines study, Michigan ranked fifth for top outbound states for 2023, behind only New Jersey, Illinois, North Dakota, and New York.

The reasons why were documented by Whitmer’s Growing Michigan Together Council, which found the state is “lagging in median income, educational outcomes, and attainment and have fallen behind faster-growing peer states in key measures of infrastructure, community well-being, and job opportunities” in a report late last year.

“Outbound migration will continue to be an issue, and I suspect accelerate unless our state makes an about-face in its policy choices,” Michael LaFaive, senior director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, told The Midwesterner, citing the repeal of the state’s right-to-work law and other policies from Whitmer and her Democratic allies in the Legislature that have driven up costs for Michiganders.

“Economics 101 tells us if you raise the price of anything less will be demanded of it,” he said. “So, if lawmakers raise the cost of living, working, and creating jobs, we’ll get less living in Michigan, fewer jobs, and less wealth too.”