Photos courtesy Priorities USA
Photos courtesy Priorities USA

Americans young and old, from Michigan to Florida, want President Trump to hear their voices. These selfie-letters are how they’re doing it.

A Michigan 7th-grader named Ashleigh calls on President Trump to “do his job and help our governor fix this.”

In Florida, a former Department of Defense official laid out exactly the ways Trump’s inaction has cost lives.

And in Pennsylvania, a public relations small business owner is struggling withTrump Administration  programs designed to help people like her. 

The residents young and old were part of a selfie-style video series submitted to the organization Priorities USA. 

Priorities USA is a major Democratic-aligned Super-PAC that has found a way to adapt to how the pandemic of novel coronavirus has changed politics. 

Instead of filming testimonials from voters, Priorities had voters film their own testimonials. The selfie video-letters to President Trump are a window into the world of political campaigns in the age of social distancing. 

The ‘Gander partnered with our sister publications The Americano and The Keystone to look at how these responses are playing across the country. 

From Those Deeply Concerned in Michigan

“The reality is, millions of Michiganders are confined to their homes right now and they are deeply concerned about the lack of leadership they’re seeing from Donald Trump in this moment of crisis,” Annika Doner, Outreach Director for Priorities Michigan told The ‘Gander. “These folks have some extra time on their hands and a desire to speak out, so it only made sense for us to give them an opportunity to use the tools they have at their disposal — their phones — to lift up their voices and hold the president accountable for his failures.”

And Ashleigh wasn’t alone. Polling The ‘Gander reported on shows that a majority of Michiganders support Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s response to the pandemic while over 60% of those surveyed didn’t support the way President Trump responded to the crisis. 

MORE FROM THE ‘GANDER: This Michigan Hospital Has Fewest Number of Coronavirus Patients Yet

“My daughter, who has chronic illness, felt unsafe in her home as her husband is an essential government employee for the State of Michigan,” Laurie from Vicksberg said in her own testimonial. “Less than a month ago, our President said within a week things were going to be down to zero and that this all was a Democratic hoax, adding to the division and dissention in our society. Making some of my friends on Facebook feel like they don’t need to social distance.”

And then there’s Dearborn’s veteran nurse, Rachel, whose testimonial set the record straight about the outright falsehoods the President shared about ventilators. Where the President cast doubts on the need for ventilators, Rachel explained what things were actually like for hospitals. 

“I’m not sure where he’d come up with this kind of idea,” she said. ““The things that he’s saying, his actions, are really proving the type of that person he is.”

From Those Seeking Accountability in Florida

To most Americans, the Coronavirus crisis started the day the president of the U.S. chose inaction over prevention, a recent poll shows. His slow response to the pandemic has gathered consensus amongst a majority of voters, and 60 percent agree that the stay-at-home orders should stay in place longer.

Some Floridians have also expressed their “disappointment” in Trump’s lack of response in a timely manner. Or as Dr. Frank Mora says “time lost because of his inaction.” The words hoax, lack of leadership and responsibility, no accountability, and lies are what Virgile Suárez — a resident of Tallahassee — thought most appropriate to express his frustration over what is going on in the Sunshine State. 

Here’s how Floridians feel about Trump and Coronavirus.

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“Basically, when you don’t have leadership coming out of the white house, this is what happens, right?” said Suárez. “People get misinformation. They don’t know exactly what to do, where to go, there are no tests and out of the white house we get nothing but lies and lies and lies.”

Suárez said that the entire mess resulting from the coronavirus pandemic is what happens when there is a lack of leadership from the White House. And Mora explained exactly what Suárez means.

“The White House expects that between 100,000 and 200,000 as a result of this crisis and particularly as a result of two months of critical time that were lost because of the President’s inaction,”said Mora, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. “He is incompetant and irresponsible in dealing with this crisis.”

Mora pointed out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised alarm in early January about the risk to American citizens, after the virus first became known in late December. Trump did nothing. He even argued that the virus would disappear in April, which doubled the total deaths from the pandemic in just the first week, reported the New York Post

From Those Unsupported in Pennsylvania

Paige Wolf, a small-business owner and mother of two, says she has always been active in politics. Before lockdown began in her home state of Pennsylvania, Wolf says she had planned to host a Q&A with her state representative in her home to talk with people about the voting process and encourage them to register to vote. That’s not a possibility now. 

“So there’s nothing I can do but post on social media and encourage people to get their mail-in ballot,” she says. 

In the video she recorded for Priorities USA, Wolf explains some of the personal reasons she is especially energized this election cycle, including the fact that her autoimmune deficiency puts her at particular risk, and concern for her sister-in-law who is a frontline health worker. She also says she’s experienced some economic fallout. 

“I have a small business, I’ve lost the vast majority of my income,” she says. “I’ve had no luck getting my stimulus check because of whatever glitches…I have not been able to get any kind of grants for the PPP [paycheck protection program] and the whole SBA [small business assistance] thing.” She also says she’s had trouble finding information on why she’s not being accepted for these programs. “I have literally done all the things that were meant to provide income, and that’s just the least of my problems.”

“I’ve had my business for 20 years and it’s been good and it’s been successful. Because I do public relations for other small businesses and things like festivals and special events — which are probably never going to be rescheduled — I’ve lost a huge chunk of my business.”  

MORE FROM THE KEYSTONE: Workers Are Taking Jobs on the Frontlines Because They Have No Other Options

Still, she says, she knows her own financial position is more secure than many others. 

“I’m fortunate that I have a husband who is still employed. We’re a two income household. Some two income households have lost all their income. We’re still at half, so we’ll survive financially.” 

But her immunocompromised condition, as well as studies indicating that even young and healthy people are sometimes dying of this virus, has Wolf extremely worried for her own physical safety and that of her children. She admits, “I’m sad, I’m scared, I’m anxious, and I’m angry.”

From Those Frustrated Americans Nationwide

These examples from The ‘Gander, The Americano and The Keystone are hardly outliers. As The ‘Gamder has reported, Americans overwhelmingly support the actions taken by governors to slow the spread of the pandemic and have been cautious or critical about the Trump Administration’s desire to return to business as usual as quickly as possible. 

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Take, for example, the story of two Wisconsinite women, both of who have underlying medical conditions that could raise their risks from the coronavirus.

Lynn is a retired nurse who can’t go back to the front lines of this fight because underlying medical conditions put her at risk. But she knows what nurses today are going through; she’s had to treat critical patients with too few supplies before. She, like many, called out the President’s poor leadership, and specifically the disbanding of the pandemic task force. 

Jacque said it felt like the country was taken off-guard by this crisis. She has a pre-existing, genetic, kidney condition and that elevated risk makes her very concerned about the response to the pandemic. She wants Trump to prioritize people over politics.

Priorities USA is still collecting video-letters to President Trump from frustrated, angry and disaffected Americans discontented with his leadership. 

“As Trump continues to mislead the American people and ignore the advice of experts  — after having failed to prepare our country to address the current crisis — we welcome Michiganders to continue to share their feelings about his ongoing chaotic response,” Doner from Priorities Michigan told The ‘Gander. “Whether they’re working on the front lines saving lives or staying at home, Michigan voters recognize that Donald Trump’s failed leadership made this crisis worse than it had to be, putting all our lives at further risk.”. 

In addition to Michigan, Priorities PA, Priorities Florida and Priorities Wisconsin have all been sharing videos of voters. Priorities Michigan specifically invited The ‘Gander to encourage voters tweet their selfie-letters both at Priorities and at our publications. 

“Sharing the stories of how Michiganders have been impacted, and why they’re frustrated with Trump’s chaotic ongoing response to the virus, is critical to holding him accountable and protecting our health now and in the future,” she said.