State Policy Network
Mackinac Center cartoon series calls out Michigan’s arbitrary lockdown rules

Sometimes, the best way to highlight the absurdity of government action is with a little humor. This is exactly what the Mackinac Center for Public Policy did as the Michigan Governor started issuing arbitrary lockdown measures in Michigan. By creating and sharing clever cartoons, Mackinac was able to reverse the tide of arbitrary government control during the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, the Michigan Governor began to enact closures and restrictions on businesses in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, many of these restrictions were random in their application, with many similar businesses receiving different types of restrictions. For example, chiropractors were allowed to carefully serve clients while following strict safety protocol, but barbers and cosmetologists, who could easily follow similar safety protocol, were outlawed. Home improvement stores under 50,000 square feet are allowed to sell plants and garden materials, but greenhouses were deemed non-essential. People could take out kayaks or sailboats, but not one-person vessels with a motor. The list goes on and on. Michiganders were upset and frustrated by these arbitrary orders. Many small business owners were scared that their livelihoods would be taken away from them, as many would not survive an extended lockdown.

In addition to the arbitrary nature of the rules, the governor was consistently implementing closures through unilateral actions that skirted the consent of the Legislature. Many people in Michigan felt the governor was abusing her power and wanted a voice in these lockdown decisions that upended their lives. 

The Mackinac Center recognized that the best way to convey the ridiculous nature of these restrictions was to illustrate them in a series of cartoons. Mackinac created a comprehensive communications plan and used their existing presence on Facebook to promote their cartoons to existing and new audiences. Their cartoons were generated into graphics on everything from small businesses and greenhouses to chiropractors and barbers. Mackinac even pointed out the contradictory policies governing different types of car washes.

One of the Mackinac Center’s cartoons

Mackinac targeted their Facebook ads at adults 35 an older who were more likely to feel the effects of the major disruptions to life caused by the closures. Through their efforts, over 1,800 new individuals signed up for Mackinac’s Opportunity Michigan, a campaign to reopen the state safely to protect economic well-being in addition to public health. Eventually, the cartoons took on a life of their own, with many Michigan residents and even lawmakers sharing the posts on social media. State think tanks within the Network started to ask Mackinac for similar cartoons. In just a few weeks, the cartoons had more than 100,000 views.

One of the Mackinac Center’s cartoons

Perhaps best of all, each time a new cartoon would appear, “coincidentally,” the arbitrary law it highlighted was soon repealed. By using a strong marketing campaign and existing social media infrastructure, the Mackinac Center was able to affect real change to protect liberty and economic well-being from arbitrary government interference. For their efforts to protect the livelihoods of millions of Michiganders, the Mackinac Center is a 2020 SPN Bob Williams Awards finalist in the Best Issue Campaign category, and 2020 SPN Communications Excellence Awards finalist for the Influential Marketing Campaign Award.

Organization: State Policy Network