If you were surprised by Monday night’s big announcement in Effingham, you haven’t been paying attention since pretty much the start of the pandemic. For months, it’s been evident that Darren Bailey, a Republican state lawmaker from the town of Xenia, has been gearing up to challenge Democratic Governor JB Pritzker in 2022.
Bailey is now a state senator, a job he’s held for less than two months after winning the seat in the November election. Before that, he was a state representative and eternal thorn in Pritzker’s side, filing lawsuits and getting in front of any camera or microphone he could find to criticize the governor’s mandates and shutdown orders put in place to slow the spread of the deadly virus.
But while the pandemic is what propelled a back-bench lawmaker to statewide notoriety, it was barely an afterthought during Bailey’s announcement speech Monday night. It was certainly not on the minds of his assembled supporters, almost none of whom were wearing masks as they crowded into a reception room to hear Bailey launch his campaign.
That crowd of potential superspreaders didn’t hear Bailey talk much about the pandemic. They did get to hear a lot of other standard platitudes and talking points, but it’s what Darren Bailey didn’t tell them that is perhaps more interesting.
For example, he talked about how as governor, he would impose a “spending freeze” and would eventually, by the end of a theoretical eight years in office, deliver a tax cut to the residents of Illinois. But he offered no clue as to how he would achieve that.
In fairness, campaign announcement speeches are not the usual venue for detailed policy pronouncements. But Bailey has been in the legislature for a while now, and like most in his party, has never offered any specifics on what he would cut – and who would suffer as a result – in order to achieve a reduction in discretionary spending that would not only offset increases in the state’s mandated costs (pensions, bond payments, etc.) but would erase the structural deficit and pay down the backlog of bills. If he can’t do those things, he can’t keep that promise. But that wasn’t discussed.
Bailey positioned himself as from the “working class,” not the “political class.” But he didn’t explain how a guy who is launching his next campaign less than four months after wrapping up the last one – a guy with a big campaign bus parked outside his announcement – isn’t part of the political class. Helpful hint: if you’re raising money, traveling the state, giving speeches, and asking people for their vote, you’re part of the “political class.”
Bailey also tossed around a word rather freely: “corrupt.” It’s a handy catch-all for many political hopefuls, but the senator didn’t really specify who he thinks deserves that label. Mike Madigan? Madigan’s gone, from the legislature and from the Democratic Party of Illinois. So what is the basis for that label? Just throwing it around without anything to back it up seems contrary to the religious faith that Bailey says is central to his life and his political pursuits.
Candidate Bailey also omitted something that Lawmaker Bailey got behind pretty vocally – his call for Downstate Illinois to secede from Chicago. It’s a ludicrous idea, but Lawmaker Bailey seemed pretty proud of it for a while, until he launched a bid for statewide office where he’s going to need some of those Chicago votes.
Ultimately, where Darren Bailey hopes to set himself apart from what is likely to be a crowded field of Republican hopefuls is the pandemic. Not only did Bailey sue Pritzker over shutdowns and mandates, he spent a lot of time actively encouraging individuals and businesses to defy those orders. So it’s interesting he didn’t say much about it during his announcement speech – but he did discuss it the next morning in an interview on WMAY.
In that interview, Bailey insisted again, as he claimed in court, that Pritzker didn’t have the right to impose such extreme measures, despite the public health crisis facing the state. But what he didn’t mention was that over and over again, courts across Illinois (with the exception of one judge in Bailey’s own backyard) have sided with Pritzker and against the claims made by Bailey and others.
Bailey says people should have been free to conduct themselves as they wish, to take precautions if they wanted, and to throw caution to the wind if so inclined (like Bailey’s announcement speech audience). Once again, he doesn’t come out and say it, but the obvious inference is that Bailey would have done nothing to slow the spread of the virus. He says government’s job is to “inform,” not to impose mandates – yet would a Governor Bailey have “informed” people to wear masks, when he himself has been openly skeptical of them? Would he have encouraged social distancing as governor when he does the exact opposite as a candidate? Would he have done anything while hospitals filled up and the death toll mounted?
“We are a free people,” Sen. Bailey says repeatedly, and that is true. But as most of us understand innately, with freedom comes responsibility, and at times freedom comes with limits. You won’t hear that from candidate Bailey, either.
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via WMAY | Stay Informed. Stay Connected. https://www.wmay.com
February 23, 2021 at 12:57PM