Jim Dey | High-rising candidate set up to crash and burn

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Anger and rage are not sturdy political platforms.

But don’t tell that to Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey of Clay County.

A recent poll shows the 56-year-old farmer is about to turn his resentment of Chicago and all things liberal into a successful campaign in the June 28 Republican gubernatorial primary.

But if past is prologue, he’ll learn on the second Tuesday in November that a red-hot minority of voters sustained by disdain is no match for a majority, particularly in the Democratic state of Illinois.

It may surprise some, but Bailey’s newfound dominance was always what the GOP’s more moderate members feared.

Bailey, one of six GOP candidates, is running as a true believer, emphasizing his opposition to high taxes, legal abortion as well as his reverence for former President Donald Trump. By appealing to uncompromising conservatives and embittered pro-Trumpers, he looks to be attracting a solid plurality of voters.

A recent joint Chicago Sun-Times/WBEZ poll shows Bailey with a 15-point lead over his chief rival, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.

Noting the “potentially seismic shift” in the race, WBEZ said its recent poll of “677 likely Republican voters” is “the first public opinion poll to put Bailey ahead of the pack” with a significant number undecided.

Ironically, what animates Bailey and his supporters most are issues on which he can have or will have no influence even if elected. That makes his effort one based solely on grievance.

For example, rather than look ahead, Bailey insists on re-litigating the 2020 election President Trump lost. That has nothing to do with Illinois’ future, but his angry supporters don’t care.

On taxes and social issues, does anyone think that Gov. Bailey’s proposals to make abortion illegal or lower taxes would pass a Democratic legislature?

Abortion is a hot issue in 2022 because of the likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the decades-old decision — Roe v. Wade — that mandated its legalization nationwide.

But that would not make abortion illegal, it would return the issue to individual state legislatures for resolution.

Illinois already has the most — or one of the most — liberal abortion laws in the nation standing by if Roe is overturned. Indeed, Illinois stands to become an abortion mecca if other states adopt restrictions or ban it outright. That’s the way super-majority Democrats want it, and that’s the way it will stay.

But don’t try telling that to Bailey backers — the un-wokerati. They won’t buy it because they can’t buy it, their emotions and lack of familiarity with political reality guiding their thinking.

To them, Bailey’s litany of complaints is manna from heaven. To support a less dogmatic candidate — like Irvin or lower profile rivals like Jesse Sullivan or Paul Schimpf — is the equivalent of surrendering to the dark side.

The other key factor in Bailey’s rise is Irvin’s fall, if it is that. Backed by the professional political class and Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin, Irvin is perceived by Democrats as a viable threat.

Why else would Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association pour millions of dollars into campaign ads blasting Irvin and touting — yes, touting — Bailey? They know who the easier candidate to beat in November is.

Politics, as they say, is about addition, not subtraction.

Voters appreciate a straight-talker, and that’s been one of Irvin’s problems. But a candidate with flame-thrower rhetoric alienates those who haven’t signed up for his cause.

That’s why Bailey and his backers are setting themselves up to go down in flames on election day. Like political zealots who have come before, they’ll take self-righteous satisfaction in their noble failure.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

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June 16, 2022 at 07:24AM

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