J.B. Pritzker’s Grasp of Politics 101 Shouldn’t Feel Like a Breath of Fresh Air, But Here We Are


So who’s the latest Democratic winner who is a) under 70, b) not in Washington, and c) knows how to talk the talk as well as walk the walk? Come on down, Gov. J. B. Pritzker of Illinois, running this year for reelection! Tuesday night was primary night, and Pritzker, whose renomination was in the bag, had something to say anyway:

We’ve received six credit upgrades! [Wild applause]

People, as Robert DeNiro puts it in another Chicago-based performance, have en-toozy-asms.

Four years ago, I said we would legalize marijuana. (Wild applause) Today, cannabis is safe and legal in Illinois. (Wild applause). And we’ve used the tax revenues raised by it to reinvest in the communities that were hit the hardest in the failed war on drugs. [Wild applause]

See? When you do something good that helps people, brag about it. Beat it like a tin drum. Thump your chest. Be your own brass band. Because, when you do that, people get happy and feel more accomplished, and they’re infinitely more receptive when you get serious with them about how grim our politics have become.

Last Friday, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe, I could hear my mother’s voice once again. And do you know what she said? Hell, no. I know that we’re facing a struggle in the heart of our nation right now. We Democrats play by the rules. We respect democracy. We honor our elections. We compromise and we work across the aisle on issues that voters care about. We want to believe that, surely, the GOP can come together with us and agree on common sense things that will make life easier and better for most Americans. But it seems like, lately, every time we extend a hand to the other side, it’s met with scorn, and we feel like Charlie Brown, looking back at Lucy holding the football.

Look, I’m an optimistic guy, as you all know. And I don’t want us to lose our hope. I won’t let us reduce our effort to build a better, less divisive political climate. We owe that to our children and our grandchildren. [Mild applause]

But in the face of what’s happening in this country today, in the face of what the Supreme Court and the radical right wing are trying to do to the fundamental rights of every American, we owe something else to our children and our grand children.

We owe it to them to win… [Interrupted by applause] …so they can inherit a future worthy of this great state.

Look how easy it is to talk this way, to motivate people to embrace enthusiastically a cause greater than themselves, to get them to believe in their own collective power as a self-governing people, to get them to stretch all those atrophied democratic muscles that have gone slack through cynicism, denial, and the aquarium lives into which we’ve all been forced for the last three years. And Pritzker is not exactly Barack Obama, charisma-wise, either. But he knows where to find the right chords on the old pipe organ.

We have a new rule. If you want to rule this state, you have to love every part of it. You have to love the streets and neighborhoods of Springfield, a city from which Abraham Lincoln launched his political career. You have to love Morton, the pumpkin capital of the world, and Decatur, the epicenter of some of the most bountiful land on Earth. You have to marvel at that breathtaking view of the hills of Little Egypt, driving south on Route 37 from Goreville. You can’t help but be inspired by the morning sun, glinting off the calm and ancient waters of the Cash River.

You have to love Macoupin County, where Mother Jones raised hell and organized workers, and Alton, with its steep brick streets, where the Mississippi River bends west to east, where Elijah Lovejoy became a martyr for his unwavering belief in the abolition of slavery and the free press.

And yes, Darren Bailey, you have to love Chicago.

Bailey is Pritzker’s Republican opponent in the upcoming, a bone-deep Trumpian downstate bite-in-the-ass who beat five other bites-in-the-ass by conjuring up the same kind of dark magic that put his idol in the White House in 2016. During the pandemic, Bailey got on the wingnut radar by suing Pritzker’s administration over lockdown orders and by refusing to wear a mask on the floor of the state senate. Subsequently, Bailey has refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, and he’s made the customary meal out of Chicago that downstate bites-in-the-ass regularly make. Bailey referred to the state’s largest and most internationally renowned city as a “hellhole” and supported a legislative move that Chicago be designated as its own state, although he dropped that notion when he began his campaign for governor. Pritzker reminded him of that on Tuesday night.

“Politicians time and again have tried to divide Illinoisans for political advantage. … It’s a cheap play that takes little effort. Someone who seeks out and accepts the endorsement of a racist, misogynist … twice-impeached former president does not deserve to come anywhere near this state’s highest office.”

(In fact, Bailey is so far off the diving board that the state’s Democrats put their thumbs on the scale of the GOP primary and helped him to the nomination. This has given some people the vapors — “My god, look at what happened in 2016!” —but those people forget that the strategy of finagling your preferred opponent through the process works as often as it does not. It worked for Sen. Claire McCaskill against Todd Akin, and it sure as hell worked for the Nixon people in 1972.)

This is really not that hard. Brag on your accomplishments, call out your opponents, and hang El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago around your opponent’s neck like a dead possum. Talk the talk, and the people will give you room to walk the walk.

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June 29, 2022 at 06:00PM

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