Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker aptly condemned Republican attacks recently on schools, libraries and learning itself as an attack on American values. “It’s an ideological battle by the right wing, hiding behind a claim that they would protect our children,” the Democratic governor said during his annual State of the State address this month, “but whose real intention is to marginalize people and ideas they don’t like.”
It’s a message more Democrats should be bluntly conveying — and one that should elevate Pritzker as a national figure.
In that sense, the speech was reminiscent of Pritzker’s election-night victory speech last November in which — after winning election to a second term by more than 10 points over a radical-right Republican backed by former President Donald Trump — he excoriated the GOP for being “too cowardly, too simpering to support the best interests of the nation because they’re afraid of being called insulting nicknames by a whiny bully.”
While that speech was aimed largely at the unfit former president and the fact that most of the GOP continues to support him, the State of the State address contained pointed (if unnamed) jabs at another likely Republican presidential contender, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Pritzker warned of “a virulent strain of nationalism plaguing our nation,” one that seeks to make America a country “that bans books from school libraries about racism … and tells kids they can’t talk about being gay” and “signals to Black and brown people and Asian Americans and Jews and Muslims that our authentic stories can’t be told.” He called for learning that teaches kids “our true history, warts and all.” This is 180 degrees from DeSantis’ ideological agenda in Florida — an agenda supported nationally by too many in his party.
After inheriting an Illinois government reeling from decades of financial mismanagement by both parties, Pritzker has reined in the state’s once-careening public pension debt, earning the state its first credit upgrades in two decades. Illinois’ pandemic-related health care system performance — defined by such factors as vaccination and hospitalization rates — was ranked 12th in the nation last year by The Commonwealth Fund. (Florida was ranked 25th; Republican-controlled Missouri was 40th.) Pritzker’s strong advocacy of reasonable firearms restrictions has helped keep Illinois in the bottom half of states in terms of firearms death rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Missouri is fourth from the top.
No wonder The Washington Post and other national analysts consistently include Pritzker on the short list of Democrats who might realistically run for president next year if Joe Biden doesn’t seek reelection. Regardless of whether that comes to pass, Pritzker is providing a strong case — in both rhetoric and deed — for why returning the White House to Trump or a similarly radical Republican would be a colossal mistake for America.
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February 27, 2023 at 07:16PM