Just when we were really getting to know Darren Bailey, history sweeps him back to the downstate cornfield whence he sprouted.
A shame. I’m not sure exactly where Bailey belongs in the range of inept Illinois Republican candidates. Not as feckless as xenophobe airborne milkman Jim Oberweis, warning about the immigrant peril. Not as goofy as carpetbagger Alan Keyes. But then who could be? The man has a cameo in “Borat.”
Maybe we could smile at Bailey because he was never a threat. Because Illinois has become an island of blue reason and civil liberty in a vast sea of red Trumpy malice, delusion and proto-fascism. Bailey was declared a loser by the Associated Press at the stroke of 7 p.m. At least, unlike his orange hero, it seems he’ll accept the results of a free election.
What, if anything, will be remembered about Bailey? Kicking off his campaign by curling up in Donald Trump’s lap and purring until he was petted? His repeatedly calling Chicago a “hellhole?” His stunt of moving into 875 N. Michigan Avenue, in order to expose himself to the dangers of a Gold Coast luxury high-rise?
The most interesting aspect of the race, to me, was back in June when the Democratic Governors Association poured millions into stealth commercials that boosted Bailey — the idea being Bailey would be easier to beat than Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. That was either a) savvy politics, or b) playing with fire in an era when the GOP could rally behind former college football star and current nincompoop Herschel Walker as their offering to the U.S. Senate from Georgia.
We can’t let the oddity of Bailey prompt us to ignore our governor entirely. J.B. Pritzker ... what do you say? He must really, really want to be governor. He plowed $171 million into his 2018 victory, and then put another $152 million into 2022. Can anyone make an observation about him that isn’t somehow tainted by the third of a billion dollars worth of hype firehosed at us over the past four years?
Squinting hard ... trying to be impartial ... Pritzker seemed to handle COVID-19 rationally — that’s one reason they hate him downstate, a place where the government asking citizens to wear a cotton mask when shopping at Schnucks is oppression, but forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term is God’s will.
See the problem? It’s hard to focus on a competent public official like Pritzker when you’ve got an invertebrate like Bailey on the slab, ready for dissection. He is certainly a man of parts — an educator, remember. Bailey founded his own school, the Full Armor Christian Academy. With a curriculum taken from Bob Jones University, texts that cast God as a divine slaver and faith in weaponry: “WARNING,” read red signs posted around the school. “STAFF HEAVILY ARMED.”
Illinois is a rock, the churning red wave crashing all around us. The next two years will roil, as Republicans methodically undermine our democratic system, trying to make sure they never have to suffer the ignominy of citizens casting more ballots for another party. For anyone who truly loves the United States, these will be hard years. But don’t be swayed by those surrendering to despair, declaring the death of democracy. Not yet. Not if we can help it. The battle might be lost; the struggle continues.
We can take comfort that our own house is in order and that, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, the arc of history is long and bends toward justice. Though that arc sure is taking its sweet time about it.