By Mark Glennon of Wirepoints
“We saw a future president,” a South Florida Democratic consultant told Politico after watching Gov. JB Pritzker’s Saturday keynote speech to 1,000 Florida Democrats. “That was one of the best Democratic speeches I have seen in a while,” he said. Another Florida Democratic consultant said, “What Gov. Pritzker has shown is a path to stand up proudly for a woman’s right to choose and how to tackle economic challenges but do it in a way that brings people together.”
Yes, by all reported accounts, the speech was well received by those who attended, as was his speech last month to a New Hampshire Democrats’ convention.
It was also as caustic, divisive and dishonest as you will hear in a political speech, bristling with hypocrisy, claims that failures were successes and just plain absurdities. If Pritzker’s goal was to stake out a position as the most hateful toward the half of Americans who are right of center, he couldn’t have done any better.
The full speech is linked here, but these are the highlights:
A primary Pritzker theme was equating Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with Donald Trump, about whom Pritzker used his favorite invectives – “racism, homophobia and misogyny.” DeSantis is “just Trump with a mask on,” Pritzker said.
“He’s trying to pass off his covert racism, homophobia and misogyny as a more reasonable form of Trump Republicanism.” Being a DeSantis Republican is “a little bit like saying you’ve never been a fan of Darth Vader but you support the Empire’s political agenda,” Pritzker said.
All Republicans, for that matter are simply evil, Pritzker effectively said, because they do not care about human life on even a single matter. “Whether it’s assault weapons, or back alley abortions, or vaccines, or protecting transgender youth, or a frothing mob of traitors marching toward the capitol looking to shoot members of Congress and hang the Vice President – Give me one example of the Republican party showing up for life in this country,” he said.
A “frothing mob of traitors marching toward the capitol looking to shoot members of Congress and hang the Vice President?” How many voters does he think buy that?
Pritzker’s outright falsehoods included some old standbys. He repeated the claim that “Trump said there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ at the Charlottesville white supremacy rally.” That one has been discredited over and over again, even by two CNN hosts.
Pritzker repeated the lie about what Florida’s restriction on teaching gender identity says, which is supported by DeSantis. “Under the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ agenda,” Pritzker said, “DeSantis wants to codify a modern day LGBTQ McCarthyism, forcing teachers to hide their marriages and children to out their peers at school.”
The bill says no such thing. It does not say “don’t say gay.” It only says classroom curriculum from kindergarten through third grade should not include teaching little children about gender identity. Two-thirds of Americans support that. “This polling reflects what our common sense already tells us,” one pollster said. “Only fanatics think the classroom curriculum from kindergarten through 3rd grade should include teaching little children about gender identity.”
He fumed about inflation. “It’s hard to find an affordable apartment. It’s almost impossible to buy a house, It’s hard to find baby formula.…”
Does he think Americans don’t know who has been in charge? Does he think we don’t know that he has been among the biggest cheerleaders of $14 trillion of federal spending posing as pandemic relief that is helping fuel inflation?
“Just for the record, Chicago should be no one’s punching bag,” he said, and went on to praise its virtues.
That hardly needs to be countered, but a reminder is in order that Chicago and all Illinois cities are instrumentalities of the state. He and the supermajority of his allies in the Illinois General Assembly have long held not just the power but the responsibility to intervene and force sensible reforms on the city, including prosecutions for crimes going unpunished. They’ve done nothing.
Pritzker celebrated the departure to Florida of billionaire Ken Griffin and former Gov. Bruce Rauner, telling Floridians they are “your problem now.”
But he made no mention of the enormous sums of money Griffin paid in taxes and contributed philanthropically while in Illinois. And no mention of the fortune Rauner made for Illinois public pensions when he was in venture capital here, or the fact that his management of pension money was supported by none other than the president of one of Illinois’ teacher unions, to which Pritzker bows every day.
He ridiculed the national call for law and order, which he said is a “call that points at Black and brown people and then they scream ‘lock them up!’”
Something different concerns him more: “We do, however, need to start recognizing that we have an epidemic of young men enamored with white nationalism shooting up their communities with assault weapons.”
There’s an “epidemic of such young men”?
Worst of all, respecting crime, he repeated the Biden Administration’s claim, which has been nationally ridiculed, that “our most pressing security threat is the rise of white domestic extremism.”
Republicans, he said, are “afraid of fighting inflation by producing goods Made in America.”
But wasn’t the demand for fair, reciprocal trade terms – particularly with China – among the most popular initiatives of the Trump Administration? And what has the Biden Administration done to address the baby formula shortage Pritzker complained about? Import 23 million bottles.
He repeated his two most consistent, biggest whoppers, which are that Illinois was facing unprecedented challenges because we had a Republican governor who decided to hold the state budget hostage” and that he fixed it with a balanced budget.
Both of those claims are absurd; we wrote about them specifically earlier this week.
“I passed a record setting infrastructure bill,” Pritzker bragged.
Hold on. That infrastructure bill was paid for with over $5 billion of regressive tax increases on the working class on things like car titles. It was a recklessly oversized $45 billion, as we explained at the time. And, it was passed in 2019 – before the gush of federal “pandemic relief,” much of which is for infrastructure. But the Illinois bill has never been cut back appropriately.
“I promised to enact a comprehensive, nation-leading law to fight climate change,” Pritzker said, and he did pass what is widely described as the most aggressive state form of the Green New Deal, forcing the state to turn entirely to renewable sources for electricity.
It’s now partially to blame for Illinois facing “high risk” of brownouts and 50% increases in electricity across two-thirds of the state, all of which is explained here.
He strongly implied that access to birth control and fertility treatment are at risk if his party does not prevail, which is hysterical nonsense. Nowhere is there a serious movement to block that access. Justice Clarence Thomas’ sole dissent in the Dobbs abortion decision would eliminate a constitutional guaranty of privacy, but states would have to act to block access to birth control and fertility treatments even if that opinion was ever accepted by a majority of the Court, and there’s no way states will do that.
DeSantis, Pritzker says, “pretended COVID was a minor disease by cooking the books on Florida’s COVID data, and refusing to order COVID vaccines for children under five” and he bragged about superior COVID policies in Illinois.
Wrong. COVID deaths per capita, age-adjusted, are nearly identical for Illinois and Florida and not far from the national average, but Florida did it without any of the most costly mandates in the nation, as Illinois did. Illinois was guilty of a long list of COVID policy mistakes that we have written about here and will be compiling soon. Over 400 studies have concluded that harsh lockdowns and other restraints like Illinois had were ineffective. And COVID vaccinations for children under five are extremely controversial.
“We honor the results of elections,” Pritzker said.
In Illinois, that would be elections based on the most gerrymandered map in the nation, which he approved in violation of what many regarded as his most important campaign promise – to deliver fair maps.
Yet, after all that, Pritzker said, “The Republican game plan is to divide Democrats and to divide America.”
Talk about projection.
Pritzker’s speech was well received by his allies, as noted at the top of this column. But it’s hard to imagine how any of the above will win over some of the 4 million Floridians who elected DeSantis, the 74 million who voted for Trump, however many millions identify as Republicans and countless others who are fed up with division and dishonesty.
“I’m here to tell you that the GOP is naked and afraid,” Pritzker said. If those GOPers read Pritzker’s speech and end up facing him, the challenge they in fact may face is overconfidence.
Credit Pritzker for ending his speech on an honest note. “We Democrats feel like we play by the rules – that we respect democracy….”
“But,” he went on:
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, the coalition of the sane, owe something else to our children and our grandchildren. We need to win.
He really didn’t need to say he has no intention of playing by rules. The speech showed it.