Republicans are “naked and afraid,” Illinois J.B. Pritzker said, and that’s what’s driving their policies of fear, he told Florida Democrats at their annual Leadership Blue Gala.
Dems gathered in Tampa showing every bit the energy and motivation it will take if they want to upend the conventional wisdom this year that sees wins for Republicans up and down the ballot.
Pritzker, a man who knows something about beating incumbent Republicans by knocking out then-Gov. Bruce Rauner by nearly 16 points in 2018, spoke to motivate Democrats and to center their purpose.
Pritzker, a billionaire businessman who also owns a residence in Florida, also helped establish the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. He said he decided to speak to Florida Dems as part of his other efforts in life to fight hate and discrimination.
“What I worry about most is the dangerous complacency that we’ve fallen into that’s wrapped its poisonous arms around our political conversations, and tried to trick us into believing that calling out the truth is some sort of incivility,” Pritzker said.
The strategy for the GOP, he said, is division.
“The Republican game plan is to divide Democrats and to divide America,” Pritzker said. “They want to task obvious solutions to everyday problems as something ‘exotic’ or ‘woke.’ They’re hoping, as the old story goes, that no one is willing to say that their emperor has no clothes. Well Florida, I’m here to tell you that the GOP is naked and afraid.”
A lot of the fear also extends to economic policy, he argued.
“They’re afraid of workers’ rights to organize and bargain,” Pritzker said. “They’re afraid of fighting inflation by producing goods made in America. They’re afraid of holding bad corporate actors accountable for driving up prices. They’re afraid of fiscal policy that says that the highest income earners, like me, should pay the highest tax rates.
“They’re afraid of raising the minimum wage, because it might unshackle the working poor. They’re afraid of a Democratic agenda that prioritizes building wealth around Black and Brown communities — in communities that have been left out and left behind. They’re afraid when Democrats say plainly that you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you never had any boots.”
The gala, which featured a recorded message from actor Mark Hamill, had a bit of a Star Wars theme to it, into which Pritzker tapped. He discussed how Republicans these days, burned out on Donald Trump and his baggage — which includes the Capitol insurrection — are turning to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Which is a little like saying you’ve never been a fan of Darth Vader, but you support the Empire’s political agenda,” Pritzker said.
DeSantis is “subtle Trump,” he said — Trump with a mask on.
“He’s trying to pass off his covert racism, homophobia and misogyny as a more-reasonable form of Trump Republicanism,” Pritzker said.
Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried spoke earlier to varying levels of crowd excitement, but Pritzker benefitted by the crowd blowing the ceiling off for U.S. Senate nominee Val Demings, who had gala attendees cheering and on their feet.