September 29, 2022

Candidates: Don’t make comparisons to the Holocaust

The season of political overreaction is upon us.

Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) found himself in hot water last week after the campaign of Gov. JB Pritzker found a 2017 video of Bailey comparing the loss of life to abortion to the Holocaust.

Here’s some advice for political candidates: don’t compare anything to the Holocaust. Don’t mention Hitler. And don’t talk about Nazis. Ever.

As you can imagine, the Pritzker campaign, Chicago media and pro-abortion rights folks went ballistic about Bailey’s comments, calling them disqualifying and alleging he is anti-Semitic.

Let’s all take off our partisan glasses for a moment.

I’ve been a harsh critic of Bailey and his band of southeastern Illinois Republicans who are driving the party right with no plan to win and no real plan to govern. I’ve feuded with them in primaries in 2016, 2018 and 2020. So, I’m nobody who can be considered “in the tank” for the GOP nominee.

Bailey is one of the truest of true believer pro-life candidates. He believes an abortion, right or wrong, ends a life. While he has softened on his previous stance against exceptions, now supporting abortion if it saves the life of a mother, he’s among the 15% of voters, according to polling, who are the most conservative on abortion.

As I watched the video in question, it’s clear Bailey was trying to do a simple comparison of numbers. The nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute reported around 2.7 million abortions in the United States between 2017 and 2020.

As you likely know, there were around 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust.

The way he said it was terrible, simply put. It was a foot-in-mouth, stupid, bad choice of words. But if you think Darren Bailey is an anti-Semite for the way he stumbled through a Facebook video 5 years ago, you’re letting your partisanship show.

Unfortunately for Bailey, his attempt to clear things up didn’t help deal with the firestorm when he said this last week:

“The Holocaust is a human tragedy without parallel. In no way was I attempting to diminish the atrocities of the Holocaust and its stain on history. I meant to emphasize the tragedy of millions of babies being lost. I support and have met with many people in the Jewish community in Illinois and look forward to continuing to work with them to make Illinois a safer and more affordable place for everyone.”

What could have made it better?

“I’m sorry for my poor choice of words” would have helped.

The partisan response was out there, and it drove the narrative of the day. Personal PAC CEO Terry Cosgrove, one of the most influential and divisive abortion rights advocates in the state, sent a blistering release about Bailey.

“Personal PAC joins Gov. Pritzker, the Jewish community and all decent Illinoisans in condemning the irresponsible and contemptuous comments of Darren Bailey. People who hold these dangerous views should have absolutely no place in government.”

Abortion is one of the binary issues of our politics. Either you’re on one side or you’re on the other. There are those who are pro-choice people who are for restrictions like on partial birth or late-term abortions. And there are pro-life people who will make exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother or for emergencies. But there’s a deep emotional reaction that drives this political argument. Those emotions won’t be settled.

We can at least make an effort to listen to the views of the other side without making obscene charges like calling Darren Bailey an anti-Semite or the terrible things you see on social media daily targeting JB Pritzker.

Pritzker is probably going to win re-election, and Bailey is making a lot of unforced errors that should have been found and cleaned up by his team months ago. But let’s stop the fear mongering. It was a dumb thing for Bailey to say and I’m sure he knows it now if he didn’t before, but let’s not drag the debate even lower than we’re already at.

• Patrick Pfingsten is a former journalist and Republican strategist who writes The Illinoize statewide political newsletter. Read more at www.theillinoize.com or contact him at patrick@theillinoize.com.

Patrick Pfingsten

Patrick Pfingsten

Patrick Pfingsten is a former award-winning journalist and Republican strategist who writes The Illinoize statewide political newsletter.