Oh, Bruce. I’m so disappointed in you.
I mean, you had such a good thing going. For the first time in a long time in Illinois, someone was running a Republican campaign for governor that was firing on all cylinders and racing for the finish line.
We hadn’t seen such a thing around these parts for quite a while. And it was something that many people realized they were hungering for: a smart, tough, no-nonsense kind of guy who was going to take it to Springfield and all of its special interests and really show them who was boss.
You certainly looked the part, with your Carhartt jackets and your $20 watch and your “Hammer and Shake” commercials. And you sounded it, too, with your talk about “union bosses” and entrenched interests in Springfield, and your push to kick everybody out of office once they’d served eight years.
Who cared, really, that you were a multi-millionaire many times over? Or that your fundraising base was made up in large part of wealthy donors like yourself? Or that your answer to the state’s pension problems was to give all the money to Wall Street types?
What mattered was that you said the state needed to be run like a business, and you were, well, a very successful businessman. And, if there was one thing a smart businessman knows, it’s how much his workers are worth, and how much they should be paid, right?
Oops. That’s where we went off the rails, isn't it?
First, you said you wanted to roll back the state’s minimum wage—the lowest possible amount an employer can pay a worker for any kind of job—by a dollar, from $8.25 to the national wage of $7.25. Then, when people got a bit upset, you said you were misunderstood and, what the hey—you were in fact for raising the state’s minimum wage, maybe even all the way up to $10.
Which was bad enough but maybe something your many admirers could have overlooked.
Of course, it’s 2014, and, well, Mitt Romney. You must have known someone out there had a video of you in September saying you were “adamantly, adamantly” opposed to raising the minimum wage. And that it would come out and make you look like a flip-flopper, or, worse, a craven political opportunist.
Which it absolutely did.
So, here’s the problem: it’s not a question about whether you are for or against raising the minimum wage, Bruce.
Anyone with a political pulse understands you are hardly a friend to the working men and women of Illinois, and that if you could, you’d slash the state’s minimum wage as low as it could go the minute you got into office.
No, that’s not the problem. The problem is that it’s very difficult to run a political campaign for higher office as a tough, outside truth teller if you get caught well, not telling the truth.
Even worse, such a gaffe—and your tortured attempts to explain it away and “clarify” your position—only opens you up to ridicule.
Because, just like Mitt Romeny’s infamous “47 percent” video where the Republican presidential candidate basically said half the country were moochers only looking for a free handout, once a video like that pops up, it’s damn hard to ever make it go away in the minds of voters.
That’s the kind of thing that’s hard to take, Bruce. That’s the kind of thing that disappoints me.
I was really enjoying the spectacle of a well-run Republican campaign for governor in Illinois.
Plus, I thought the Carharrt jacket and $20 watch thing was kind of cute.