CAN ‘A NOR­MAL PER­SON’ BE­COME GOV­ER­NOR?

Chicago Sun-Times - - TAKE 2 - Email: nstein­berg@ suntimes. com

J. B. Pritzker gave an­other $ 7 mil­lion to his own gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign Fri­day. Which, do­ing the math, is roughly the equiv­a­lent of me spend­ing $ 700 on a plumber.

Ex­cept it isn’t, my fi­nances be­ing a lot more close to the bone than his. I miss $ 700 more than he misses $ 7 mil­lion.

We both get value for our money. I get a new boiler pump. And Pritzker airs TV com­mer­cials like the one I saw Mon­day night, a poignant spot with melan­choly piano mu­sic and J. B. talk­ing about his mother, who died of al­co­holism. A med­ley of emo­tion, try­ing to hu­man­ize the bil­lion­aire.

It works. He comes off as very life­like.

Which is more than what could be done for Gov. Bruce Rauner, who couldn’t be ren­dered hu­man if Leo Bur­nett and J. Wal­ter Thomp­son rose up from the grave and gave him the head to­toe buff­ing makeover that Dorothy Gale gets upon ar­rival at the Emer­ald City.

No, the trouble is the whole no­tion of du­el­ing ty­coons.

The phone rang. It was Dan Biss, who is also run­ning for gov­er­nor but with­out ben­e­fit of an end­less geyser of money foun­tain­ing over his head. We talked about non­po­lit­i­cal things— who does that?— and laughed, for so long that I had to fi­nally drop the hint: This is fun, but I have work to do. What ex­actly is on your mind? The race, of course. “This has be­come a na­tional ref­er­en­dum on whether you can run for of­fice as a nor­mal per­son at all,” he said. “In the era of Trump we have to de­cide if you can run for of­fice if you’re not a bil­lion­aire. If you can’t run un­less you are fi­nanc­ing your­self, that is terrifying for democ­racy.”

“Terrifying for democ­racy” could be the head­ing for our era in fu­ture pub­lic school text­books. As­sum­ing, of course, we have pub­lic schools. Or text­books. Or a fu­ture.

I thought of quib­bling at Biss, with his Har­vard de­gree and MIT doc­tor­ate, cast­ing him­self as a reg­u­lar joe. But I guess on the Pritzker scale he is.

We do seem to be at a wa­ter­shed mo­ment when it comes to our na­tion’s long slide back into the Gilded Age, when the rich crowned them­selves in lau­rel branches and ate ban­quets on horse­back while the poor sold matches in the street.

Here’s the part I don’t un­der­stand. You would think, be­ing set for life, with enough to en­dow a dozen gen­er­a­tions, the rich would care about the world they are leav­ing be­hind. Care about the Earth, about our so­cial frame­work, which starts to hol­low out if 99 per­cent are in squirm­ing mis­ery. The Repub­li­can pol­icy now is a recipe for the 1 per­cent wak­ing up one morn­ing be­ing tarred and feath­ered and loaded into a tum­bril.

“You would think the su­per rich, who are ob­sessed with putting their names on stuff, would care about cli­mate change,” Biss said. “The Koch broth­ers want to de­stroy the world so they have $ 90 bil­lion next year in­stead of $ 70 bil­lion.”

He quoted ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Nick Hanauer, who wrote in 2014: “If we don’t do some­thing to fix the glar­ing in­equities in this econ­omy, the pitch­forks are go­ing to come for us. No so­ci­ety can sus­tain this kind of ris­ing in­equal­ity.”

Pitch­forks. I wouldn’t have be­lieved it be­fore. But we got Rauner. And we got Trump.

“Does it re­ally have to be this way?” Biss asked. “Are we go­ing to be told by Democrats that the only path for­ward is to pick our own bil­lion­aire?” Isn’t it? “I present the pub­lic a cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tive,” he said. “Oth­er­wise, we’ll have 17 bil­lion­aires hav­ing a meet­ing ev­ery four years to de­cide who will be gov­er­nor.”

Some­one— I’m not say­ing who, to throw cer­tain read­ers off the trail— sug­gested that vot­ers are back­ing the wealthy and ap­plaud­ing like seals as the rich tear down the so­cial safety net be­cause they are, for want of a bet­ter word, mo­rons.

“I don’t agree that peo­ple are mo­rons,” Biss said. “Peo­ple are quick to grav­i­tate to ar­gu­ments. I think: ‘ Oh my God, Don­ald Trump is pres­i­dent and he’s ter­ri­ble. Bruce Rauner is the gov­er­nor and he’s ter­ri­ble.’ Maybe in­ex­pe­ri­enced bil­lion­aires aren’t theway to go.”

Maybe not.

“IN THE ERA OF TRUMP WE HAVE TO DE­CIDE IF YOU CAN RUN FOR OF­FICE IF YOU’RE NOT A BIL­LION­AIRE. IF YOU CAN’ T RUN UN­LESS YOU ARE FI­NANC­ING YOUR­SELF, THAT IS TERRIFYING FORDEMOCRACY.” DANIEL BISS, Demo­cratic can­di­date also run­ning for gov­er­nor

| SUN- TIMESANDAPPHOTOS

J. B. Pritzker( left) andGov. BruceRauner

@ NeilStein­berg NEIL STEIN­BERG

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