Darren Bailey isn’t a martyr

Do you all remember about eight weeks ago when there was a brief kumbaya moment during this pandemic?

And then it was gone almost as quickly as it came, quickly replaced by protesters in Springfield, some with signs comparing Governor Pritzker (who is Jewish) to Hitler. Slowly, calls to reopen escalated and became a mainstream political position, thanks in-part to growing downstate frustration.

Chief among these voices of dissent has been Darren Bailey, a State Rep from tiny Clay County, Illinois. Bailey famously sued to release himself (and only himself, lol) from the Governor’s Executive Order, and won. This week, he returned to session in Springfield, refusing to wear a mask, giving a massive middle finger to public health authorities.

While this instance is just one of many of Bailey’s (awful) antics, the larger problem is the motivation that underpins his repeated protests. The idea that we need to return to business-as-usual is not only impossible and dangerous, but it also totally ignores Bailey’s sworn duty as a public servant.

Here’s the thing, though: that entire premise of Bailey’s protest is founded on a false choice and a manufactured boogeyman.

Bailey frequently positions this pandemic as a political issue. It’s not. He has tried to make the act of wearing a mask political. It’s not.

Not even our often-maligned Governor wants to be closed down forever. No Illinoisan wants to stay in their house any more than they have to at this point. We all miss the bar. We all either have bad haircuts or shaggy hair.

Bailey can stand on the steps of the Clay County courthouse and opine about opening up all he wants, but what he conveniently seems to forget is that we’re all locked down right now, and the experience is sub-optimal for all of us. Democrats aren’t just sitting inside our houses enjoying the quarantine paradise. We’re humans too.

Of course we want to open up. Look at the polling data. Of course we want to go back to work. But when elected officials like Bailey refuse to even attempt to understand the very real risk and fear that many have felt lately, their calls to re-open the economy appear to intentionally miss the point for a few political headlines and comments on WCIA’s Facebook page.

The government should provide the infrastructure make the population feel safe enough to go back into public again, in turn allowing business to return to semi-normal levels. That’s how we re-open. Not by blindly mocking the other side or plainly denying advice of public health experts.

Illinois won’t re-open by the population refusing to wear a mask or take any other practical distancing measures. Quite the opposite. Instead, Bailey should work to understand the amount of fear that many feel, and how he can take steps to make sure that number goes down. Once it does, the economy will come back, but it has to be done that order.

Don’t get me wrong, the current shelter-in-place Executive Order is certainly heavy-handed. There are legitimate and rational arguments against it, especially in rural areas, but flatly refusing to follow any guidance and pretending things will instantly snap back to normal isn’t one of them, and I’m pretty sure Bailey knows that.

Rep. Bailey isn’t a martyr. He serves no greater cause than himself, and there is a mountain of evidence to support this. That’s the literal opposite of a martyr.

He’s a grand-stander at best and malicious at worst. This was obvious when he contributed to a movement to cut Chicago out of the state, but now even his own party is catching on.