Smile Politely

The dangerous prospect of Governor Rodney Davis

We’re a couple of months into 2021, and Republican candidates are starting to emerge for the 2022 gubernatorial race in Illinois. No doubt it will be a packed primary. Republicans have had plenty of ire for Governor J.B. Pritzker, specifically because they believe they would have handled the pandemic more effectively than he has. They would’ve preferred an Iowa or South Dakota approach of keeping the state “open” no matter the health consequences. Illinois State Senator Darren Bailey (R, Xenia) is a prime example of this. He announced his candidacy in a crowded, maskless ballroom on Monday. You know him because he refused to wear a mask on the house floor, and sued Governor Pritzker for issuing an emergency order to protect Illinois citizens, a lawsuit which was ultimately thrown out.

The U.S. Congressional future for Illinois is uncertain. Following the 2020 Census, Illinois will likely lose a seat, leaving some of our representatives weighing their political options. Last week, Politico reported that IL-13 Rep. Rodney Davis hasn’t ruled out running for governor if the district shake up affects his prospects. As the article points out, Davis has referred to Pritzker as an “unmitigated disaster”. It’s not ideal to have him as our representative, but the damage he is capable of is slightly diluted at the national level due to a Democratically-controlled House. However, the possibility of Davis as governor is frightening.  

In the post-Trump-led-insurrection era, there are Republicans who are attempting to cling to some sort of mythological existence of a party with morals. IL-16 Rep. Adam Kinzinger has made a national name for himself with his quest to reclaim the party. Kinzinger’s willingness to speak out about how many in his party have a cult-like allegiance to Trump is somewhat admirable (even his own family members are sending him hate mail). But let’s be real: The Republican Party he believes is the “real” Republican Party does not exist. Rather, there are basically two main facets: Those who unabashedly flaunt their racism and QAnon conspiracies, and those who pretend to want “bipartisanship”, “unity”, and “civility” while continually aligning themselves with the former group. Davis is the latter, and that makes him more dangerous. 

Yes, Republicans like GA-14 Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and IL-15 Rep. Mary Miller are awful. They fully embrace the awful — they know exactly which constituents they are appealing to. On the contrary, Davis is someone that “nice” white Republican women feel good about voting for since he positions himself as moderate, civil, decent, and bipartisan, when he is none of those things. 

Throughout his last two terms, he was fond of using eye-roll inducing phrases like “vitriolic rhetoric” and “politically intoxicated” to label anyone who disagreed with him, but never as a description of the most prominent person in his party. He often referred to himself as the “13th most bipartisan member of Congress”, while voting with Trump more than 90 percent of the time. He stood in the Rose Garden and applauded the prospect of taking healthcare away from millions of Americans. We’ve had a lot to say about Davis over the past four years; you are welcome to browse our commentary.

For someone so concerned about civil discourse, one might expect that the events of the last couple of months might motivate Davis to speak up about the consequences of dangerous rhetoric and take action. It was indeed vitriolic rhetoric from the former President of the United States that led an angry mob to break into the Capitol building with intent to assassinate and harm members of Congress. We hear quite a bit about Davis’ experience with a shooting at a congressional baseball game in 2017. He referenced it again after the Capitol attack, making the point that political polarization is to blame for both events. Yet, he is unwilling to take any action to condemn members of his party who spout incendiary speech with each breath. When Rep. Greene spoke of executing prominent Democrats, Davis voted against stripping her of committee assignments. While he condemned Trump’s role in inciting the Capitol riot, he was unwilling to hold him accountable by voting to impeach. Instead, he blamed both sides for the attack:

“There must be accountability for leaders who deliberately misled the public, but I fear that without thoughtful and clear-eyed leadership from both sides of the aisle, we are in danger of further violence and political unrest.”

“While a convenient talking point, we must be honest that our country did not arrive at this moment in the last two months, or simply the last four years. Though many prefer not to admit it, political deception is a bipartisan disease that seems only to worsen and lead to violence.”

Adding insult to injury, Davis joined fellow Republicans OH-4 Rep. Jim Jordan , KY-1 Rep. James Comer, and CA-22 Rep. Devin Nunes in blaming Nancy Pelosi for the delay in National Guard deployment on January 6th. Turns out, they were full of shit. He has not acknowledged his error, and we don’t expect he will.

Davis may not publicly spout QAnon conspiracies, make egregiously racist comments, use Hitler quotes in speeches, or have a history of covering up sexual abuse, but he has no interest in holding anyone in his party accountable, and has no problem siding with the extremist wing of the party because it’s politically convenient for him. He prefers to sit atop his moral high horse and express his disappointment, while voting right alongside them. As we watch the gubernatorial race unfold, Davis and others like him are the ones we need to be worried about. 

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer.
Top photo by Steven Pratten.

More Articles