Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire heir of the Hyatt hotel empire, has big plans. With the advent of his new nonprofit group, Think Big America (a nod to his 2018 gubernatorial campaign slogan “Think Big“), the well-heeled politician has targeted what he deems public enemy No. 1: “far-right extremism.”
But the “extremism” Mr. Pritzker vows to defeat isn’t the kind characteristic of flat-earthers or religious cults. It’s characteristic of ordinary Americans holding mainstream views.
Think Big America‘s preliminary targets are blunting the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health by codifying state abortion access, but not in Illinois. Rather, Mr. Pritzker plans to focus first on ballot measures in Arizona, Nevada and Ohio.
That’s right. The same billionaire prep-school kid who sunk half a million dollars into TV airtime for his own run in Illinois’ 9th Congressional District in 1998 is following the same “dark money” model that billionaire Tom Steyer used with his NextGen America group to push aggressive policies on climate change from state to state.
Dark-money groups funneling out-of-state millions into state elections to codify abortion on demand and eviscerate parental rights is nothing if not extreme. And despite the Sturm und Drang of waning access to abortion based on red-state restrictions, in the year following the Dobbs decision, the number of abortions in the country actually increased slightly overall (and especially so in Mr. Pritzker‘s Illinois).
Moreover, most Americans do not believe there should be an unfettered right to abortion. Recent Rasmussen polls indicate 52% of U.S. voters approve of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, up from 50% immediately after the court’s June 2022 decision. What’s more, 51% of Americans believe abortion should be legal only under some circumstances, and 13% of respondents believe it should be prohibited altogether. That’s 64% of American voters who think the kind of unlimited access to abortion Mr. Pritzker favors is a bridge too far.
But Mr. Pritzker is not content just to expand abortion access. His plans include defeating book bans and increasing access to “gender affirming” medical procedures.
Once again, though, he seems to be reading the tea leaves incorrectly. The “book bans” of which he speaks are not aimed at “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but rather the illustrated pornography such as “Gender Queer” popping up in K-8 public school libraries.
As for “gender-affirming” medical care, nearly two-thirds of voters favor the sensible limitations that GOP legislators have pursued at the state level, such as prohibiting the provision to minors of cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers.
That finding is unsurprising, considering that 65% of Americans believe there are only two genders—up from 62% in 2022 and 59% in 2021. Even as progressive Europe backs off its previous approach to fast-tracking such medical intervention for minors, Mr. Pritzker has made the expansion of untested and life-altering procedures for a vulnerable population a hallmark of his group’s work.
“Over the last few years, the far-right agenda has only become more extreme,” Mr. Pritzker has said. “The end of reproductive rights, widespread book bans, a rollback of voting rights and civil rights, the erosion of trust in our institutions—that will be our permanent reality if we don’t act now.”
Social conservatism is at its highest level since 2012. These perspectives aren’t held by the boogeymen Mr. Pritzker is hunting on the right, but by ordinary Americans. And the irony of painting the United States as some kind of fascist police state where democracy is in its death throes in order to attack the mainstream views of everyday people perfectly illustrates the tone-deafness of today’s extreme left.
Ambrose Bierce once wrote that a conservative is a statesman enamored of existing evils, while a liberal wishes to replace them with others.
J.B. Pritzker‘s raison d’etre—the destruction of the evil of “right-wing extremism”—makes it clear on which side of this balance he falls.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times