Will Bill Brady be welcome at the next Illinois tea party cotillion?
Brady, the conservative Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidate from downstate Bloomington, has been steadily bucking for months the cherished ideals of the rebellious, rancorous protest movement, but few seem to have noticed or cared.
Take immigration--the bête-noire of Tea Party protesters--Brady has rejected punitive Arizona-like legislation that aims to drive immigrants away. In fact, he has headed in the opposite direction.
On August 6, in a speech to the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Brady, a 17-year veteran lawmaker, embraced immigration reform, calling on the federal government to "open the doors" to "more" legal immigration to boost the economy.
"[W]e need to bring real reform to immigration policy, and open the doors, so we can see a growth rate in this country of 4 percent or greater," said Brady, who is backed by Latinos for Brady.
In addition to immigration, Brady has opened another door. Brady said on October 5 said a $50 billion bond borrowing scheme to rescue Illinois's faltering pension system is an option on table, a scheme that Brady's own lieutenant governor running-mate, Jason Plummer, 28, has implicitly criticized.
"All options have to be considered," Brady said on October 5, in response to the potential borrowing.
Plummer, on the same day, critically highlighted on his Facebook page the increasing cost of Illinois bond borrowing, posting, "Illinois has the lowest credit rating of any state -- and we now actually even pay more than Mexico according to the recent bond sales." True.
More significant than Plummer's subtle swipe at his running mate's idea, government borrowing has fueled Tea Party rage and boosted the movement's momentum. Brady himself in the recent past has relentlessly attacked his democratic rival, Governor Pat Quinn, for his borrowing to pay state bills.
In fact, Brady in early May rejected a $3.8 billion pension borrowing to make this year the required payment to the state retirement system.
"They are not going to get Republican votes for pension borrowing," said Brady.
However, the prospect of actually inheriting the Illinois budget and the Illinois pension mess is clearly prompting Brady to make an effort, however tentative, to advance a concrete policy idea to address Illinois's broken finances. It is bad politics. Borrowing drives the nuts in the Tea Party nuttier. It may even be bad policy. A new poll says only 6% of Illinois voters support government borrowing. But Brady's move is a small act of budget statesmanship.
Brady's Tea Party push back has extended beyond immigration and borrowing, crossing the line into religion, a new element of Tea Party activism recently fueled by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.
At an October 2 Illinois Tea Party rally in Springfield, the right-wing religious fervor was in full-flower.
According to the State Journal-Register, Springfield realtor Stacy Barnett, a rally speaker, said "we are a Christian country," and that the country's problems are "because we took God out of our country. I rebuke socialism in the name of Jesus."
In under-reported, buried remarks, Brady rejected Barnett's line.
The United State was "...founded on God and the principles of God, but we're a nation of multiple religions. One of the reasons this nation was created was to protect ... an individual's right to worship as they see fit," said Brady.
That took courage. In fact, those words could have as easily come from Brady's ex-poker buddy, Barack Obama. This may have been Brady's finest moment.
Virtually all Republican politicians have stood idly or have sat silently at endless Tea Party rallies where vapid, virulent, and intolerant rhetoric, the lingua franca of those events, has praised but ignorantly mauled the U.S. Constitution's founding principles into unrecognizable, undemocatic forms.
But not Brady. He spoke on this occasion constitutional truth to the mob. Good for him.
Will Brady's under-the-radar push-back cause him electoral trouble with the acrimonious movement or will it be just a tempest in a tea cup amongst friends?