Statue of Robert E. Lee to make a point about Jesse Sullivan
What passes for moderacy in the Republican Party today means staying silent on the legacy of Robert E. Lee. Credit: Hal Jespersen / wikipedia

While most of you were probably not paying attention, another Republican announced he was running for governor.

That makes four. Or five if you count Mancow, who had talked about running.

I don’t blame you for not paying attention to the Republican primary for governor—as the election’s not until June of 2022.

Gubernatorial primaries used to be in February or March, but they switched it to June because . . .

Oh, who cares why they switched it? You’re not paying attention anyway. So, if I told you, you’d only forget and I’d have to remind you the next time I wrote about it.

Point is—it’s many months away, so of course any normal human being would be paying no attention.

Especially since most Reader readers are in the fetal position worried that Governor J.B. Pritzker may be defeated by one of the whack jobs running against him.

Anyway, without further ado, meet Jesse Sullivan, the latest Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Sullivan is a 37-year-old, already fabulously wealthy venture capitalist who made his fortune creating Alter Global, a company based in San Francisco.

From here on out, Sullivan will refer to himself by the humble nickname of Sully, while constantly pointing out that he was raised in Petersburg—a town just outside of Springfield. And that he’s lived there for at least five years. And he’s raising his kids there.

All in the hopes of convincing downstate Republicans to overlook the fact that he’s a fabulously wealthy venture capitalist who made his fortune running a company with the word global in its title in the sin city of San Francisco—as I may have already mentioned.

How Bay-Area Californian is Jesse Sullivan?

Well, he’s so Bay-Area Californian that he’s already raised about $11 million (more than all the other Republican candidates combined), most of it in the form of donations from even more fabulously wealthy rich people from the Bay Area, including . . .

Kevin Taweel, chairman of Asurion, who contributed $4 million to Sullivan’s campaign.

And Chris Larsen, cofounder of Ripple, who contributed $5 million to Sullivan’s campaign.

By the way, Larsen has amassed a fortune of either $3.4 billion or $59 billion, depending on which article you read.

I realize that’s a huge gap. Either way, he’s so rich he can spend $5 million on the  longshot candidacy of a friend running for governor in a state that he, Larsen, does not live in. That’s rich, in more ways than one.

Sullivan is positioning himself as what we might call a moderate Republican. Though these days the bar is mighty low when it comes to moderacy in the Republican Party.

Back in the 70s, a moderate Republican supported a woman’s right to choose, environmental protections, sensible gun control, a graduated income tax, and fact-based bipartisanship.

Nowadays, of course, the Republican Party is run by MAGA, who’s controlled by Trump, and as such, they want to outlaw abortion, mock the concept of global warming, press for tax cuts, and echo any old wacky shit they hear on YouTube.

To be a moderate means trying to reach out to independent-minded, suburban swing voters without saying anything that might offend MAGA, an awfully touchy bunch always on the lookout for signs of disloyalty.

You gotta be a Wallenda to walk that tightrope.

Consider the case of Gary Rabine, another rich guy running for the Republican nomination. When asked whether Trump was correct when he said that the election had been stolen, Rabine responded . . .

“I’m not smart enough to understand what was the end result, whether it was stolen or not.”

C’mon, Gary—if you’re not smart enough to know the difference between lies and the truth, how are you smart enough to be governor of Illinois?

Never thought I’d say this, but . . .

It’s almost enough to make me give credit to state senator Darren Bailey—another gubernatorial candidate. At least he’s sticking to his guns. He says Trump’s still his president. And that he’s not getting vaccinated. And he doesn’t think people should have to wear masks—or get vaccinated. And he’ll fight like hell against any mandate, unless it’s a mandate against mandates. In short, MAGA to the core.

In contrast, Sullivan is much slicker. Yes, he’s got nothing against the Texas abortion law, but he won’t have the votes to pass it. Which doesn’t mean he won’t try to pass it. And yes, he got the vaccine but he would never make other people get it. And, yes, he believes Joe Biden “is the president of the United States.” But that doesn’t mean Republicans and Democrats don’t have a reason to believe there’s “something wrong” with “our elections.” So he’s making it seem like both parties have doubts about the election results. Even though it’s only Republicans who are repeating Trump’s lies.

Slick, Sully, very slick . . .

Clearly, Sullivan would rather not talk about Trump. Instead, he’d rather talk about Abraham Lincoln. Last week he announced his campaign with a speech under a statue of Lincoln outside Lincoln’s childhood home in New Salem, Illinois.

According to political reporter Mark Maxwell, Sullivan made 17 references to Lincoln in the course of a 17-minute speech. 

He momentarily got flummoxed when a reporter asked about Trump’s latest burst of idiocy—the one in which Trump criticized the city of Richmond, Virginia, for removing the statue of Robert E. Lee. 

According to Trump, “Lee is considered by many generals to be the greatest strategist of them all.”

And Lincoln, “wanted [Lee] to command the North, in which case the war would have been over in one day.”

But, “Robert E. Lee instead chose the other side because of his great love of Virginia.” (Like slavery had nothing to do with his decision.) And, “except for Gettysburg, would have won the war.”

You know, that idiocy.

When asked to comment, Sullivan, who’s running as an “anti-politician,” tried to make a joke. The exchange went like this . . .

Reporter: What would Lincoln have thought of Trump’s pro-Lee comment?

Sullivan: You got me. I have no clue. You should ask him.

As he pointed over his shoulder at Lincoln’s statue.

Man, you know being a moderate Republican is not what it used to be, if, when given the chance, you’re too chicken to criticize a slave-holding confederate like Robert E. Lee.