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You reap what you sow

Monday, Mar 11, 2019

* Sun-Times

During a Thursday night debate that turned bitter fast, both candidates were asked what they admired most about their opponent. […]

Preckwinkle said she admired how open Lightfoot is about her sexuality. If she wins the April 2 runoff, Lightfoot would become Chicago’s first openly gay mayor.

Full Preckwinkle quote

“That she’s open and honest about her LGBTQ orientation. You know, I think it’s really important in this country that we be respectful of differences and that we understand that all of us matter and that there is dignity in each and every one of us. And there has been so much discrimination and prejudice and homophobia in our country, it’s very important that particularly prominent people declare their sexual orientation and do it with pride.”

* Lightfoot more than just implied that the comment was a “dog whistle”

Lightfoot stopped short of characterizing Preckwinkle’s intentions. “I’m saying that if there was (a dog whistle), it would be disappointing,” she said. “But the words are the words. Whether — I can’t go into her mind and understand her intent.”

Asking the candidates what they admire about their opponent has become a standard question in most debates, Lightfoot noted.

“She’s got a lot of sophisticated people around her. It’s hard to imagine … the question was coming, you knew it was coming. We both did,” Lightfoot said. “And she chose to say what she said.”

* Usually, in situations like this, I tend to look toward the people who do this for a living instead of the candidates

“Trying to peer into Preckwinkle’s soul to determine the intent of her remarks is impossible,” Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, which has endorsed Lightfoot, told POLITICO. He acknowledged Preckwinkle “has been an ally and champion” of the LGBTQ community. “But instead of running a campaign with an inspiring vision of her leadership for our city, Preckwinkle has built a campaign whose sole purpose seems to be to mislead voters about Lightfoot and attack her at every step of the way.”

Even a seemingly positive statement about Lightfoot’s identity is met with “skepticism and mistrust,” he added.


Preckwinkle may or may not have intended to blow a dog whistle. The problem here is that she’s said or done so many unnecessarily ham-handed things that people are naturally going to assume the worst intentions.

If you deliberately construct an image of being an arrogant bully, don’t act all shocked when people think you are one. A seemingly liberal compliment can easily be interpreted as a grotesquely illiberal campaign tactic.

Preckwinkle walked right into that one.

* Related…

* Laura Washington: How Willie Wilson changed his mind on LGBTQ people and endorsed Lori Lightfoot

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - lakeside - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:39 pm:

    ==”the question was coming, you knew it was coming.”==

    As I said when we talked about this last week, the comment was met with instant frowns at our house. The words don’t read great on paper, but the way she said it had a real, ’she’s not ashamed and I think that’s great’ vibe.

    At best, knowing that question is coming, it’s bad campaign prep and a weird ‘compliment.’ Can’t know what her thinking was, but I can tell you it’s pretty much the first thing I think of when I think of Preckwinkle now. I’m shaking my head as a type.

  2. - NIU Grad - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:39 pm:

    At first I kind of rolled my eyes at this one, but then I read her quote and the subtle messaging in there about “respectful of differences.” Is she saying it’s a difference of opinion or something? A real ally would know that the ultimate goal is to reach a point where it’s not a milestone to be out in the open.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t believe that she didn’t know what she’s doing here. She hasn’t said a word in this campaign that wasn’t scripted and planned out.

  3. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    It was clearly a dog-whistle. In the studio audience, it was the first thing folks were talking about. While I don’t support Toni, I was nonetheless really angry at her decision to go there.

  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:45 pm:

    –If you deliberately construct an image of being an arrogant bully, don’t act all shocked when people think you are one. –

    Not exactly a happy warrior, that one. Her timing certainly was impeccable in getting in the race early back in the day vs. Todd Stroger.

  5. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:47 pm:

    I’m happy Wilson is seriously thinking about this stuff.

  6. - Old Illini - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:48 pm:

    As we used to say, “Subtle as a 10 ton truck.”

  7. - skep - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:49 pm:

    is it even possible that the LGBTQ status is an unknown? She is openly gay and mentioned it in her victory night speech. Did she dog whistle herself? Gimme a break.

  8. - WSJ Paywall - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:50 pm:

    I’m incredibly gay and took it as a compliment. Surprised others didn’t.

  9. - NotMe - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:50 pm:

    In all honesty, the intention is less relevant than the outcome. It was heard as a dog whistle. The earlier commenter who wrote about true allyship meaning being committed to it no longer being remarkable to come out is spot on.

  10. - 44th - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:53 pm:

    More of a locomotive whistle.

  11. - Just Me 2 - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:54 pm:

    As someone who is gay, it definitely came across as a dog whistle to me, but I acknowledge my potential bias.

  12. - Gooner - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:55 pm:

    Regarding whether people know that Lightfoot is gay.

    I watch things pretty closely, and I never knew. I don’t recall her raising it during the campaign, and it never occurred to me to care.

    Toni must have seem something similar. Many do not know.
    However, she could not let the debate go without reminding anyone.

    These “what do you like about your opponent” questions are expected. They are like the “what’s the worst thing about you” quesitons in a job interview.

    Candidates prep for them and nobody wants to allow the statement to be really used for the benefit of the other side.

    Toni wanted to bring this up in the debate. She knew she couldn’t get away with being outwardly critical, so she used this as a way of getting the word out.

    I’m not sure that Toni of 10 years ago would have gone that route. Now? I have absolutely no doubt she would do it intentionally.

  13. - Eire17 - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    The general rule of thumb is that in public speaking or in a debate the most provocative statement one makes is generally what is remembered most. She chose to make that “compliment” the most provocative statement she made. For a reason.

  14. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    –I’m incredibly gay–

    Um, what? How many degrees are you claiming there are?

  15. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    Sincerely is rooted in the person trying to show that words and actions are honest to a moment, person, opinion, or thing.

    Preckwinkle trying sincerity here misses the mark as Preckwinkle trying to ably show a sincere take… is lacking.

    That’s all on Preckwinkle.

  16. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 1:58 pm:

    I don’t know if it was a dog whistle. Preckwinkle has definitely done a lot of progressive things in her career, but she seems have a view that because she is in leadership she can basically do whatever she wants even when that includes totally un-progressive things like supporting Joe Berrios. The ends don’t justify the means, especially when someone else could accomplish the same ends.

    Color me skeptical of Willie Wilson. The guy seems like he would do anything for power. He reminds me of the hi li character from Mad Men.

  17. - thunderspirit - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:09 pm:

    Oh, it was absolutely a dog whistle, and done so with the intention of not looking like a dog whistle. Savvy effort.

  18. - Responsa - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    It is Lori’s story to tell, not Toni’s. It was planned in advance by Toni and from the moment she uttered it in the debate it came across as a major political faux pas — not a brilliant strategy.

  19. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:11 pm:

    “Regarding whether people know that Lightfoot is gay.

    I watch things pretty closely, and I never knew. I don’t recall her raising it during the campaign, and it never occurred to me to care.”

    Agree with this 1000%. I’m a total political geek both by vocation and avocation and I never knew or cared. I know lots of people for whom the same is true. I haven’t seen polling on this specific question but I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that within the black church community, awareness of this is less than 50%.

  20. - robbie - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:12 pm:

    Thankfully, it is becoming common for people to be open about their sexuality, whatever it may be. So commending someone for being open about their sexuality is…not a sincere compliment. If you are truly an ally, you believe that LGBTQ people have a right not only to be treated equally but that not being straight is in fact normal. Would she commend a straight opponent for being “openly straight”? It is a dog whistle.

  21. - lake county democrat - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:15 pm:

    A less important point: what’s with the expectation of famous people outing themselves? I admire it, but I’d be uncomfortable telling someone they should do it - they may feel it’s none of the public’s business.

  22. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:18 pm:

    It absolutely was intentional in my opinion, and a signal to the more socially conservative pastors on the South and West sides. She could have said a lot of other things but she deliberately chose that.

  23. - Ducky LaMoore - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:22 pm:

    A hopeless campaign in search of anything. I really don’t get it. There were so many more and effective avenues for a back-handed compliment than sexual orientation.

  24. - Name/Nickname/Anon - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:23 pm:

    Strange quality to envy, but not a dog whistle. I don’t think anyone who would be watching that debate was unaware of Lightfoot’s sexual orientation.

  25. - 37B - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    “For those who might not have heard, my opponent has bravely, publicly admitted to having a sexual orientation many people still find abhorrent. I admire her for that. To the extent City of Chicago voters were not aware of my opponent’s brave choice, you are now. Tell your friends.”


    Toni (Straight as an arrow) Preckwinkle.

  26. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    I really don’t think Toni is that kind of person. But it doesn’t matter, if she spoke with good intentions, the statement now has a life of it’s own. How terribly sad- really for all of us, because LGBTQ people have real enemies- Toni Preckwinkle isn’t one of them.

  27. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    Just as it has been with every other moment in this campaign, Toni has had a horrible strategy and even worse execution. If they wanted a dog whistle they failed and if she sincerely meant it as a compliment she failed. Is anyone keeping count of how many times Toni or her campaign has made a statement and then had to make a retraction or clarification? The old adage in campaigns is that if you are explaining you are losing. Here I’d say if you are explaining yesterday’s comment you have already lost.

  28. - Anon1 - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    IT is not very effective on Toni’s part. Lori has never hid the fact that she is a Lesbian and married to her partner. Toni is operating on an old world view and tactic used to “out” your opponent when it was politically advantageous; them days are long gone; Chicago has moved-on. Toni has not. Toni’s is showing her age.

  29. - d. p. gumby - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:36 pm:

    Really stretching to be offended by a positive comment. Was Hillary “dog whistling” Trump’s divorces, etc., when she complimented him on his children?

  30. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:41 pm:

    No matter the final electoral outcome or despite “intention”… savvy/sleazy tactics leave a mark.

  31. - DuPage Bard - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:42 pm:

    Unforced error again by the Preckwinkle team.
    You tried to make Lori the unintelligent one when you sent Martwick, you looked like bullies.
    You tried to make a point about “taking orders” when Cisek put out the Nazi reference.
    You came in second on election night and went right in on the attack of Lightfoot during your acceptance speech.
    Anyone wonder why your being treated or questioned about every comment you say?
    This is a problem of your own making.

  32. - The Dude Abides - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:50 pm:

    There’s no way that I can read Preckwinkle’s mind here and say what her intentions are with certainty.
    My suspicions are that it was a dog whistle.

  33. - Christopher - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:53 pm:

    While I believe that Toni Preckwinkle has been a friend to the LGBT community, I think she, calculatingly, used this opportunity to try to score some points with the church ladies / religious right who would never vote for an LGBT person - regardless of any other qualifications or circumstances. Following the February 26 election results, she has gone what to me seems completely negative about Lori Lightfoot. I think that Toni is desperate to win, but, as someone else pointed out, it’s not for her to say that someone is LGBT - that right belongs only to the person who is.

  34. - Responsa - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:54 pm:

    It has been said in many different ways by many commenters over several days and threads that this contest with Lori is not the run-off Toni and her staff were preparing for. On election night they must have felt they were hit by a tidal wave. Everything since then demonstrates this disconnect with their campaign.

  35. - Fav Human - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 2:58 pm:

    I would think an experienced campaigner as TP would know very well how to “get the word out” while leaving no fingerprints.

    So I am thinking it was meant to be nice, but backfired.

    The alternative, that “she suddenly got clumsy” is less realistic for me.

  36. - Rutro - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 3:06 pm:

    I am not a fan of TP, but I don’t think it was a dog whistle. It wasn’t a genuine compliment either (which is why it comes off as a whistle), some pols can’t seem to make a decent compliment.

  37. - James - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 3:23 pm:

    Toni could have complimented Lori in a way that didn’t improve Lori’s image as a potential mayor, for example, “I’ve heard she’s an effective trial lawyer”. My guess is Toni’s staff suggested it with the worst intentions, and Toni didn’t challenge her staff to maintain the high road–this time, so she’s complicit. They must have envisioned the potential blowback.

  38. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 3:27 pm:

    Good on Wilson to change his mind on LGBTQ. Some people are busybodies with their religion and want to impose it on others. It’s nobody’s business if consenting adults love each other, provided they’re not cheating on someone.

  39. - skep - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 3:53 pm:

    hypothetically if John McCain had said he was impressed by Obama’s historic well-run campaign that had him in the position to be the first AA president…would it have been a dog whistle? To some… probably. How exactly I’m not sure and yes I am AA.

    But a dog whistle seems to imply a message only sent to the dogs to hear and since Lori has blown this whistle herself I’m confused by the notion.

    When it’s so clear to almost everyone it pretty much is just a comment based on not really wanting to praise specifically anything about the opponent you are trying to defeat. It’s hard to dog whistle the clearly obvious and clearly declared. But then again perhaps some people didn’t realize Obama was black either.

  40. - Platon - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 3:55 pm:

    Prekwinkle is trying anything at this point. She looks and is desperate.

  41. - Been to this movie - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 4:08 pm:

    Keep in mind that by the time of the debate, they both knew that Willie was endorsing Lightfoot the next morning. Toni’s comment was a calculated and callous effort to plant the seed about Lori’s sexual orientation in the heads of Willie’s followers who are primarily older and more conservative church-going folks. In other words, it was Toni being Toni.

  42. - revvedup - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 4:15 pm:

    Incredibly clumsy dog whistle, but some of dogs could care less, not being trained to respond anymore. Toni is losing her grip on her campaign big time.

  43. - Amalia - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 4:17 pm:

    Toni saying she admires Lori for being open about her sexuality. Lori taking the endorsement of anti immigrant people. I’m done worrying about either of them.

  44. - Wensicia - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 4:26 pm:

    Cheerful and condescending at the same time. Also deliberate.

  45. - skep - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 4:27 pm:

    this Wilson’s endorsement

    “No amount of money can paper over the fact that @DrWillieWilson is a proud, Trump and Rauner supporting Republican who supports horrible policies that will end up costing regular Chicagoans much much more in the long run.”

    Lori L

    I’ll chalk that one up to Lori being Lori as she accepts the endorsement. It is politics, I suppose but let’s not get pretend the saying about pots and kettles is not applicable.

    In the current “purpose at hand” Wilson is BLACK and not a “proud, Trump and Rauner supporting Republican who supports horrible policies”. lol

    Toni is Toni but Lori is Lori too. I’ll hold my nose and vote 4 1 or the other.

  46. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 4:40 pm: alderman supporting Lori.

  47. - Been to this movie - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 4:42 pm:

    With respect to Wilson, Toni made a hard push to get that endorsement so for her to downplay that one is a stretch. But hey, that’s politics. Much more of a stretch is a commenter talking about “Lori taking the endorsement of anti immigrant people.” That was a firefighter union endorsement session and those guys are firefighters.

    Big difference between that and Toni days earlier calling one of the Alderman in his official capacity and asking for his endorsement then slamming his integrity at a debate. Did she not think that was going to come out?

  48. - SaulGoodman - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 5:06 pm:

    To those pointing out Wilson/Sposato endorsements… Preckwinkle pursued both of them. And would have lovingly embraced them if they had said yes.

    To the Preckwinkle “praise” of Lightfoot. Even if it was NOT a dog whistle, which is hard to believe, it is STILL offensive. Does Preckwinkle also admire folks because they were born short? Or with blond hair?

    Its just a baffling place to go to say what you admire about someone is something about they are, how they were born. I admire Preckwinkle for being straight? I admire Pritzker for being a brunette? I mean, come on…

  49. - Platon - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 5:10 pm:

    Toni Prekwinkle has proven to be a terrible politician and person over the last few years.

  50. - Dee4Three - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 5:14 pm:

    There’s some weird racial stuff built into these “Toni blew a dog whistle” takes. Built into them is this flat, blanket assumption that all the Black church folk hate the gay folk so much they’d immediately walk away from Lori as soon as they get a whiff that she was gay. Nevermind, that this take is turned on its head by fact that Wilson, a old Black church person gasp….supports Lightfoot with no qualms. I wish we looked ar Black voters with a bit more depth. Lightfoot folks telling on themselves.

  51. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 9:34 pm:

    Might want to Know your facts before throwing a comment like that out there. Do some research on the issue or ask any pollster. Older religious African-Americans tend to lean conservative on social issues, homosexuality up high on the list. Uh, that’s why you poll different demographic groups on various issues.

  52. - Dee4Three - Monday, Mar 11, 19 @ 10:26 pm:

    Black voters have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates that lean significantly more “left” on LGBTQ issues than their Republican counterparts. Moreover, there is little support that religious Black folks are less likely to vote for a gay candidate that religious White folks or that opinions on gay marriage converts to resistance of gay candidates for Black voters. I understand the old adages, I just think they are lazy.

  53. - Nick - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 2:49 am:

    I’m going to say her statement didn’t exactly have the best intent. Maybe she was just clumsy, it definitely felt mechanical, but the amount that her statement focused on *needing* to be out felt really out of place to me.

    Like it’s one thing to say you admire her courage and what her candidacy means for LGBT Chicagoans, so forth. Perhaps that you admire her especially for being a trend setter in her particular fields as an out black woman, that certainly takes guts. But the whole “it’s very important that particularly prominent people declare their sexual orientation and do it with pride” just is weird. It shouldn’t really be anyone else’s business if you do or don’t declare your sexual orientation, no matter your station. How Lori runs her campaign, and how much if any focus she puts on her out status, is up to her. Which is why it doesn’t feel wholly innocent on Toni’s part.

  54. - low level - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 7:17 am:

    Seems like a sincere statement to me. This race has jumped the shark a long time ago for me, and as a longtime city resident this is disappointing

  55. - Rick Garcia - Tuesday, Mar 12, 19 @ 2:08 pm:

    Dog whistle my my big gay foot. While some people (including some lgbtq people) have been silent, never spoken up or advocated for LGBTQ rights or policies Toni Preckwinkle has. She has a long and rich history of standing with the lgbtq community. Give her (and me a break).

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