Editorial: Illinois governor candidate Jeanne Ives should take down ad that attacks people of Illinois, not opponent

It is one thing for political advertising to oversimplify issues and ridicule the positions of an adversary. It is something altogether more repugnant when such oversimplification and ridicule are heaped on people rather than issues.

That distinction is at the black heart of the television spot state Rep. Jeanne Ives unveiled last weekend in her bid to upset incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner in the March 20 Republican primary.

You've probably seen the ad by now: a parade of smiling people seem to thank Gov. Bruce Rauner for a variety of things. Then, a deep-voiced actor portraying a transgender woman in a red dress, says: "Thank you for signing legislation that lets me use the girls bathroom."

Says a young woman in a pink hat with ears: "Thank you for making all Illinois families pay for my abortions."

Says a young man wearing a bandanna over his face: "Thank you, Bruce Rauner, for opposing law enforcement and making Illinois a sanctuary state for illegal immigrant criminals."

It goes on, each of its images a crass reduction of the diverse people affected by issues to juvenile, cartoon stereoptypes. It's an approach unfortunate enough for its oversimplification of complex issues but made even more objectionable for its apparent eagerness to segregate and deride whole groups of people. We were momentarily comforted last December when Ives, of Wheaton, told us in an editorial board interview that she understood the governor was the leader of people affected by social issues whose positions differ from hers and knew she had to work with them.

This advertisement clearly suggests otherwise.

She defiantly told the City Club of Chicago this week that the ad was deliberately "edgy."

"What the commercial, which is generating the expected hysteria from the expected quarters, attempted to do - admittedly provocatively - was to properly and truthfully characterize the extreme issue positions Rauner took and their implications," she told the group.

No, what it does is misstate the governor's actions and positions and, even worse, demean groups of Illinoisans who deserve respect, at least, if not support from their government.

We applaud Republicans like Tim Schneider, of Bartlett, the leader of the Republican Party in Illinois and a Rauner ally, who denounced the ad.

"Reasonable people can disagree on policy issues, but when it goes to the point of mocking and denigrating the people of Illinois, that's just wrong," Schneider told ABC 7 Chicago.

We're befuddled by Republicans we respect who, even if reluctantly, have found the ad acceptable.

We've said it before, but it bears repeating: Negative advertising is harmful in its own right. It breeds cynicism. It turns people away from voting at all. But the approach in the Ives ad takes cynicism to an ugly and personal new low. It ought to be rejected by anyone of any party who yearns for inclusive, understanding, productive messages from government leaders.

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