I wasn’t in the room at the time.
But here is how I imagine it went.
On the upper floor of a downtown Chicago office building, a seasoned political strategist, hired by billionaires, begins the Zoom meeting with about a half a dozen others.
“So, how do we get the retirees to vote against this thing? We know those over 65 always turn out to vote in the biggest numbers.”
“It is a problem,” says a member of the team. “Raising more revenue would actually be a good thing for older people. We have to muddy the narrative.”
“What if…” one strategist wonders aloud. “What if we jumped out early with non-stop ads. Reframe the narrative. Picture this… an older lady, nearly in tears, saying the amendment will tax her retirement savings.”
“Wait. I think I can get somebody like that. I know this rich woman who lives in Arizona but has a house in Park Ridge. She’d be perfect.”
“But, will that be believable?” asks another member of the team.
“We will make it believable. In fact, we will flood TV with ads and make it totally believable.”
“If we frame the story as a tax on retirement savings there are a lot of older retirees who will be terrified. It doesn’t have to be true,” said the the strategist with color coordinated books on white shelves behind them.
Not long after, the team brought in a group of retirees for a focus group. They told them the story – the imaginary story of how the graduated income tax amendment would mean taxing their retirement income.
The members of the focus group at first were skeptical.
“Isn’t the governor himself for the amendment and against taxing retirement income?” asked one of retirees.
So the strategists showed them another ad.
After all, they had $50 million to tell their phony story.
And soon the lie became what now see every day, over and over.