Jim Dey: Governor faces fight for job on two fronts

Jim Dey: Governor faces fight for job on two fronts

If a week can be an eternity in politics — and it can — what about a year?

Things happen that can dramatically and repeatedly change the political landscape. So although he's running uphill now, Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner's political fortunes might be improved markedly when voters go to the polls in November 2018 to vote for governor.

But for now, he shows all the signs of being in deep trouble. Any Republican running statewide in Illinois — a solid Democratic state — starts off in trouble. But Rauner has magnified his problems with three years of decision-making that have taken the bloom off his political rose.

Gov. Rauner has political opponents to the left of him — Democrats — and to the right of him — the suicide wing of the Republican Party.

The Democrats, led by billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzer, the favorite of party leaders, have made their positions clear.

They wish to restore Illinois' luster through higher taxes (a progressive state income tax), a $15-an-hour minimum wage, higher spending on a variety of social welfare programs, and legalization of marijuana (all but Chris Kennedy).

They've been beating the drums on those issues for months now in anticipation of the March primary.

But what about those Republicans who are just as interested as the Democrats in seeing Rauner lose?

They're enraged that Rauner has been insufficiently conservative on a handful of hot-button social issues that Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan cleverly dropped in Rauner's lap — taxpayer-funded abortions, sanctuary state status for illegal immigrants, and vastly more money for Chicago's educationally and financially failing public schools.

One of them, state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, a West Point graduate and member of the Illinois House since 2013, is circulating petitions to run against Rauner and has selected former state Rep. Richard Morthland to run for lieutenant governor. She's vowing to bring real conservative governance — not Rauner's squishy calls for economic revitalization of the state .

"He has alienated voters in our party by making decisions that are against our platform and make no sense when the state is completely broke," Ives said.

There is no question that Ives is a serious person — most ideologues are and often too much so. They are so wedded to their viewpoints they can't understand how anyone could disagree.

That's why Ives is not a serious candidate, except as a method of weakening Rauner in the primary and helping beat him in the general election.

She's not running to win. Ives is running to help ensure Rauner loses.

People like her don't see much difference between Rauner and a Democrat, even though Democrats see lots of differences. She's interested in ideological purity. Hard-core activists in both parties would rather lose, retain their political virtue than trim their ideological sails.

That's not to say, of course, that Gov. Rauner hasn't made his share of mistakes. He first tried to persuade Democrats who control the General Assembly to work with him on some of his economic revitalization measures. When that quickly failed, Rauner sought to win Democratic legislators' votes by trying to undermine their loyalty to and exploit their fear of Speaker Madigan.

He spent millions of dollars on television advertisements demonizing Madigan in the hope the negative ads would convince the 75-year-old speaker to accommodate the governor on economic reform issues, including job-killing workers' compensation laws.

But Madigan simply ignored the onslaught and plotted his revenge.

Ultimately, he crushed Rauner on a variety of issues, but most especially the two-year budget and tax standoff.

Another consequence of that disastrous defeat is that Rauner must read newspaper editorials, like one recently in the Arlington Daily Herald, that chastise him for not "building consensus and trying to build win-win solutions rather than dictating winner-take-all confrontations where someone has to lose."

"Where has this man-in-the-tower approach gotten you, Governor? A state in stagnation. A tax increase you didn't want. A mass exodus of frustrated legislators," the Herald asked.

Rauner will offer excuses, of course. But no one wants to hear them. He's supposed to be able to lead the General Assembly horse to water and make it drink.

Democrats and some in the new media blast him for not compromising enough. Hard-core conservatives like Ives accuse him of being a sellout for compromising too much.

They say time heals all wounds. If so, assuming he wins the primary, which he probably will — Rauner has 12 months to restore his currently failing political health.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or by phone at 217-351-5369.

Sections (4):News, Local, Columns, Opinion

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Cobra Soccer Dad wrote on October 31, 2017 at 7:10 am

That darn Rauner . . . things were going along swimmingly when Blago and Pat Quinn were "running" the show.  They and puppetmaster Madigan had the economy humming along and passed balanced budgets every year.    Schools were funded and higher taxes taught those evil capitalists a thing or two about greed.  Business were prospering and the poor and middle class were gainfully employed or at the very least, taken care of with fully funded entitlements.   No pension issues existed until this evil pub took office. 

Oh how I long for the days of an all democratic state government, a time when Illinois can return to it's utopian roots as a stronghold of liberal "virtue", public union enclave, and home to punitive taxation.  It will make it that much easier to say goodbye.