Much ado about nothing

Much ado about nothing

If you're waiting for a scintillating discussion of the issues in the gubernatorial race, don't hold your breath.

"Candidates trade charges," read a recent headline about the gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.

There are three months-plus left before the Nov. 4 election, and, since hope springs eternal, there's still time for the tenor of the campaign to change for the better. But it looks increasingly likely that what people have seen so far is what they'll get the rest of the way — shallow attacks that have little, maybe even nothing, to do with the future of Illinois.

The Quinn campaign has focused much of his criticism on Rauner's wealth. Rauner, in turn, has attacked Quinn for "hiding" from a criminal investigation into state grant money that was misspent or stolen. Both approaches are typical of the nasty back-and-forth between the candidates. They are nothing more than thinly veiled character attacks that don't address the significant issues the state faces.

Campaigns for important offices like governor ought to be about who has the better idea for where the state ought to go and how to get there. Obviously, it's impossible to separate politics from politics, but voters should demand more than they are seeing from both Rauner and Quinn.

So far, this campaign is mostly about political tactic, and the result is a lot of finger-pointing that doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

But, just for fun, let's examine the attacks Quinn and Rauner have made.

Yes, Rauner is rich, really rich. He's a self-made multimillionaire. There are many wealthy people active in politics, and there's nothing wrong with that. President John Kennedy was rich. Vice President and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller was rich. Former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is rich. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, even though she doesn't like to admit it, is rich. Many members of the U.S. House and Senate are rich. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is rich.

It's not illegal or even unsavory to be rich in politics. Depending on how they made their fortunes, it might even be laudable. One can be rich and still sympathize the problems of ordinary Americans, as then presidential-candidate John Kennedy did when he campaigned in poverty-stricken West Virginia.

Yes, the Quinn administration is the subject of a criminal investigation into the disappearance of $55 million in state funds intended to be used for anti-violence programs. But the governor isn't hiding from the ongoing investigation. Indeed, so far there's no suggestion that he is in any way the subject of the probe. Federal investigators are looking into the conduct of some Quinn underlings, but Quinn couldn't hide if he wanted to do so.

The news media are reporting the story. A legislative committee is following up on a state audit that revealed just how badly the program went awry. Federal and state investigators are pursuing the possibility of criminal conduct. The whole mess is in plain sight.

There's not much to what either candidate is saying about the other — just hot-button rhetoric designed to appeal to voters' worst suspicions about those who seek elective office.

If past is prologue, voters won't have much of substance on which to base their votes. If they like the status quo or think things are getting better, they can back Quinn. If they feel Illinois needs a change in direction, they can support Rauner. Other than that, neither Rauner nor Quinn is saying much that clarifies the choice.

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