Rauner's unforced error

Rauner's unforced error

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner unleashed a political firestorm within his own party by signing controversial abortion legislation into law.

The merits of the abortion issue aside — more on that later — it's patently clear that Gov. Bruce Rauner made a political mess for himself when he signed a new law that provides for taxpayer-funded abortions in Illinois.

He double-crossed Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, to whom he promised a veto, alienated Republican legislators he has demanded loyalty from and outraged single-issue abortion opponents who now consider him an unreliable and, probably, an immoral turncoat.

What, politically, did Rauner gain from signing the bill? Nothing.

Abortion-rights proponents perceive decisions like the one the governor made as the minimum they are due. They are angry that Rauner waited as long as he did to announce his support for the measure.

So Rauner won himself no friends among Democrats and abortion-rights groups; they have at least 100 other reasons to dislike his brand of governance.

In one respect, of course, Rauner's decision vindicates the self-description he provided voters when running in 2014.

Rauner said he wasn't a politician, something he considered a bad thing, but a businessman who knew how to identify and solve problems, something he suggested Illinois desperately needed.

Well, it's abundantly clear that he's not a politician. The best of politicians are able to read the tea leaves, weigh costs and benefits, and reach conclusions on dual policy and political questions that are not self-destructive.

Rauner did the opposite when he signed the abortion legislation. There's no doubt Democrats intentionally put him in a trick bag when they passed this cynical measure. That's what members of one party often do to members of the other party — present them with no-win choices sure to raise vigorous criticism.

But just because Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan handed Rauner a gun, it didn't mean the governor had to shoot his own foot.

That's where the substance of this legislation comes into play.

People want to cast House Bill 40 as either pro- or anti-abortion. But abortion is legal and has been since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, a constitutionally guaranteed right that abortion opponents, no matter how hard they try, cannot abridge.

Despite that, abortion-rights proponents have steadily and dishonestly warned since 1973 that Roe is on the verge of being overturned, something that has not happened and remains unlikely to happen.

H.B. 40 does two things.

It would keep abortion legal if Roe were someday overturned. How ironic it is that our legislators busy themselves passing legislation addressing issues that are not, and may never be, problems while they studiously avoid addressing existing problems that are crippling the state?

That provision is essentially meaningless because, in the unlikely event Roe is overturned, the issue would return to the individual states for a legislative solution.

Does anyone really think that Illinois legislators wouldn't rush to reinstate legal abortion?

Democrats control Illinois, and few if any of them are willing to challenge the party's abortion-rights litmus test.

The second measure, one much more obnoxious to rank-and-file citizens, is the new mandate that provides taxpayer-funded abortions for individuals covered by state-employee health insurance or those on the Medicaid welfare program.

Given the disgraceful fact that one in four Illinois residents is on Medicaid, it's a virtual certainty that many thousands more abortions will be performed — all at taxpayer expense.

Despite what abortion-rights proponents want to acknowledge, there are deep moral questions involved here. To compel all taxpayers — especially those with legitimate and sincere antipathy about the medical procedures that terminate lives of unborn children — to finance abortions is a real slap in the face.

On that question alone, Rauner would have been on solid ground to explain — in a persuasive and principled way — why it would be a mistake to press financial responsibility for funding abortions on the public at large.

There is no question that Rauner is, for understandable reasons, a flawed chief executive, a duck out of water. It's not clear whether he's hard-headed and impulsive, the recipient of bad advice or someone who ignores good advice.

But he makes unforced errors, and signing this legislation is one of them.

That said, he's one of the few powerful politicians in Illinois who recognizes the extent to which the state is failing and offers real solutions to restore the state's weak economy, improve our dire financial standing, eliminate the self-dealing and outright corruption in government and smash a discredited political status quo that is driving productive people from the state.

Unfortunately, he made his job that much harder going forward and his retention of the job in 2018 even more problematic with his inept and inconsistent handling of an issue that was, on the merits, much less a Hobson's choice than he perceived it to be.

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JohnRalphio wrote on October 08, 2017 at 2:10 pm

What "real solutions" would those be? Other than defunding education and offering tax cuts to his cronies?