By: Mark Glennon*
Monday’s headlines would have been bad enough had they been what they should be every day: “Illinois is broke, getting broker and nothing is being done.”
But the day marked a steepening of the downward curve for both the state and the guy who probably represents its last hope, Gov. Bruce Rauner. He lost part of his base and much of the rest is on edge.
Mrs. Rauner, however, should have popped the champagne, which I’ll get to later.
Three things happened Monday.
First, the Illinois House passed the new school funding bill with Rauner’s approval, sending it to Senate (which has now approved) and for Rauner’s signature.
Time will expose the list of horrors in the bill, most of which remain unreported, misunderstood or covered up. We’ve written about some before, but many more will come to light.
To mention just one, there’s no money for it. The budget is already out of balance, even by the dishonest standard of government budgets. Yet the bill calls for spending more than $300 million each year for ten years. But it’s “for our children,” right? Well, that additional deficit spending will be tacked on to the debt they inherit. Rauner will share ownership of the bill as Illinois gradually learns what’s in it.
Next is the “win for democracy” as supporters call it — the automatic voter registration bill signed by Rauner on Monday. On this, most all of the General Assembly shares blame with Rauner — the bill passed with overwhelming, bipartisan. majorities.
It’s expected to add one or two million new voters to the rolls, most of whom can be expected to vote as Democrats, which in Illinois means — face it — The Machine. If Illinois is ever to eek out a majority that will overturn its establishment practices, it won’t be by adding marginally interested and unmotivated voters. The notion that more voters are better is wrong, especially in a state with a history of voter fraud. As long as voter registration requirements don’t unfairly prejudice any particular minority or economic group, they’re fine. The old system didn’t; it was fine. The chances for restoring a two-party system in Illinois took a major blow with automatic registration.
Finally, on Monday, Rauner signed the Trust Act. People I respect who have studied it closely (I haven’t) split on it’s legal importance. Some say it makes Illinois a “sanctuary” state while some say it just codifies court rulings and has symbolic importance only.
But even that symbolic importance is huge. Many opponents of sanctuary cities, who comprise much of Rauner’s base, are absolutely livid and they don’t really give a damn whether it’s just symbolic. Rauner’s support is now getting national attention and derision.
The bottom line is that both Illinois and Rauner lost big time on Monday, and it wasn’t just because of politics, spin, or Rauner’s bad communication skills.
On the subject of communication, yes, Rauner’s staff has long shared blame and the recent turmoil in his staff left a void. But the primary failure is Rauner’s own. He’s seems forever unprepared. Though usually directionally correct, he gets facts wrong, exaggerates and sometimes just doesn’t know. He contradicts himself from one day to another. Platitudes suffice for arguments. Since he’s unquestionably smart and a true workaholic, he has no excuse for appearing to be so lazy about substance.
Ironically, while his conservative base wobbles, the narrative prevails that right wing nutjobs now dominate his staff. Among other reasons why that’s false is that First Lady Diana Rauner, by all credible accounts, is the most powerful person on the team.
I don’t know her but those who do say she’s smart, opinionated and driven, though less charitable synonyms aren’t uncommon.
Most importantly, she’s a liberal Democrat and she pushes for liberal Democratic policies.
To her and like-minded members of the General Assembly, I say this sincerely: Touché. You had an extraordinarily successful Monday, on both policy and politics.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints. Opinions expressed are his own.