“There is no history, only biography.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Don’t look just at the trees as you read the articles grading Bruce Rauner on this first inauguration anniversary — whether his specific and tangible changes were enough given the legislature he had. That’s important, but there’s more.
See the forest. Consider the entirely of what changed since he arrived.
It’s an entirely new paradigm in Springfield. Once forbidden topics are now debated. Major directional change finally is at least on the table. Most importantly, a redirected and reinvigorated Republican party is setting a course for restoration of a two-party state. Before Rauner, nobody was around with the combination of guts, energy, vision, brains and cash needed to challenge the state’s political establishment. With no Rauner, the state would be continuing in the same direction as Chicago — foot firmly on the gas as the cliff approaches.
Every spending item is now put through the ringer of the budget crisis. The term, “unfunded mandates” now appears almost daily in news stories and those mandates are now finally recognized as the source of most municipal fiscal problems. Denial is no longer the only message from Springfield. Pork barrel based governing is over. Irreconcilable social issues have been shelved. Speaker Madigan’s complete discipline of House Democrats has started to crack.
Nobody with significant power in either party would challenge public unions before Rauner. At least one key Republican legislator (I’ll leave her unnamed) was literally afraid to say the word “union” when discussing the state’s problems. There simply was no debate about union power, but now there is, and municipalities are moving on their own towards labor reform.
Absent Rauner, had Pat Quinn not been elected, Kirk Dillard would likely be governor. Dillard sold out for union endorsement during the primary and even copied its “vulture capital” anti-business rhetoric. He and the rest of the Old Guard GOP in Illinois are gone, and they won’t be back. Most Republican legislators now in Springfield have a new resolve. The errors they made in the past, like supporting phony pension reforms and the Jobs Now pork fest of 2010, won’t be repeated because they have a new sheriff.
Personally, I confess I initially didn’t expect candidate Rauner to, well, win. First time candidates coming out of the business world usually don’t. I volunteered to help him (when he had his exploratory committee) for a different reason. I was thrilled to see a potential candidate saying the same things we were writing here, and just as bluntly. I thought he would at least succeed in changing the dialogue and that Illinois would finally be forced to hear how severe a crisis it faced.
He delivered splendidly on that part. The paradigm is indeed drastically different now. Whatever specific legislative and administrative changes he’s achieved in a year as Governor Rauner are frosting.
The metaphor of Rauner sticking a wrench in a machine works for me. Stuff broke. Parts flew off. It got messy. Sometimes that’s all you can do to shut a machine down. But The Machine — the Cook County Democratic Machine that ran Springfield — is stopped.
Without Rauner, who? He remains essential. Either he will succeed or Illinois will fail with him.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.