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Prairie State Wire

Monday, December 9, 2019

OPINION: Rauner and our Illinois Republican future


By Christopher Robling | Oct 14, 2017

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Next year, we will elect the individual who will sit as Governor in the 2021 apportionment of Congressional and legislative districts.

If the person elected is not a Republican, we will be marginalized by the line-drawing pen of Speaker Mike Madigan. We will be consigned to the fossil drawers at the Field Museum.

Sadly, due to his performance in office, his treatment of the threadbare institution of Illinois Republicanism, and most importantly for his simple failure to achieve much of anything in his 32 months in office, I have concluded that Bruce Rauner is no longer electable in November. 

Leading Illinois GOP commentator Christopher Robling believes Governor Bruce Rauner should step aside, for his party's sake. | City Club of Chicago

If Rauner is unelectable, then, he must be replaced as our candidate. His most thoughtful and selfless step now would be to announce his decision not to run for re-election. 

Rauner should assume caretaker status, and resolve to step out of partisan activity from now to the inaugural of his successor.

I say this is “sad,” because I had big hopes for Rauner. Once he won the primary, I felt he was a good bet to win in November, and that he had done his GOP homework in his years of preparation to make the race. 

For instance, Bruce sought the late Jack Roeser’s blessing and support in 2011-2012.

Obviously, Bruce was testing waters for his own bid. He contributed to Jack’s political action committee. 

He made the trek to Jack's headquarters in west suburban Carpentersville. 

He drank coffee, met workers, and got to know the irascible, but incredibly generous conscience of Illinois conservatism. 

Bruce pledged himself to a pro-growth agenda in a streamlined economy with lower taxes and fewer regulations to help us grow out of the Democrat-led binge spending and over-promising on public employee union member retiree benefits.

I moderated three panels for Jack, before big audiences with thoughtful questions, in which Bruce took the floor and succinctly addressed Illinois’ awful balance sheet and ailing income statement. 

Coming from his career in private equity investing, Bruce’s diagnoses – though a bit stiff, as a beginner – rang true in every detail. He was consummately qualified to assess our fiscal state, as he had done so successfully in his career that led to the top of his profession. 

With a big boost from Jack Roeser, Bruce Rauner was on his way.

Remaining neutral in the primary, I met with each of the candidates to trade ideas and discuss beating then Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. I took Bruce to lunch at the Union League Club, where he re-iterated the commitments he made to Jack, by now departed, but added that he never discussed social issues with him. 

“Hmmmmmm,” I thought. Having known Jack only since 1983, and having heard from him on social issues in some, approximately, 99 percent of our conversations, I thought Bruce’s comment was strange. 

But I let that alone -- because Bruce followed up immediately by saying he understood the conservative-moderate split in Illinois Republicanism, and he had decided to stick only to fiscal issues. 

Bruce said would neither favor nor hurt either side. That still sounded a bit strange, but with Illinois finances approaching melt-down, perhaps Bruce had found a way to keep everyone focused on the issue that united us. 

In any case, Democrats controlled the legislature, so Bruce could safely veto any of their extremism-- to hold both conservatives and moderates harmless.

Bruce’s outreach by this point had gone from Golconda to Galena. He was travelling everywhere, meeting everyone, holding 15 events a day, driving hither and yon in downstate and central Illinois, to create a campaign network and to get to know kitchen-table issues personally, with names, faces and places attached, to strengthen his appeal. 

My sense is the more folks saw him the more intrigued they were by an outsider pledging to overturn Springfield’s disregard for regular folks as witless tax sources for the appetitive unions and their Democrat lackeys. “This guy gets it,” I heard repeatedly.

He was tested. Innumerable times, including at a GOP 42nd Ward coffee and donuts session, where he was asked by me, folks said, “How will you get along with Madigan? It’s not like business. You cannot fire him like you would one law firm in favor of another.”

Here, as best I recall, was the reply he must have given thousands of times: “In business, success only comes when you align everyone to the same goals. I am not going down there to fire anyone. I will use the same skills I have had in building teams in business. I will align all of the players around the goals of ending this mess and bringing back a vibrant economy to all of Illinois.”

And, he got elected.

But the governorship has turned out very different from what we were pledged. 

He had a social agenda. It would make Jack Roeser spin in his grave. 

He did not work with others. There was no alignment. 

He has not stopped our financial slide.  After a globally recognized career in investments, replete with successes, he got nothing done. 

By oddly fixating on Mike Madigan personally, with no plan of overcoming Madigan’s strength on anything, Rauner himself personally essayed Madigan as the Godfather of Illinois government, and Bruce made himself into the pipsqueak. 

He lied to all of us. That is, to each of us. Even the pro-abort GOP-ers who long for a second “pro-choice” party. He lied to all of us by saying he would veto HB 40, and doing the opposite. 

I recall registering my complaint with the Governor’s office on the day before his signing. Word had leaked to one of Dan Proft’s websites. It rocketed through the entire party in perhaps, four minutes. 

The lady I spoke to was actually huffy with me that “word got out. That was NOT supposed to happen…” As though the Governor was entitled to keep his betrayal secret until his selected time, when he would reveal it as he wished. And we were all just supposed to take it.  

It was sickening. 

And, sadly, it revealed that Rauner had played Jack for a fool. He had played us for fools. He had ego-tripped from Winnetka to Springfield only for himself, not for the working folks who needed the economic growth he promised to again have a future in our beloved state.

As for understanding the divisions within Illinois Republicanism, I think he has made them worse than they have been since I returned to Illinois in 1985. I have spoken dozens of times about reconciliation, Ronald Reagan, our big tent and respect for each other. I mentioned it specifically to each of the candidates for Governor. Each said they cared. Rauner didn’t.  

There has been so much more. Rauner and company eviscerated Aaron Shock. He did the same to Dan Rutherford. He got into idiotic fights, such as wandering into a Democrat State Rep primary in Chicago, in which his chosen horse lamed up. He went after a downstate pro-SEIU Gopper who is a folk hero in his constituency, and was humiliatingly defeated. He has put staffers through a humiliating revolving door. Worst of all, he never accomplished anything.

Bruce Rauner, straight-As at Dartmouth and Harvard Business School, failed to put any legislative accomplishments on the board. As far as I can tell, he failed to make any noticeable policy changes in the rotten and overfed behemoth of state government.

Had Rauner been a contract CEO at portfolio company of his fund, GTCR, Rauner would have been fired 18 months ago. Rauner would have fired Rauner, no question. 

Instead, he egregiously seeks credit for a small but promising school choice experiment that slipped through last session thanks to the diplomacy of Blaise Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago and Roman Catholic primate of Illinois. 

The same Cardinal Cupich to whom – specifically – Rauner also lied about vetoing taxpayer-funded abortions on demand for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy. 

I mean, who lies to a Cardinal? Even if, as a Lutheran, Rauner will celebrate the Reformation’s 500th anniversary in two weeks. Luther had all kinds of issues with Rome, obviously. There is no record that Father Martin LIED to anyone about it. Rauner, on the other hand, adds the insult of appropriating credit for the school scholarship program to the injury of telling the Cardinal one thing, but doing another.

If these stunts lose Bruce both the Lutheran and the Catholic vote, then the reason for this note is proven: Bruce Rauner is damaged goods. He cannot win in 2018. Therefore, he should not run. 

He will get no pro-life-deciding GOP-ers in the primary, or – should he squeak by – in the general. Bruce will get no conservative-deciding voters. Bruce will get none of the voters who “took a chance on an outsider.” Bruce will get no votes from the folks who believed he would improve Illinois’ economy. 

I think Jeanne Ives, or any of another five or six party luminaries, defeats Rauner in the primary on announcement. 

His money will not matter. His flannel shirts will not attract. His commercials will persuade no one. He may attack Jeanne, the way he did Aaron and Dan. But for what? Goodness knows. 

Regardless, it will reduce his vote, not hers. Attacking a Wheaton mom who was among the first female West Point grads, a decorated logistics officer in the U.S. Army, who has earned her spurs in Springfield, worked with Democrats to pass important bills for all of us, and who has never strayed from her stated political beliefs in conservatism and rooting out Illinois corruption? The only campaign person who might recommend such a course probably led Mark Kirk’s re-elect effort.

I know, Rauner bought the party. I do not think it matters. I know the State Central Committee is urged to hold the line. But, for what? For this? The party of Reagan? To this we have sunk? 

What have we delivered to the people – all of the people, from the South Side to Southern Illinois, from Western Illinois University to Northwestern – what have those folks gotten from Rauner and us that is worthy of us holding anything for him?


Does any one of us believe that Rauner will get to the re-apportionment table? Or, if one thinks he will, on what basis might one think Rauner would deliver the best map possible for Illinoisans under those circumstances? Instead, for this all-encompassing task, Rauner’s petty personalization against Madigan has shown him uniquely unqualified. 

I thought Bruce Rauner was a fresh breeze. I thought he was technocrat who would save our finances. I did not expect a conservative, per se, but after his pitch to Jack Roeser, I was promised Bruce would never be a liberal. I got a whopping tax hike, Sanctuary State, Transgender Birth Certificates and taxpayer-funded abortion on demand through nine-months of pregnancy.  

What is so horrid about Rauner’s incumbency, and what is fatal to his cause, is that his screw-ups repel the reasonable voters, neither stridently “D,” nor “R,” who simply do not want to give everything to the Democrats in November 2018. These folks are the key to 2018. They are not partisans. They are our only path to the reapportionment conversation. I believe Rauner has irrevocably lost them for his serial incompetence. Rauner cannot be our future because of his past 32 months. 

Will Jeanne Ives, or Dan Cronin, or Peter Roskam, or David McSweeney, or Peter Breen or someone else get those voters? At this moment, I think each would beat Bruce on announcement, and each would qualify as a safe harbor for November voters who have had enough one-party domination. 

Maybe that is the slogan: “End One-Party Domination, Defeat Rauner.” 

Count me in. Now, who is the candidate?

WGN-TV’s Republican commentator since 2006, Robling served under Chairman Donald L. Totten as executive director of the Cook County Republican Party from 1985 to 1987.

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