When I heard Gov. Bruce Rauner propose bringing back the death penalty, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How many people is he willing to kill to get re-elected?”
I’m sorry, but this isn’t policymaking, it’s political showmanship.
He hacked off conservatives by signing a measure providing taxpayer dollars to fund elective abortions. And now he wants to woo them back by trying to reinstate the death penalty.
Longtime readers of this column will remember I didn’t have many good things to say about Pat Quinn when he was governor. But one thing Quinn did right was sign a measure abolishing capital punishment.
In the abstract, I believe the death penalty can be morally justified. For example, I have no moral qualms about the victorious World War II allies hanging the Nazi leadership following their trial at Nuremberg.
But here is the deal: Illinois state government does little well.
Heck, our governor and lawmakers went two years without passing a state budget. And even today our state dances on the brink of fiscal ruin because of the deeply flawed people Illinoisans have elected during the last three decades.
But now we are going to entrust that same group of people to come up with an equitable way of killing our fellow citizens? I don’t think so.
Our state court system is so bad that even when entrusted with the ultimate power to take someone’s life, it regularly got it wrong. When Illinois most recently had the death penalty, at least 13 factually innocent men ended up on death row.
Rauner entered office with a 44-point plan to reform Illinois. And he has not accomplished a single one of those goals.
Lawmakers have rendered him a political eunuch.
He ran for office assuring voters he had no “social agenda.”
But gosh, Bruce, abortion and capital punishment are the ultimate social issues.
Despite the past failings of Illinois’ death penalty system, Rauner assures us this time will be different. He says he only wants to execute mass murders and cop killers and only if it is certain they did it.
Well, gee, Governor, don’t you think jurors were pretty certain when they sentenced those 13 innocent people to die? Oh, wait, now you want to make sure they are really, really certain. Give me a break.
This isn’t serious legislation. This is a desperate ploy by a politician fearing defeat in November.
Well, here’s my prediction, Governor. Like just about everything you’ve proposed, this notion of restoring capital punishment in Illinois will go nowhere.
But, Governor, if prevarication, grandstanding and ineptitude were capital offenses, I’d expect the voters to strap you down and pull the switch.
– Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and produces the podcast Suspect Convictions.