Bruce Rauner Needs to Lose if Illinois is to be Saved

“Bruce Rauner needs to lose if Illinois is to be saved” — is what a few of us said four years ago, and it is still true today.

There’s no question the above statement sounds wrong — after all, would Pat Quinn’s reelection have been good for Illinois in 2014? Would J.B. Pritzker’s election be good in 2018? Absolutely not on both counts. Quinn would’ve sped up Illinois’ fiscal demise — and we can expect Pritzker to put the pedal to the metal and take our state off the cliff in short order.

How then can anyone say that Bruce Rauner is worse that Quinn or Pritzker?

It’s actually simple. Of those three men, only Rauner can (continue to) damage the Illinois Republican Party — the very vehicle we need to have in good working order if Illinois is to reverse course and stop the policy insanity.

Four years ago today I wrote and posted an article with this title: “Bruce Rauner and the Destruction of the Illinois Republican Party.” Here was my impolitic opening:

In Illinois Republican politics, it’s always the first week of kindergarten. Yes, I know, that’s harsh. But too bad. The terrible condition of the state of Illinois is not the fault of Illinois Democrats, but rather, the fault of both Illinois Republicans and Illinois conservatives who have yet to listen to and heed good political advice.

Here’s the gist of it: stop nominating and electing the wrong people, and stop allowing mediocrities and wrongly motivated people to run the party.

Illinois didn’t get to where it is today by accident, and things didn’t happen here without constant warning.

In the piece I credited both the Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins and Republican News Watch’s Doug Ibendahl for their insight and leadership on the Rauner question. If more Republican voters had heeded their warning, we wouldn’t have lost four years of progress due to Rauner’s incompetence.

And Rauner’s failures are not few — they are legion. Dave Smith from Illinois Family Action pretty much sums up a good deal of Rauner’s problematic record in “The Illinois Gubernatorial Dilemma,” where he encourages a vote for none of the above.

For the fiscal side, ask yourself — is Illinois better off than it was four years ago? Has any positive progress been made? If it weren’t for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, there’d be just about nothing good to point to after four years of Rauner’s time as governor.

Many of us — including Smith, Higgins and Ibendahl — spoke personally with Bruce Rauner in years past attempting to get him to listen to reason. He chose instead to listen to himself, his wife, and the same old Republican political types that have helped make Illinois into a national laughingstock.

Without question, some good people still cling to the hope that Rauner can change and become a leader that can help steer us away from complete disaster. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better website chronicling our state’s ills than Wirepoints. Its founder, Mark Glennon, wrote last week of his wish that Rauner would yet have a change of heart.

Anything is possible — but Rauner changing is not probable, and it’s not worth risking another four years of his damaging even further the GOP brand in Illinois that President Donald Trump is simultaneously reviving nationally.

If Pat Quinn would’ve won in 2014, it is very likely that Illinois Republicans would have chosen a platform-supporting nominee to run for governor in 2018. Anyone doubting that should check the results of what almost took place this past primary, when Rauner came within a percentage point or two of losing to just that kind of Republican candidate.

For years, friends and I have joked about the fact that conservatives in Illinois often say that things cannot get worse. They continue to be wrong — and many of them made things worse by throwing in with Rauner. Rauner has disappointed on so many levels — and who would’ve ever thought that a couple of hundred million dollars could be spent by Republicans only to lose anyway.

A book could be written about Illinois GOP and Illinois conservatives’ failures over the past few decades. Even in recent years, as the spigot of cash has been opened, Republican “operatives” and self-appointed experts continue to fail to move the public opinion needle in the direction it must go before reform will ever be enacted. That failure came despite, like Rauner, spending many millions of dollars.

President Jimmy Carter led to President Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama led to Donald Trump. Good things can follow bad — but only if our big political donors stop funding people whose approach are proven failures, and only if conservatives start listening to people who keep being proven correct.