Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan each seem to believe they will be the ultimate survivor and the other guy the loser in their ongoing political war.
But what if neither of them survives?
What if they manage to kill each other off, both of them tumbling from the Capitol dome with their hands around their respective throats like in the movies. Symbolically speaking, of course.
It could happen.
It came to me Monday in a vision, or maybe a dyspeptic daydream as I nodded off at my computer reading one more Illinois Republican Party press release threatening Democrats not to re-elect Madigan on Wednesday to another term as Speaker.
For the first time, I could see how we might be able to get rid of both Rauner and Madigan in one fell swoop in 2018. Wouldn’t that be a relief?
Until now, I’ve been hung up on the notion that one or the other eventually would have to emerge as the victor, just as they seem to assume.
Under that scenario, I saw Madigan as the best defense, the only defense really, against Rauner’s anti-union, anti-government philosophies and the vast personal wealth the governor is willing to expend to get his way.
But as their power struggle has dragged on for two years and now threatens to become four, I’ve come around to the idea it might be nice to be rid of Madigan, too — as long as we got rid of Rauner first.
The problem was figuring out how to make that happen.
Now, though, with 2018 coming into view, I’m starting to believe it could be possible for them to do themselves in.
Rauner’s preoccupation with besting Madigan may indeed allow Republicans to capture a majority in the House in 2018, which is the only real way to end the Speaker’s long reign.
The Republicans’ aggressive and well-financed effort to portray Madigan as the cause of all the state’s problems has taken root in the minds of enough voters to put some Democratic legislators in jeopardy.
In the process, though, Rauner may also have inadvertently made himself not re-electable as his obsession with eliminating Madigan allows the state’s problems to get worse and worse.
Beating Rauner assumes Democrats coming up with a decent candidate, which I will choose to be optimistic about at this point.
Although my partisan leanings are well known, it wouldn’t be the worst outcome for Democrats to win the governorship and Republicans the House.
As long as Democrats retain control of the Senate, the General Assembly wouldn’t be in a position to roll back the clock on social reforms. And Republicans would have enough of a check on the Democrats to maintain the balance of power that Illinoisans seem to prefer.
As I say, this is just a daydream. It’s just as likely both Rauner and Madigan will retain power, and wouldn’t that make for a rosy future?
There’s practically no possibility of House Democrats abandoning Madigan at this time, and I’m not even sure that’s what Republicans want. It’s more like they’re daring Democrats to keep him, so they can keep attention focused on him as the bogeyman.
Democrats control a majority of seats in the Illinois House of Representatives, which effectively makes it their choice who they pick as their leader.
In normal times, this is a perfunctory matter, or at most an intramural battle. The vote is taken on the first day of the newly sworn-in General Assembly, which will be Wednesday.
Madigan will win that vote, keeping him in position to serve as Rauner’s nemesis — and foil — for two more years. On their current trajectory, neither man may be making a return appearance in 2019.