We haven’t always agreed with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s approach to rebuilding Illinois.
Heck, we have almost never agreed.
Rauner has waged an anti-union ideological war with Democrats that he’s not about to win, stalling the engine of government, even as our state falls further and further behind.
But on social issues at the core of human freedom and dignity, or of just plain decency, Rauner has managed to swim more or less in the tolerant mainstream. He largely has resisted pressure from the far right wing of the Republican Party to vilify and punish the usual suspects — gay people, transgender people, illegal immigrants, and women who choose to have an abortion.
Contrast that, if you will, with Rauner’s opponent in the Republican primary for governor, state Rep. Jeanne Ives. She’s happily chasing the bully vote.
Thank you, Rep. Ives. You make it so easy for us to endorse Bruce Rauner for re-election in the Republican primary.
SUN-TIMES ARCHIVE: Coverage of Gov. Bruce Rauner
Ives is a cagey talker, ramping up or toning down her rhetoric to suit her audience, but she gave away her true self in that ugly campaign ad she ran on TV. She thought it was a pretty nifty idea — a sure vote-getter — to mock transgender people by trotting out a man in a dress. She thought it was hilarious to trivialize the plight of illegal immigrants, the vast majority of whom are honest and hard-working, by presenting a goofy-looking young man in a hoodie and a face mask.
Ives apparently thinks her fellow Republicans are a pretty mean bunch, but we give them more credit. We believe that Illinois is still, after all these years, the Land of Lincoln, where Republicanism stands for fiscal conservatism — and for basic decency.
If we’re right, Rauner should win the primary handily.
As we say, had Ives not entered the race, we might have had a tough time endorsing Rauner. With a handful of exceptions, we believe he has been a failure as governor, and he has only himself to blame. He promised what he could not deliver.
When Rauner first ran, he vowed he would roll into Springfield like a Sherman tank. He said he would flatten House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, whom he blamed — along with public unions — for almost all of the state’s woes.
But the new governor found he couldn’t flatten Madigan. Which surprised nobody who’d been around. So he whined that the speaker — the guy he promised to flatten — would not work with him.
How’s that for politically savvy?
For all that, Rauner can claim at least three accomplishments worth boasting about in the Republican primary.
The governor signed a bill overhauling the way public schools are funded in the state, reducing inequities that punished schools in poorer communities for generations. It was his signature achievement.
As part of this school funding reform effort, Rauner teamed up with Cardinal Blase Cupich to create a private school scholarship program. We opposed the measure, seeing it as a taxpayer give-away to private schools, but it was popular with Republican legislators and voters. In a Republican primary, it counts as a solid achievement.
Rauner also signed the Future Energy Jobs Act, which promises to make Illinois a leader in creating clean energy jobs, such as in the fields of solar and wind power. The bill was derided by critics as a bailout for Exelon’s nuclear power plants, but it was supported by environmentalists and consumer groups. The new law looks to Illinois’ future, not the past, and Rauner should brag about it.
We would be remiss if we did not also mention a few decisions that the governor might prefer to downplay in a primary — when the game is to win over the conservative base — but could work to his advantage in the November general election, should he get that far.
Rauner did, in fact, sign House Bill 40, which expanded insurance coverage for abortion. He signed the Trust Act, which firmed up protections for immigrants. And he signed a bill allowing transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates with authorization from a medical professional who confirms treatment. Previously, the law required proof of a surgical procedure.
Ives hates all that, but compassion’s apparently not her strong suit.
Should Rauner win this primary and then again in November, we would hope he proves to be more politically flexible in his second term. Compromise is everything. Nobody is always right or always wrong. You gotta give to get.
We would offer the same advice, of course, to every candidate in the Democratic primary.
When Gov. Bruce Rauner visited the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board on Feb. 6, we asked him to let readers know what his priorities would be for a second term. Here was Rauner’s response:
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