If you know anything about Springfield, you know The Rule: The Speaker always wins. Everyone knows not to get on The Speaker’s bad side or you risk the possibility of being neutered in state government and politics. It appears however, that Governor Bruce Rauner does not know The Rule, nor does he care.
Feared as the most powerful man in Illinois politics, rarely if ever is The Speaker’s authority questioned. While the media likes to portray The Speaker as some nefarious character in the murky world of an Illinois political drama, he has actually proven to be the leader strong enough to build “consensus” among his members. From what I have observed, The Speaker spends a significant amount of time accommodating his members, converting even the candidates most vocal against him on the campaign trail into supporters once in the legislature. The Speaker also has a formidable, military-like political organization that relies on discipline, legislation, and fundraising to maintain control of state government. The Speaker’s status is rarely challenged and his members remain loyal because of The Rule.
Enter Governor Bruce Rauner trying to break The Rule with Black people possibly paying the price. Rauner campaigned heavily on the promise to beat The Speaker in Springfield, but he has found the task to be a bit more difficult than he anticipated. Unlike The Speaker, he is a business titan but a political novice, with even less knowledge of Springfield. Governor Rauner also has a talented, yet relatively green to Springfield staff, even if for no other reason than Democratic dominance for the last decade. What he lacks in experience he makes up with money: money to insulate himself and his staff from the effects of a government shutdown; money to finance media campaigns; money to finance campaigns; and money allows him to ignore The Rule.
The Speaker has already shown his early dominance, soundly defeating every significant piece of legislation that Governor Rauner proposed. The Speaker has also gotten the Governor to remove two of the four pillars of his turnaround agenda. By all accounts, it is only a matter of time before The Speaker teaches the Governor, The Rule; except this time I am not so sure it will be as easy.
On numerous occasions, I have heard Governor Rauner speak, and somewhere in that speech, he always says something to the gist of, “I am willing to take the arrows…be the bad guy.” Translation: “I’ve made the necessary but painful necessary for the long-term sustainability of the company, regardless of the human impact.” And that’s why I think The Speaker may have a much more difficult time teaching the Governor The Rule.
Bruce Rauner the businessman has prepared Governor Rauner for the protests that will ensue if the government shuts down. Bruce Rauner the philanthropist has prepared Governor Rauner for stories of the families that will suffer. And the long-term outcome for Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has prepared Governor Bruce Rauner for a protracted union battle (Walker is now considered a potential Presidential candidate.)
In Illinois, we have grown accustomed to Democratic governors who, regardless of their issues, put “people” first regardless of “fiscal” challenges. Gov. Rauner came into office prepared to deal with the “fiscal” challenges, regardless of the “people.” In the past The Speaker was able to give the governor a budget and let him “take the arrows…be the bad guy,” for the any cuts. Those governors were always concerned with voters, so they generally did not make deeps cuts to services important to Black people, so Black people usually benefitted from The Rule.
If The Speaker gives Governor Rauner a budget with a $3 billion hole, he WILL make the cuts. We already know those cuts will not be good for Black people. So, I am not suggesting that The Rule has changed, but maybe the game has.