What’s happening in Springfield might best be explained by World War I.
We have an invading army (Gov. Bruce Rauner) aggressively marching right over one enemy (former Gov. Pat Quinn) before slamming headlong into trench warfare (legislative Democrats led by House Speaker Michael Madigan).
Now, before anybody gets their kerchiefs in a bundle, I’m not at all saying that Rauner actually is Kaiser Wilhelm II nor implying that the Democrats are the French, although Quinn most definitely was Belgium. OK, that was a joke. I’m just attempting to use a broad historical analogy here. No offense intended to Belgians.
As with the Great War, we’ve seen monumental blunders on both sides. To start with, the Democrats completely misjudged the man who beat Quinn.
In 2002, Rauner and his wife hosted a fundraiser at their home for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. After introducing Boxer, the future governor launched into a long tirade about how labor unions were wrecking the nation, according to an acquaintance of mine who helped organize the event.
Being anti-union is core to Rauner’s existence. But he didn’t bash unions during his general election campaign, so the Democrats did not anticipate that the “real” Rauner would re-emerge.
Better intelligence about the new governor could have made a difference. Perhaps then the Democrats wouldn’t have expected Rauner to care or even notice that their party often had passed bills that were strongly opposed by public employee unions and that the trade unions (plumbers, sheet metal workers, operating engineers, etc.) didn’t much like those other unions, either.
Instead, Rauner caught them completely off guard, spending months touring the state after his inauguration demanding that the General Assembly approve a “right to work” law. As Senate President John Cullerton recently said on “Chicago Tonight,” the governor made it more difficult to reach an agreement because he firmly united all unions. Democrats, with their most important and most loyal constituencies completely up in arms, feel they can’t even make smallish deals.
When Rauner demanded that the Democrats let the “temporary” 2011 income tax hike lapse right after the election, they complied, figuring they eventually would cut a budget deal with Rauner that would have to include some additional taxes. They had no idea that the political neophyte would block a state budget unless his pro-business/anti-union agenda was approved.
Rauner has totally misjudged the Democrats, believing they would abandon the unions when poor people started losing state services. That hasn’t happened, partly because state and federal judges have ordered so much state spending, and partly because poor people don’t fund Democratic campaigns and most don’t vote Republican anyway.
The Great War ended when the kaiser feared that the same sort of revolution he had helped foment in Russia would happen to him.
Both sides in Springfield have been doing pretty much the same thing to each other.