Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner just vetoed a gun control bill passed by the Democrat controlled legislature, and I’m not celebrating in the slightest. With some national GOP officials virtue signaling to the gun control lobby and Florida Governor Rick Scott signing a sweeping gun control bill, some conservatives might feel excited hearing that a GOP Governor vetoed a similar measure. The problem is this veto is clearly political theater, timed a week before the Illinois GOP primary, where the incumbent is currently facing a conservative revolt in the form of State Representative Jeanne Ives.
Gov. Rauner declared during his first campaign in 2014 that he had “no social agenda”, by which he meant no conservative social agenda because he definitely had a liberal one. In just the last year, he signed several of the Democrats’ most radical bills, including legalizing taxpayer funded abortions, creating America’s first sanctuary state for illegal immigrants, and using state dollars to fund the bloated Chicago public school system. His tenure has been so bad that National Review recently declared him “the worst Republican Governor in America”.
So forgive me if I don’t buy this recent veto as some come-to-Jesus-moment. Maybe it’s my cynicism talking, but one of my biggest frustrations is the limp-wristed Republican leadership who do nothing throughout their terms, only to suddenly trumpet “severely” conservative ideology when primaries roll around. Actually, my BIGGEST frustration is how often they get away with it. Sadly, many voters are too busy with their jobs and family to recognize how disingenuous these politicians are.
Irritatingly, Gov. Rauner doesn’t even have it in him to pretend to be a hard-core conservative for even one week. With the typical code words of eventual betrayal, Gov. Rauner declared that he wants a more “comprehensive solution” on guns and wants to “come up with real solutions together on a bipartisan basis.” This can only be translated - “Wait until after I no longer answer to conservative primary voters.”
It is no wonder he is incredibly unpopular across the political spectrum and drew a challenger from one of the most conservative leaders in Illinois politics. Jeanne Ives is a West Point grad and one of the strongest conservative voices in the Illinois legislature, fighting against Rauner’s liberal agenda.
Like most moderate Republican leaders, Gov. Rauner has managed to alienate and deflate conservatives throughout his state. Personally wealthy, his greatest political weapon has always been his checkbook that he’s unleashed on opponents, including some ridiculous lies and distortions in attack ads against his primary opponent. The Governor went so far as to accuse the hardcore Republican Jeanne Ives of being a lackey for Democrat leadership after Rauner himself signed the Democrats’ hyper-liberal legislation.
If nominated again, Rauner’s money may not be worth that much after next Tuesday. His likely Democrat challenger is billionaire JB Pritzker, who can crush the incumbent under the weight of his much larger checkbook. All the typical claims by the Chamber of Commerce GOP that their money can carry the day is useless against a man who could fund his campaign with pocket change.
So Rauner has no money advantage, no conservative enthusiasm, and no public support. So what argument is there to re-nominate him?
It seems clear the best hope the GOP has in Illinois is the same one as always – a conservative voice that can cut through the waves of liberal attacks and energize voters with a clear delineation from the failed left-wing agenda. Sadly, it’s clear Gov. Rauner isn’t capable of that anymore.