Executive Director Reports

Rauner’s down but not out—yet

 Roberta Lynch

Roberta Lynch

He’ll fight for governor’s office with everything he’s got

Are you tired of reading about Bruce Rauner? I know I’m tired of writing about him. In fact, I’m totally tired of HIM. Increasingly, it seems like we are all so ready to be rid of Rauner. We want him gone before his destructive policies take down our entire state.

And, at the moment, it sure seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to get rid of him. Polls show that he’s among the least popular governors in the country. And in just a little more than a year, we’ll have the opportunity to vote him right out of office.

Unfortunately, as we know from so many events in our lives, what shouldn’t be difficult, very often is.

In this case, we’re talking about someone who’s utterly ruthless and incredibly wealthy. That perilous combination means we can almost certainly count on three things happening over the coming months.

First is the return of Bogus Bruce. Unlike the Real Rauner who has nine lavish homes (and one very vile temper), Bogus Bruce is warm and folksy, a regular guy who hangs out in what appears to be a garage full of DIY home repair tools. While the Real Rauner wants to drive down your family income and strip your rights on the job, Bogus Bruce is ready to come right over and fix your leaky faucet.

It may be difficult to believe that anyone will fall for Bogus Bruce after we’ve seen so much of the Real Rauner threatening legislators, belittling public service workers, forcing human service agencies to close and pushing Illinois off a fiscal cliff. But with the nonstop TV, radio and social media saturation that his millions will buy, some people almost certainly will be taken in.

Rauner will also fill the airwaves with negative attacks on his opponent and House Speaker Michael Madigan. That’s because Rauner almost certainly knows deep down that too many Illinois voters won’t be fooled by his own extreme makeover. So instead he’ll focus the bulk of his efforts on trying to smear his opponents with more mud than you’ll find on Illinois’ biggest hog farm.

Secondly, we can expect that before long there will be an army of paid canvassers out knocking on doors for Bruce Rauner. He’ll undoubtedly look to programs in other states run by groups like Americans for Prosperity, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Koch Brothers, which relied on paid canvassers to swing key political races and elect Republican officeholders who moved swiftly to suppress labor unions in their states.

The third piece of Rauner’s game plan is probably the most time-tested and pernicious: Divide and conquer. He’s already spent a lot of time and money trying to stir up workers in the private sector against public employees like us—attacking our wages and benefits as excessive and undeserved. He’s tried to make it about taxpayers vs public employees—never mind that public employees pay taxes too!

Right now he’s working night and day to pit Downstate against Chicago, jeopardizing school funding reform legislation that would improve educational opportunities for kids from one end of the state to the other. And, sadly, despite all the warnings that history gives us about how those in power foment such divisions to keep the rest of us from gaining some of that power, there are folks who continue to fall prey to it.

So, yeah, it seems like a guy who’s done so much harm and next to no good should already be on his way out the door. But, in fact, Rauner’s going to hang on to the governor’s office with everything he’s got.

If we want him gone, we’re going to have to be willing to use everything we’ve got too.

The thing is we’ve actually got a lot—a lot of people, a lot of determination, and a lot of know-how. Yes, he’ll saturate the airwaves, but research shows that more persuasive than any ad is the viewpoint of a trusted friend, neighbor or family member. We can make a big difference by systematically reaching out to others and sharing the truth about the Real Rauner who held Illinois hostage, drove our debt up and our credit rating down, hurting Illinois residents and refusing to do his job.

To drive that message home, AFSCME will be working with other unions through the Illinois AFL-CIO to build the biggest volunteer voter outreach effort ever assembled in our state. Take some time now to think about your plans for the coming year—and factor in ample time to do your part.

Finally, if we want to defeat Bruce Rauner, we have to stand strong against the politics of resentment and division that he seeks to foster.

As union members, experience has taught us that nothing is more important than standing together and refusing to be divided.

We can lead the rest of Illinois by example, demonstrating that no progress has ever been made by fighting each other over crumbs rather than coming together to work for a better state for all.