Smile Politely

Reason to Believe: Rauner at the iHotel

Governor Bruce Rauner was at the iHotel last Thursday speaking about the issues in Illinois ahead of his State of the State address on Wednesday. In college I was a sportswriter, I’d gone to major press conferences, Selection Sunday, and a handful of other big time NCAA events. This event, something I attended as a community writer, was a lot more heavy than those events that seemed like life and death. This was, essentially, the real thing.

After an introduction from Chamber of Commerce Chair Rod Roberts, Rauner strutted up to the podium shaking hands with locals in a packed iHotel ballroom. I stood in the back, observing the crowd. Mostly white, mostly Republicans looking for changes to come from the highest office in the state. It’s no secret that Illinois is and has been in what many would call “bad shape.” Pat Quinn was an unlikeable boob and was the face of the Madigan regime as Illinois continued to plummet in the state rankings in, well, a lot of things. Many things.

Rauner showed us what those things were in a Power Point presentation that looked like it was created in a middle school computer class. Not that the deck had to be all bells and whistles, but this was particularly boring. It’s entirely possible that this was intentional, as the boring Power Point allowed Rauner to sprinkle in some wonderful anecdotal evidence and inject his quips and ticks (he says “HELLO” like Fran Drescher to emphasize the BAD IDEAS that Democrats had and “COME ON” more than Gob Bluth).

Speaking of wonderful anecdotal evidence, my favorite thing Rauner said was that Republicans have stopped a lot of their conflicts of interest in politics, but unions are the REAL PROBLEM. Republicans aren’t holding the state hostage with sweetheart deals to their buddies, but union workers and the democrats are. That wasn’t on one of his slides, it was just kind of tossed in as an aside and the nodding of heads throughout most of the crowd was a mind boggling thing to witness. 

He went on to talk about smart spending within the government and said he’d spend less than Quinn’s regime. He’s off to a great start.

Rauner also glossed over the idea of having elected judges in Illinois. He was not happy with people spending money to put judges into office that would rule in favor of certain interests depending on who spent money on their campaign. “HELLLOOOOO” he said. I couldn’t agree with him more. I think that’s a valid criticism. I also now know that we have a Governor who was elected into office that has absolutely no idea what the word irony means.

Around this point in the talk, Rauner was giving a thumbs up and making jokes about how shitty New Jersey is and how Illinois should be better than that state. That’s cool, I want to be better than New Jersey, too. And then the lights flickered and went out for a second before they came back on. I expected Sting to descend on Rauner’s NWO with a baseball bat and declare the WCW back. Unfortunately, Rauner kept talking.

The Governor specifically said he wasn’t “pro-right-to-work” but was upset with people being “forced into unions.” Teachers, specifically, were one of the targets there. High union dues, amongst other issues, were talking points. Rauner spent a short amount of time making sure that attendees understood his position. Which, I think, is this:  People should feel free to join unions, but businesses and governments shouldn’t have to use them. But also, that they shouldn’t exist and are terrible and ruining the state.  

He moved on to education and discussed the ISAT and how it’s a terrible monstrosity, which was nice because he immediately began talking about improving the University of Illinois by hiring the best, most qualified staff possible. With Chancellor Phyllis Wise in the room I expected him to finish that statement with, “Unless you tweet some shit we’re not cool with. Then you can’t work here.”

More cutting the bureaucracy talk ensued and that was kind of it.

Rauner was likable. His politics and mine don’t jive, I know this. But he was likable and if his proposed solutions to the problems in Illinois work, I’ll give that man a fist bump and a “COME ON” if I ever see him. But the problem actually lies with those proposed solutions. In this entire speech there weren’t any. There were just a whole bunch of “we’ll address this” and “we’re looking into that” and “look at how bad we’re doing.” I’m holding out hope that maybe Rauner will make some of those proposals at the State of the State on the 4th. 

Otherwise you’ll be able make up your own Rauner speech at home. Just point out some bad Illinois stats and click on some of the audio links in this Hawk Harrelson sound board. It’ll be exactly the same.

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