Saturday, April 30, 2016

The New Springfield Stalemate

Is Bruce Rauner a failure?

This loaded question was raised by an op-ed the Chicago Tribune, who suggested that the current Governor of Illinois was ineffectual beyond redemption, a mere 15 months into his first term. Succeeding the doddering Pat Quinn was one thing; to make Illinois forget their two immediate predecessors, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, is another. And yet, Rauner's strategy of running the state into the ground in order to build it from the ground up might be too daring a strategy to work.

Let's start with Rauner's alleged "turnaround agenda." In order to bring business back to Illinois, it seems that he wants to make companies that are already in-state even richer, while also filling the coffers of the super wealthy. Unfortunately, in order to justify this late-arriving attempt at trickle-down economics, Rauner has blocked any reasonable state budget, holding hostage contractors and state universities that rely on public money. Rauner conjures images of people (and businesses) bolting Illinois for greener pastures, but statistics say that's utterly false. It would be easy to blame the dictatorial State Speaker Michael Madigan, but in this case the fiscal crisis is not the fault of a calculating career politician.

In an election year where a shrewd, eccentric businessman is turning the GOP upside down, a multi-millionaire in Illinois is proving you can't run government like a business. Bruce Rauner could be a case example of putting hubris over responsibility, but the Republicans (and the country) are distracted by a primary race gone haywire. The word "failure" may linger over Rauner's head, but the window of opportunity to prove his brinkmanship right is shutting fast.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Somewhere Over the (Partisan) Rainbow

I don't believe I've ever intentionally spoken ill will of the dead. When Justice Antonin Scalia passed away a few weeks ago, rather than just say "RIP" on social media, I admittedly deferred the idea of criticizing a polarizing figure in American politics. I still received some flack from my Facebook friends, even though I didn't say anything specific about Justice Scalia. (I had my qualms, but so did a lot of other people.) One could argue, however that the Republicans that control both houses of Congress may have overreacted the most.

Judge Merrick Garland, a fellow Chicago native, is the third and likely last person that President Obama has nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court. His first two appointees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, were left-leaning justices replacing fellow liberals on a court that tilted right. Garland's potential appointment will allegedly tip the scale to the left, or at least that's what the GOP fears; Garland has a history of being a moderate/centrist, a swing vote on a court that is now deadlocked at four and four.  In any other era of American politics, Garland would be a model nominee and have a swift confirmation. In a polarized Washington during an election year, he might not even get a hearing.

As of this writing, the only elected Republican to meet with Judge Garland is Sen. Mark Kirk, a fellow Illinoisan. It's an election year, and I can see why the GOP is trying to save face; they want to wait until Obama is out of office in nine months, apparently in total disregard of who might succeed him. At the same time, this group of senators was elected by their constituents to serve their country, and by refusing to give Judge Garland a hearing indicates a refusal to do their jobs. There is nothing to indicate that Garland is a liberal firebrand or would have any detrimental value to the nation's highest court, the GOP is simply being obstructive. A political party that is trying to vain to prove that they have ideas is doing everything but that. Whether they confirm or reject Garland, I'm not spending my tax money on a group of old men sitting on their hands because it allegedly compromises their principles.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Random Notes, April 2016

On the election beat:

+ At this rate, a brokered GOP convention this summer is inevitable. Years of subtext have become context; the Republican Party, which promoted itself as the "big tent" party in the Reagan era, is as splintered as its ever been. The last of the mainline, old school conservatives, the party members that have either survived or narrowly dodged the Tea Party movement of the past decade, are hoping by default that John Kasich comes from behind to take the party's presidential nomination. It's one thing that Donald Trump's momentum has barely wavered, it's another that Ted Cruz is a palatable nominee in comparison. (Head-to-head polls aren't that favorable, either.) They might still control both houses of Congress after November 8th, but between this ungainly primary race and their holding the U.S. Supreme Court hostage, the GOP has more to lose than they think.

+ Speaking of fractured political parties, the Democrats will likely figure things out between Sec. Clinton and Sen. Sanders by August, but it's not a sure shot. Two brokered conventions would be ripe for drama but would ultimately benefit no one; it would only serve to prove political scientists right that the two-party system is outmoded and unwieldy. Where Sanders' supporters have youth and diversity to their disposal, Clinton is more appealing to moderates, independents, and (dare I say it) deep pockets. A George Soros type would have Bernie in the heart but Hillary in the brain. It would make for strange bedfellows, but a Clinton-Sanders ticket would be the Dems' best shot against Trump and the unfortunate patsy that would be his running mate.

+ I'm finally doing some traveling! Over a decade after the last time I set foot on an airplane, and four years since my last real vacation, I'm going to Houston for a few days. A good friend of mine is getting married, so I'm spending a three-day weekend in southeast Texas. After that, my duo Flower Shop Bangers will be playing the Omaha Improv Festival in mid-May. To all my far-flung readers: let me know if you're nearby, I wouldn't mind meeting up.