By George Will -
CHICAGO - Democracy can be cruel because elections deprive the demos of the delight of alibis and the comfort of complaining.
Illinois voters have used many elections to make theirs the worst-governed state, with about $100 billion in unfunded public pension promises, and $6.7 billion in unpaid bills.
The state is a stark illustration of prolonged one-party rule conducted by politicians subservient to government employees unions.
A new Gallup poll shows that Illinois has the highest percentage — 50% — of residents who want to leave their state. If Illinois voters re-elect Gov. Pat Quinn, 65, they will reject Bruce Rauner, 58, who vows to change the state's fundamental affliction — its political culture.
The state's strongest civic tradition is of governors going to jail. Four of the last nine have done so.
Lt. Gov. Quinn ascended to the governorship in 2009, because Gov. Rod Blagojevich, of fragrant memory, tried to sell the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated. In 2010, Quinn defeated a downstate social conservative by 32,000 votes out of 3.7 million cast. His job approval today is about 35%.
Rauner, born a few blocks from Wrigley Field, grew up in a Chicago suburb — his father was an electrical engineer at Motorola, his mother was a nurse. He attended Dartmouth, earned a Harvard MBA and joined the private-equity firm GTCR, where he made enough money to buy his nine homes.
When asked by a reporter if he is among the 1%, he cheerfully replied, "Oh, I'm probably .01%," an answer that was better arithmetic than politics.
Rauner spent $6.5 million of his own in winning the Republican primary, partly because Democratic-aligned unions spent millions trying to pick Quinn's opponent — attacking Rauner and supporting one of his GOP rivals.
Quinn is, as Winston Churchill reportedly said of an adversary, a modest man with much to be modest about.
Hence Quinn's campaign theme: Don't compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.
Concerning social issues, which energize much of the Republican base but repel many suburban voters in the "collar counties" around Chicago, Rauner is impeccably prudent, meaning disengaged. Abortion, he says, is "a tragedy" best left to women, not government. Gay marriage? Let each state decide by referendum "that particular contract between adults."
Quinn, unable to work the "war on women" trope, must rely on contemporary liberalism's only other idea, rage against the rich. But this becomes awkward.