Opinion: What's Next for Bruce Rauner

Illinois' GOP governor-elect must take on Michael Madigan and his Machine. That won't be easy.

So, for all intents and purposes, Bruce Rauner will soon run the state. 

OK. Now what?

The Rauners (Bruce and wife Diana) will likely relocate from north suburban Winnetka to the Executive Mansion in the state capitol within the next two months, ahead of January's gubernatorial inauguration. The closer to Springfield, the better to keep eyes on the opposition: The terrible and brilliant political dinosaur Michael Madigan, Speaker of the House and ringleader of the dominant Democratic Party.

In his victory speech, Rauner said he called Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, another party leader, and laid down the law, telling the two: "This is an opportunity for us to work together. We will not accept the status quo. We are going in a new direction."

(Good luck with that, Bruce. You won. But the Honeymoon is already over. You have to deal with this guy now. And soon, you'll find out what disappointment feels like when Madigan and the Machine stomp all over your plans to "shake up Springfield" and impose term limits on career politicians like themselves.)

Already Cullerton is making things difficult. He told Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz that the state Senate will hold off on a hot-button decision to make permanent the income tax until Rauner gives his budget speech early next year. The governor-elect, who managed a successful campaign without providing a concrete plan to rescue Illinois from fiscal doom, "will have to ask — and pay the political cost," wrote Hinz, adding: "Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Rauner."

Illinois voters elected a GOP CEO, but also voted yes on a range of progressive ballot questions, supporting an increase in the minimum wage and a tax surcharge on millionaires like Rauner. The latter, sponsored by Madigan, would raise $1 billion annually for schools—an irresistible, Robin Hood-like prospect to revamp the state's broken education system.

Can Rauner, whose controversial pitch to eliminate the minimum wage nearly derailed his campaign, reconcile his conservative economic views with the needs of Illinoisians less fortunate? Ideologically, is he able to transcend his own experiences and step inside the shoes of the 99 percent? Will he empathize with public employees and honor pension guarantees? Will he still court African-American voters desperate for reform, resources and the betterment of their communities—or put his blinders back on to move policies that benefit the wealthy, the white and the one percent?

As former managing partner of the Chicago private equity firm GTCR, Rauner participated in business decisions that led to negative headlines including NBC 5's recent report outlining allegations of intimidation by a female executive with whom he worked. Defending GTCR's lack of diversity, Rauner has claimed—ridiculously—that he hired no African-American employees because he could not find any qualified candidates. He called himself a Libertarian in a revealing 2011 interview with Bloomberg News, saying: "I believe in limited government, low taxes, personal freedom and personal responsibility."

Superficially, Rauner has the appearance of the kind of entitled, righteous person who rarely hears the word "no" and won't take it for answer; who mutters something about "personal responsibility" while walking past a homeless man on the street; who perhaps, like Paul Ryan, privately believes that poor Americans caught up in the vicious cycle of poverty are somehow responsible for their lot in life. 

For all Quinn's faults (and there were many), his greatest gift was relatability. An "He's one of us" authenticity. But in the end, the economy prevailed. People want better jobs. A bright, stable future. Drastic change. 

Time will tell whether Rauner will reward his peers—or spread the wealth.

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