Bruce Rauner, Scorpion

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That’s a folktale that shows up every now and again.  It’s in the form of an Aesop fable, but not actually one.

The short version of the tale (full version here) is that a scorpion asks a frog to carry him across a river.  The dialog then goes:

“Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?” asked the frog hesitantly.

“Because,” the scorpion replied, “If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!”

And the scorpion thus persuades the frog to carry him.  But halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog.

“You fool!” croaked the frog, “Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?”

The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog’s back.

“I could not help myself. It is my nature.”

In other retellings of similar stories, it is a snake, who says, “You knew what I was when you found me.”

And I am reminded of this in reading the news about Governor Rauner’s decision to sign a Democrat-passed bill authorizing Medicaid to fund elective abortions as well as including them as covered services in health plans for state employees.

He did so despite campaigning that he would maintain the status quo on abortion and other social issues, and despite a promise, this past spring, to veto the bill.  He did so despite having personally assured Cardinal Cupich of a veto.  In response, Cupich said in a Tribune report, “He broke his word to the people.”  The Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a statement that said, in part, “We are deeply disturbed that Governor Rauner has broken his word and firm public promise to veto HB 40.  And State Senator Tim Bivins, Republican from Dixon, likewise said in a statement:

Several months ago he (Rauner) promised over 23 legislators he would veto the bill . . . . Today he said he has to stand by what he believes is the right thing to do. Today I will also stand on what I believe is the right thing to do. I will not support this governor for re-election.

So why did Rauner do what he did?  He says it’s because it’s because of his deeply held beliefs, and I won’t quibble with him.

The bigger question is, why did he promise Republicans, Catholics, and others that he would veto the bill back in the spring?

Rauner claims

“I tried in the spring, and I’ve tried for months as this bill was debated and ultimately passed, to find common ground with both sides of this issue,” Rauner said. “We were unable to do that. The passions run too deep.”

But in Illinois, governors have the power to do what’s called an amendatory veto, in which he revises the law to his liking, and legislators can accept his changes or try to override them.  Rauner declined to do so.  And, really, I haven’t seen a single indicator of such a mythical “search for common ground.”  Rauner wanted to fund abortions for women on Medicaid and state employees, and he has now done so.

What seems far more likely is that in the spring, Rauner needed all the support he could get in the budget fight with Democrats, which  was finally resolved with a budget deal in July (in which Democrats found enough Republicans willing to support their tax hikes, to override Rauner’s veto of the budget bill), and the subsequent deal on education funding in August.  With those two fights over with, Rauner no longer needed to worry about alienating the pro-life community.

I wonder if there was a certain further line of thinking, that Catholics now “owed him” for putting the private school scholarship tax credit program in place, and would be obliged to continue to support him because it helps the Church’s bottom line, regardless of this bill-signing.

Is this a further indicator that Rauner won’t run for re-election?  Does he figure that Republicans have no realistic chance of replacing him in a primary, and that Democrats would be indistinguishable from him on social issues anyway?  At least, though, with Democrats you know what you’re going to get, as opposed to believing in a scorpion making promises.

Image:  own photo.

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