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‘My way or highway’ already tried and failed here in Illinois

Trump now tries it again in Washington

Scott Reeder
Scott Reeder

SPRINGFIELD — Am I the only Illinoisan who is experiencing déjà vu, when it comes to the latest antics in Washington?

It seems a petulant chief executive is at loggerheads with a speaker of the House and is allowing a portion of the government to go unfunded unless he gets what he wants.

It could be Gov. Bruce Rauner circa 2015 or President Donald Trump in 2019.

The parallels are frightening.

Both Rauner and Trump are wealthy men accustomed to getting what they want. It is also worth noting that neither held any other public office before being elected to head an executive branch.

Rauner entered office with a 44-point program to reform Illinois.

He precipitated a crisis by using his veto pen and legislative allies to keep Illinois from having a budget for 736 days. He’d hoped to harness the discontent caused by the emergency to shove his key reforms through the House.

Sound familiar?

That’s exactly what Trump is attempting now. He is allowing much of the federal government to shut down as a way of pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to support his idea of building a wall along the Mexican border.

He has even said this crisis could last “years.”

If there is anything to learn from Rauner’s two-year misadventure, it’s that these strategies rarely work. Nor should they.

Democracy is about compromise, seeking consensus, researching new possibilities and finding common ground that benefits citizens.

It’s not bluster, bullying and chest thumping.

Rauner envisioned Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan collapsing like a wet cardboard box after he applied a bit of pressure. Madigan weathered the storm quite nicely, and Rauner didn’t see a single one of his 44 reforms become law.

The sad part is that some of the measures he advocated, such as property tax reductions, education reform and worker compensation restructuring, merit a public debate. And if Rauner had played his cards right, he could have received bipartisan support.

Instead, he received nothing.

The proposed border wall has become emblematic of the need for immigration reform.

Rather than attempting to bully a House speaker as Rauner did, Trump should seek consensus.

One thing both Republicans and Democrats can agree on is that our immigration system is broken. It is far too hard for honest, hard-working people to legally come to the United States.

As for Trump’s wall, I view it as an expensive solution in search of a problem.

That said, Pelosi ought to bring wall funding up for a vote.

More than likely, the legislation would die a quick death because Trump has failed to convince a  majority of members of Congress (or the American people) that a wall is needed. Elections have consequences and Pelosi’s party now controls a legislative chamber.

Effective leaders in a democracy can’t take a “my way or the highway” approach. When they do, they inherit the wind.

Note to readers: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter.

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