Governor Bruce Rauner in 2016 Credit: Jodi Martinez

Got a call the other day from an old friend—a Bernie Sanders Democrat—who told me something that hit me like a blow to the belly.

Sorry, he said, but as much as I detest the policies of Governor Rauner—and I detest them very much—I can’t bring myself to vote for J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic nominee.

Instead, he wouldn’t vote for governor at all—he’d leave that portion of the ballot blank. “I’m tired of voting for the lesser of two evils,” he said.

Oh, brother. Democrats, when will you ever learn?

As someone—I can’t remember who—told me just the other day, when it comes to elections, Republicans fall in line and Democrats fall in love. And if the Democrat on the ballot doesn’t meet our lofty standards, well, chances are we won’t vote at all.

Even if that means losing the race and giving Rauner the power to turn Illinois red. As I’ll explain in a bit.

Look, I realize Pritzker’s ahead in the polls. But as I recall, Hillary Clinton was also ahead in the polls two years ago.

A lot of Bernie Sanders supporters sat out that race, and Donald Trump wound up narrowly winning Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. And here we are.

My guess is that Rauner’s Pritzker-bashing commercials are having much the same effect on progressive Democrats as those Clinton e-mails leaked to WikiLeaks.

It makes it hard to hop on the bandwagon and support the Dem.

OK, progressives, I get it. Pritzker is a far from perfect candidate. For what it’s worth, I didn’t vote for him in the Democratic primary back in March.

He wasn’t even my second choice. I voted for state senator Daniel Biss. Bob Daiber, the downstate Democratic, was my second choice.

But evil? That’s ridiculous. Yes, I know all about how he pulled out those toilets on his Gold Coast mansion to lower his tax bill. I read the Trib and hear the same Rauner commercials as the rest of you.

But Pritzker’s also signed on to a progressive Democratic agenda on everything from school funding to fair taxes to legalizing marijuana to tolerating unions.

Of course, there’s always a chance that Pritzker won’t follow through as he moves more to the center once in office. But that fight’s in the future.

At the moment, our alternative to Pritzker in November’s election is neither Daiber nor Biss. It’s Bruce Rauner—God help us all.

And there’s way too much at stake to risk electing Rauner over Pritzker by not voting at all.

Let me remind you of what you should already know by now—Rauner is a union-busting corporate buccaneer who clearly wants to do to Illinois what Scott Walker and Mike Pence did to Wisconsin and Indiana—namely, crush unions, privatize education, and gut environmental regulations.

To accomplish these goals, Rauner will try to blackmail Democratic legislators into passing his proposals by keeping the state from passing a budget.

That’s what he did for the first three years of his reign. He only signed on to a budget this year because, obviously, he figured he couldn’t win reelection without one.

If reelected, Rauner would probably go right back to playing budget blackmail, putting social service providers and universities at risk once again.

I’ve written many times about the impact Rauner’s policies have had on unions and schools and universities and taxes and the environment.

If that doesn’t motivate Democrats to vote for Pritzker, consider the next big redistricting fight.

If Rauner wins, he could change Illinois into a red state. It would literally come down to the luck of the draw.

Right now Illinois’s legislative districts more or less reflect the political demographics of the people who live here. That is, there are more Democrats than Republicans who live here—a Republican candidate for president hasn’t won here since 1988—and so there are are more Democrats than Republicans in the statehouse and in Congress.

But this is by no means a permanent state of affairs. And if reelected Rauner could gerrymander the legislative districts in order to maximize the strength of Republican voters.

In 2021, after the next census, the legislators will draw new congressional and state legislative maps. Soon thereafter, these newly drawn districts will be sent to the governor for approval. If Pritzker is governor, he’ll approve the maps drawn by the Democratic legislators, and the districts of Illinois will remain Democratic for the most part.

If Rauner’s elected governor, on the other hand, he’ll probably veto the maps the Democrats draw. That would lead to the tiebreaker system that state law mandates.

The name of a Democrat and a Republican would get put into a replica of Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat—as though dragging poor Lincoln into the mix somehow adds credibility to this process. And then the secretary of state would draw a name.

If the Republican name gets drawn, the Republicans draw the state legislative boundaries that will exist until 2030.

You can bet the Republicans will pack Democratic voters into super-majority-Democratic districts and spread out Republicans voters in order to gain an edge in a majority of districts.

Thus, the Republicans will be the majority party even though they have a minority of support in the state. That’s essentially what’s happened in Washington, where Republicans control the House and the Senate even though more voters voted for Democrats than Republicans in the 2016 congressional elections.

In sum, Illinois may be one of the bluest, most Trump-hating states in the union. But most of its congressmen would be Trump rubber-stampers. And its legislator would ratify Rauner’s far-right agenda.

Not to depress you or anything.

By the way, this luck of the draw has happened twice in the last 27 years.

In 1991, Republican governor Jim Edgar couldn’t agree with Democratic legislators. Then-secretary of state George Ryan wound up pulling the name of Al Jourdan, then the chairman of the state Republican Party. And the Republicans drew the legislative districts.

In 2001, there was another deadlock between Republican governor George Ryan and Democrats. In this instance, the Democrats won the hat drawing—and they drew the political maps that lasted until 2010.

There was no drawing in 2010 because Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, approved the map that statehouse Democrats had drawn.

Is this system fair? No. Should it be replaced? Probably (and there is a Fair Map effort in the state). But this is the system that currently exists, and it won’t be changed by the 2021 redistricting.

I suppose the process wasn’t so bad when moderate Republicans—like Edgar and Ryan—were governor.

But we live in a different political universe these days. I’m not sure moderates like Edgar or Ryan could even win a Republican primary anymore.

Anyway, if Rauner draws the legislative boundaries, he would have no Democratic legislative majorities to block his agenda. He’d be free to privatize education, eradicate unions, and let businesses pollute our air and waterways to his heart’s desire.

Also, with the Republicans in charge, they’d probably revoke HB 40, the reproductive rights bill. There’s already a Republican-sponsored bill to do just that. It will never pass so long as the Democrats are in charge. But it’s a different ballgame with Republicans running the show.

I understand that it might be hard for many of my fellow progressives to vote for Pritzker.

But the stakes are too high, Democrats, for you to be so selective. You made this mistake once before. The outcome is President Trump.

Let’s not make the same mistake again.