In April, Republican legislators set their terms for supporting social justice measures, telling Democrats in so many words: If you want our support, you have to give us something in return.
Otherwise, we’re voting no, even if we really want to vote yes.
Well, on Monday, Governor Rauner upped the ante, declaring, in so many words, that if Democrats want him to sign sensible gun-control legislation, they have to agree to bring back the death penalty.
In each case, we’re seeing Republican political hardball that’s not so much about forging bipartisan legislation as it is about hitting Democrats over the head with a forge.
Rauner’s amendatory veto came on HB 1468, proposed by state rep Jonathan Carroll, a Democrat from Northbrook. It would require a 72- hour wait before purchasing an assault weapon, a sensible piece of legislation if ever there was one.
Rauner amended it to add a section that would bring back the death penalty in some cases largely because he needs to look tough on crime so he can win over the hard-core wing of his party, which obviously can’t stand him, no matter how many Harleys he drives or hunting rifles he totes.
Oddly enough, Rauner’s veto also calls for extending more state aid for mental health services in public schools.
You’d think that offering mental health services to students would be worthy of support on its own, without dragging the death penalty into the debate.
In fact, you can make the argument that providing more mental health services might actually cut down on death penalty cases.
At least, it might give relief from the demons that lead someone to take another person’s life.
Alas, Republicans have a curious attitude toward mental health treatment—generally seeing it as little more than a useful rhetorical tool to use in debates against gun-control advocates.
Whenever a lunatic with a gun goes on a rampage and slaughters innocent people, you can pretty much depend on Republican countering pleas for gun laws with calls for more mental health care treatment.
Here’s President Trump on the subject just last November: the problem “isn’t a guns situation,” he said, so much as “a mental health problem at the highest level.”
Trump’s comment came after “a gunman with a military-style rife mowed down more than two dozen parishioners in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas,” as the New York Times put it.
After February’s shooting in Parkland, Florida—where a deranged 19-year-old gunned down 17 high school kids and teachers—Trump tweeted that he wanted to work with state and local leaders “to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
In each instance, as soon as the gun-control furor subsided a bit, so did Trump’s interest on the subject of mental health.
On the local front, I don’t recall any Republicans joining the protests back in 2011 after Mayor Emanuel closed mental health clinics in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods.
Sad to say, I don’t recall many Democrats saying much about that either.
Carroll’s bill passed both the state house and the senate. Most Republicans—true to form on gun issues—voted against it. But several notable Republicans supported it, including Jim Durkin, Rauner’s floor leader.
I’ve been known to give Durkin grief for being a TIF lawyer, so it’s only fair that I give him kudus for voting the right way.
The Democrats can try to override Rauner’s amendatory veto—thus passing Carroll’s original bill—or they can just do nothing and let the whole thing die. I suspect they’ll do the latter—just as Rauner probably figured they would.
C’mon, we all know Rauner’s veto wasn’t about passing the bill so much as putting Democrats in an embarrassing position on the eve of November’s election.
Vote with the governor’s veto and the Dems violate their anti-death penalty principles. Vote against it, and they expose themselves to weak-on-crime mailings, financed by Rauner, that they’re probably going to get anyway.
Ironically, it’s a trick-bag strategy straight out of house speaker Michael Madigan’s playbook. Madigan essentially did the same thing to Rauner with the HB 40 abortion rights bill, eventually forcing the governor to choose between right-wingers or suburban swing voters.
He signed the bill allowing Medicaid coverage of abortion—and the right-wingers still haven’t forgiven him. Which is why he is now trying to appease them by calling for bringing back the death penalty—and so we come full circle.
Rauner loves to blame Madigan for everything that’s wrong with the state. But obviously over the last three years, he’s learned a thing or two from the master.