Saturday, May 2, 2015

Does Governor Rauner know how a democracy works? (by John D. Cooney)

“Elementary school students learn that American government is divided into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. Our nation's founders, having studied history and the tendency of countries to fall into the dangers of rule by a small elite or single individual, meant for that tripartite division to create a system of ‘checks and balances’ to ensure that no branch gained the upper hand over any other.

“They were particularly zealous to prevent the rise in the newly independent United States of the same kind of aristocratic regimes that plagued Europe and plunged it into centuries of bloody wars. After three months in office, we are learning that Bruce Rauner appears to reject this common-sense approach to civil government and democracy. He appears to support a system that centers all of government's power into his own office as is done under more authoritarian systems.

“Rauner recently told The Daily Herald's editorial board that he didn't ‘trust the [Illinois] Supreme Court to be rational in their decisions’ and declared that the justices were part of a ‘corrupt system.’ Rauner is aggrieved that lower courts have not ruled the way he prefers on the constitutionality of a law that would diminish state workers' pensions, and he appears fearful the state's high court will strike down the law.

“The fact is, Illinois has an excellent Supreme Court. The seven justices, men and women duly elected by their fellow citizens (as was Rauner), have had long and distinguished careers. Justices serve 10-year terms, more than twice the length of the governor's term, because the Constitution's framers sought to insulate them from the whimsical winds of politics.

“It is outrageous, irresponsible and anti-democratic for Rauner to smear them, claim they are dishonest for doing their duty to the constitutions and laws of the United States and Illinois, and to offer no proof or support for his incredibly reckless and dangerous allegations. That Rauner condemns our courts' elected judges for upholding the most sacred principle of representative government, fidelity to the rule of law, is disturbing. 

“It is beyond hypocritical that a man who set a campaign spending record of $65 million, $27 million of his personal fortune and tens of millions more from fellow millionaires and billionaires, sanctimoniously and ironically condemns as corrupt others who raise funds to run for office.

“American government was intentionally designed to operate as a collaborative and cooperative endeavor when it comes to the crafting, passage, approval and judicial review of laws. We purposefully do not have a CEO in charge that makes all the decisions and expects his subordinates to carry them out or suffer the consequences. The stakes are simply too high to entrust the entirety of our government to the wisdom, or lack thereof, of one person.

“To paraphrase the philosopher George Santayana, ‘those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ Amidst our state's many challenges, the last thing we can afford is a demagogue governor who believes that ‘my way or the highway’ is how democracy works.” 

John D. Cooney is president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.

For the original article at the Daily Herald, click here. 

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