For those who don’t know, Bruce Rauner is the new Republican governor of Illinois. And money? We all know what money is. Rauner is all about money. Over a long career in finance, he has amassed a fortune, basically from scratch, of somewhere between $300 million and a billion dollars.
You don’t make that kind of money without really focusing your attention on making that kind of money unless you are someone really talented, like JK Rowling, Michael Jordan or Bill Gates. So, in finance, without your own money, you use other people’s money to make money, sometimes losing it in the process. But the new Wall Street, men like Rauner always make sure that they, focused on money, always get paid, regardless of who wins or who loses. That’s Bruce Rauner. Rauner can be accurately described as someone who made his money in typical Wall Street investment schemes.
Of course, Rauner now has more money than he can spend in several lifetimes and so he has decided to run something more important than pension funds. He has decided to run an entire state, all the people in it—his way. The people he wants to impress are not the citizens of Illinois, although he spent about $40 million more than his opponent, Dan Quinn spent to win them over. The people whom Rauner considers his peers are his fellow citizens but his fellow rich Republicans, like the Koch Brothers, the Sheldon Adelsons and the Donald Trumps of the world. His ticket to ride on that gilded train was punched when he won the governorship.
His fellow Republican governors, like Rick Snyder of Michigan, like Mitch Daniels (former governor) of Indiana, John Kasich of Ohio, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin all have the same agenda, as do the other 31 Republican governors. They work for ALEC and they work for the Republican super-pacs who fund them. All rich and all Neo-Fascists.
So let’s define Fascism. Here’s the Webster’s dictionary definition: “a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government.” A secondary meaning is assigned as “very harsh control or authority.” Does that sound like Rauner or Scott Walker or Rick Snyder?
Well, Scott Walker took over Wisconsin with a majority in the Senate and House and immediately began to pass bills to put more money in the hands of rich capitalists and take money from teachers and nurses and firefighters…including their pensions and health care costs. Rick Snyder’s friend, in Michigan, national House of Representatives’ member Fred Upton from St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (the heir to the Whirlpool Corporation fortune) wanted to take part of a state park on Lake Michigan for a private golf course. Snyder created a law (in his totally Republican controlled legislature) that allowed Governor Snyder to dictatorially fire the mayor of Benton Harbor and replace him with his own man, who promptly took part of the park from the people and gave it to the luxury home and golf course developers. Good old fashioned Fascism.
Rauner lives still, if uncomfortably, in a democracy. But he has figured out the next best thing to Fascism. (It is really Neo-Fascism. This is a new form of Fascism where deprivation stands for concentration camps and where status in a Fascist Party…the Republican Party…is determined by how much money you contribute. ) In other words, if you are a representative in the state legislature in Illinois, since Rauner took over, you can be paid for your vote. If you vote with Rauner against unions, against Medicaid for the poor, against various kinds of programs for a variety of categories of people in distress and you are a Republican, you may be paid for your vote. In the best traditions of the New Fascism, Rauner distributed in May 2015, something like $400,000 exclusively to Republican state legislators. He wanted them to know apparently that he is serious about buying votes.
The fact is that this isn’t anything new. Politicians have been buying votes for a long time. On the other hand, murder isn’t new. Armed robbery isn’t new. Pedophilia isn’t something new. But are they what we want in society? And is a governor who wants to bypass what citizens tell their legislators and simply buy votes for corporations a good thing for society? Let’s say he wants to buy votes to to kill unions, so that his companies don’t have to pay higher wages when he leaves office, or to reduce the power of grass roots political groups based on union worker support. Shouldn’t the people vote on that, rather than simply paying legislators to do what the governor-dictator wants? Does the governor work for all the people or just corporations (for whom he has reduced taxes) or for all the people (for whom he has tried to reduce services?) If he is working for all the people, why is he buying up votes?
There are two stipulations to make when it comes to a political discussion of Bruce Rauner. One is that the individual should be separated from his political positions. Bruce Rauner should not be in politics. He is in politics as a Republican, and as a conservative, and his attitudes have made him a Neo-Fascist. That is, he really wants to do away with government by the people so that he can advance what he sees as the best way for society to proceed. But he has a distorted view of society. We don’t know how much Bruce Rauner is actually worth. But there are some things about him that are incontrovertible that may give us a picture of this seemingly straightforward but actually quite different man.
Bruce Rauner has a home in Winnetka. It is not news that many wealthy people live in Winnetka and many live in homes like his, a 6,870 square-foot mansion on a half acre lot. Then he has a penthouse condominium in a luxury building overlooking Millennium Park. He has a waterfront villa in the Florida Keys, a ranch in Wyoming, another in Montana and a condo in a Utah ski resort. Oh, and there is a penthouse co-op on Central Park in New York City, not an expensive one for that neighborhood, but worth, in 2005, $10,000,000.00. So, he’s not what one would call “poor” or even land poor, or Middle Class. He’s super rich. His friends are super-rich. His neighbors are super-rich. He grew up in a relatively wealthy upper-middle class family on the North Shore of Chicago. But not everyone who grew up in the Northern suburbs of Chicago and went to Dartmouth is worth half a billion dollars.
Bruce Rauner generally gets what he wants, which is how things routinely go for the rich but since Ronald Reagan, even more. When you demand things be your way in public, in school, in a company, even in a restaurant…that’s one thing. When you demand that you get things your way in government…that’s Fascism. Putting all the cards on the table, Hitler was a Fascist, as were Mussolini and Franco and even Stalin. That is how we think of Fascists. Bruce Rauner is none of those people or even remotely close to them. But he’s a Neo-Fascist.
He came from good Swedish stock. He went to Dartmouth (summa cum laude) then Harvard Business School and has paid back, in spades. He endowed a chair at Dartmouth and one at Harvard Business School. He also was major funder for the eponymously named Special Collections Library at Dartmouth. And he endowed chairs at Morehouse College, U of Chicago, and was principal donor for the Stanley C. Golder Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurial Finance at the U. of Illinois.
It doesn’t mean he’s not one of the new Fascists. He wants to control your government and run it the way he wants to run it, buying up any legislator who disagrees with him. More importantly, he wants to reduce government for those who he feels cannot fight back against his money, and give privileges to the rich who support him—and they do—big time. To Rauner and his rich friends, that is merely noblesse oblige, their right as the upper-upper class. To objective viewers, however, one way to describe that political action is Fascism.
He was named philanthropist of the year in Chicago in 2008. He gave his time and undoubtedly money to support the Illinois economy, for which he won the Daley Medal. He has supported education projects including six new charter high schools, an Academy for Urban School Leadership campus and scholarships for disadvantaged Illinois public school children. His and his wife’s efforts were rewarded with a nomination for the Golden Apple Foundation’s 2011 service award. Golden Apple is an association of teachers seeking excellence in education. He’s even on the board of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
If you are a citizen of Illinois, you cannot say that because Bruce Rauner has given away amounts of money that may seem large to you, but may be meaningless to him–that he can buy up the legislature. He bought his own governorship. He put $26.5 million dollars of his own money into the campaign. In all, his campaign and that of his Lieutenant Governor raised $89,203, 050. On the other side, in losing, ex-Governor Pat Quinn and his Lieutenant Governor candidate raised a grand total of $33,372,111. They were outspent 3 to 1 and were quite possibly outspent by Rauner alone.
If you buy elections in the same way you buy a suit or an automobile, perhaps you might reasonably believe that the idea of telling people what to do or how you want people to live their lives or how much money in tax breaks your friends should keep is a good thing, despite the needs of society. If your community only includes those who now, under the current regimes of the last 30 years, have more money than was ever possible in this country in any period after the full absorption of technology like the automobile and the electric light maybe your idea is that you should be allowed run things your way.
The problem is that we have a form of government called a Democracy. And when people buy votes, that has always been considered illegal and obscene. Since the Neo-Fascist engineered Citizens’ United, it is merely a report, a daily blip on the evening news about campaign spending. Meanwhile, lives are altered. Children die of malnutrition or lack of health care or gun violence…all sponsored by lobbyists who influence that Governor who demands that the rich and powerful be served. It matters very little how large a philanthropist one is. If people live miserable lives or die or are totally discouraged and made to feel hopeless from policies of a Governor or a President, then they should have the power to change that governor and, in the worst of his policies affecting the health and well-being of children especially, resist him with every measure possible.
The position of governor should not be bought. And if it is, that governor does not have the right to rule as a dictator by buying up or threatening legislators using large amounts of money as a promise or a threat. If a governor does such a thing, he can only be called dictatorial…or, perhaps more appropriately , a new version of a Fascist, a Neo-Fascist. .