Editorial: Rauner's challenge to believe in an Illinois without corruption

Spend a little time with Bruce Rauner, and you sense fairly quickly at least part of the explanation for his success.

The man believes, and he does so with such absolute upbeat confidence, that he convinces others to believe, too. This is someone who allows no room for doubt, who operates on an apparent principle that conviction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So when he says he's going to do something, he says it like he believes it and then you start believing it too.

It's infectious.

Gov. Rauner stopped in to visit last week to promote his Illinois Turnaround agenda and, we must admit, we find ourselves rooting for the success of his basic message.

He is committed to changing the fundamental nature of government in Illinois, and let there be no doubt, his proposals would not be satisfied with incremental change. He wants to radically reshape the way governments work in the state — all governments, not just state government.

His ideas would give collective bargaining decision-making back to local governments. His ideas would give the authority to raise or curb property taxes back to the voters. His ideas would consolidate the multiplicity of local governments in Illinois. His ideas would amend the state constitution to loosen public pension guarantees and to install term limits.

He calls his plan the Illinois Turnaround. It might just as accurately be described as the Rauner Revolution.

Let us say this. We would quibble with the brick and mortar of some of his proposals. As much as he talks about bipartisanship, his ideas tend to be staunchly conservative, some to an extreme beyond the bounds of our support.

But we don't quibble with his basic premise that while we have many government employees and elected officials who are good people, the structure of government in Illinois — responsive to insiders and special interests rather than the people — is fundamentally, pervasively and sadly corrupt.

We so want to change that corrosive environment that sitting in a room with Rauner, listening to him predict that he is going to do it, we find ourselves nodding. We find ourselves believing.

Then we come out of our conference room, Rauner heads off to the next stop on his Turnaround tour of the state, and the reality of Springfield brings us back to earth.

The legislative leaders still hold most of the strings that would have to be untied to unleash this turnaround. The legislative leaders still have vested interests in undermining most of it. The opposition party still holds veto-proof majorities in both houses of the General Assembly.

It's hard to believe Rauner's revolution can be won. We remember how the deck has been stacked against other efforts at change.

But here's something else to remember. The tightest hold corruption has over us is our sense that that's the way it is, that there is nothing any of us can do about it.

The first step in ending corruption is believing we can.

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