* Salon’s deputy politics editor who resides in DC likes what she sees in Gov. Rauner…
One of just five blue-state Republican governors, and the first Republican governor of Illinois in more than a decade, Bruce Rauner finds himself in a precarious political situation. A billionaire with no previous political experience, Rauner might sound at first like a tailor-made perfect political ally for President Donald Trump. Instead, Rauner has managed to avoid even uttering Trump’s name for months — finally breaking his silence following the president’s disdainful response to racist violence in Charlottesville. Now Rauner is moving beyond pushing back on Trump’s rhetoric. He has signed several pieces of legislation that stand in direct contradiction to Trump’s agenda. In so doing, at least arguably, he provides a road map for fellow Republicans desperate to ditch a sinking ship.
At Mi Tierra restaurant in Chicago on Monday, Rauner signed into law a controversial bill that bans local law enforcement from stopping, arresting, searching or detaining anyone based solely on immigration status. Hours later, Trump was defending his controversial pre-sentencing pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, found guilty of contempt of court by a federal judge after he failed to end racial profiling of people suspecting of being undocumented immigrants. […]
Rauner signed another bill on Monday that is fundamentally at odds with the aims of the Trump administration. After recently vetoing a previous version, Rauner signed one of the farthest-reaching voter access laws in the country. […]
Hours before Trump delivered his directives to dismiss all transgender service members from the U.S. military on Friday, Rauner signed a bill that would make it easier for transgender people to change the sex designation on their birth certificates.
Rauner’s approach probably can’t be understood as a rebuke of Trump rooted in moral principle. More likely it reflects his efforts to walk the line between his conservative base in downstate Illinois and the more moderate Chicagoland constituencies he will need in order to win reelection in 2018. But Rauner still offers Republican lawmakers a pathway out of the mess in which Donald Trump has left their party.
Republicans in blue states are, of course, highly vulnerable to Trump backlash. If unenthused Republicans stay home and angry Democrats come out in larger than expected numbers in 2018, it could spell nationwide disaster for the GOP. While Trump continues to play to the hardcore base with his policies and rhetoric, Rauner’s turn toward moderation may provide Republicans with a workable alternative model — at least for now.