Gov. Bruce Rauner’s recent complaint that he is not “in charge” of the state is as troubling as it is curious.

First, the statement smacks of self-pity. Second, the message indicates the governor either doesn’t understand the constitutional role of his office, or his doesn’t understand the concept of leadership. Finally, it was a blatantly political statement, a thinly veiled jab at Democratic Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.

To be fair, Rauner’s business background and lack of government experience may have created a personal misunderstanding of his current job.

Unlike a CEO, a governor cannot simply make a decision, fire off a text or email and have an underling implement his plan. That may be the way the business world works. In public life, that kind of power is only associated with dictators.

Illinois government, like the federal government, is based on three equal branches. It’s basic eighth-grade civics, but this system of checks and balances was set up to keep one person from assuming too much power — ostensibly, being totally “in charge.”

That system is sometimes unwieldy. It is sometimes inefficient. And, to a former CEO, it is likely frustrating beyond belief.

Considering Illinois’ downward spiral in the past 20 years, Illinois citizens deserve, and need, leadership, not necessarily someone with is “in charge.” Leadership carries more responsibility than simply issuing orders.

Rauner came into office with a turnaround agenda he believed, and continues to believe, would solve most the state’s problems.

Much of that agenda has been stymied by Madigan’s House of Representatives and John Cullerton’s Democratic-controlled Senate. Again, we understand being frustrated by the inertia built into the political system.

But, effective leaders don’t complain they aren’t in charge. They find ways to get things done.

Leaders work diligently to cobble together compromises to move the state forward. The role of the governor is not to score political points for himself or his party, it is to serve the best interests of the people of Illinois. No politician gets everything they want, nor should they.

The real world of Illinois politics requires relentless work and a willingness to compromise. Granted, the Democratic legislature hasn’t gone out of its way to make Rauner’s job any easier. But, no one should assume the role of governor thinking the job is going to be easy, especially when both houses of the General Assembly are controlled by the opposite party.

Rauner has overseen one of the most tumultuous three years in Illinois political history — an incredible statement in itself, considering the number of men who have moved from the governor’s mansion to the big house.

The governor’s first term is rapidly coming to a close. In 11 short months, Illinois voters will determine whether Gov. Rauner deserves a second term.

That means he has roughly 320 days to demonstrate his leadership.

We give the governor props for his appearance in Cairo this weekend. Granted, the public housing situation in Cairo is not of Rauner’s making. Conditions at the Elmwood and McBride housing units were deplorable when he took office. And, the housing units were under the jurisdiction of the Alexander County Housing Authority before the federal government stepped in last year.

“Very sad,” he said Saturday after touring Cairo. “No one should ever live in those conditions. It’s frankly outrageous.”

Gov. Rauner is not devoid of political talent. Rauner can work the room like a seasoned politician. It would have been nice to see him intervene on behalf of the people of Cairo earlier. Perhaps the weight of the State of Illinois would have moved the process along more quickly.

If nothing else, active intervention from the governor’s office would have been a much needed display of leadership. And, that’s better than being in charge.


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