Gov. Bruce Rauner was more concerned with shoring up his base than legitimate policy on Monday when he grabbed his veto pen and all but executed right-minded gun legislation.
That's the only conceivable takeaway from Monday's laughable line-item veto issue that, for whatever reason, saw Illinois' Republican governor demand the reinstatement of the death penalty as it was 1985.
Calling Rauner's attempt to rewrite straightforward gun control with his veto pen odd would be an understatement. The legislation was a hard-fought win for Illinois' General Assembly. It contained obvious provisions, such as boosting the cooling-off period for the purchase of assault-style weapons from 24 hours to 72.
Rauner's attempted re-write was a concoction of even stronger gun-control measures — he would extend the waiting period to all rifles — and, as if the inserting the mother of all poison pills was his goal, reinstate the death penalty, which hasn't been on anyone's radar in Illinois since 2000.
Rauner's capital punishment ploy is even more troubling because, at its core, it would create two classes of citizens. The death penalty would be available only to cop killers and mass murderers, under Rauner's plan.
So — in an era of Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter — Rauner comes out and yells from the rooftops that, indeed, some lives matter more. His is a dangerous political statement that would designate two-tiers of citizenship: those who wear a uniform and those who don't. It would belie the premise that all citizens have equal access to justice. It would, in a very real sense, further the divide between the police and the policed.
Put frankly, the General Assembly has no appetite to reinstate the death penalty, regardless of the fine print. Nor should it.
In recent years, new evidence has exonerated hundreds of inmates on death row, almost all of whom were convicted after prosecutors declared the evidence beyond question. Rauner's strange, made-up new legal standard, "beyond all doubt," cannot account for the failing fundamental to the American justice system.
Mistakes do and will always happen, and the death penalty's finality leaves no room for human error. It's a reality with which no appeals system can adequately grapple, particularly with the hardly fool-proof nature of forensic science. These fundamental truths alone should negate any inkling of again wielding capital punishment.
But adoption of his veto demands wasn't Rauner's goal on Monday. As has been his way, Rauner tossed a hand grenade and walked away from the rubble with no intention picking up the pieces.
Recent polls have Rauner trailing Democratic challenger JB Prtizker by more than 20 points. Closing that gap before November would be a tall order for almost anyone. The left will never forgive Rauner's attacks on organized labor. And his right flank was badly weakened by his centrist approaches to immigration and abortion.
Rauner appears to be a man without a constituency. And, there can be no doubt, that pleasing influential police organizations and the law-and-order crowd would help, if only just.
Precisely no one should be surprised that Rauner is tacking rightward. And yet, oddly he opted to split the proverbial baby by extending the cooling-off period to all long guns, a move that only further frustrates conservatives opposed to almost any gun control.
Overturning Rauner's veto would be difficult in any instance, particularly in the House. His attempts to both extremes only complicates things further.
Rauner's line-item veto were the actions of a governor who, more than three years in, is without a political base. It's yet another bit of political flailing from a governor who's been consistently incapable of framing his world view.
And, this time, Rauner's lack of focus could scuttle legislation that, in many ways, he appears to support.