Supporters of some of the establishment Republican candidates for governor and a few media commentators are now taking shots at political newcomer and present front-runner Bruce Rauner. Some say he has an “arrogant” streak, and others claim it’s hypocritical for a wealthy candidate to refer in campaign ads to wearing an old watch or driving an old van.
I’ve worked with Bruce for years on state finance and education policy, and I can understand how some who disagree with him might easily mistake self-confidence for arrogance. But I’ve found him to be smart, disciplined and focused on getting results. Full disclosure: I like and respect him, and I’ve contributed to his campaign.
Unlike some career politicians, Bruce has no patience for delay or failure. An example: he doesn’t want to see another generation of kids lost to failing urban schools. He’s given millions of dollars — and countless hours of his own time — to improve schools and help young people.
Bruce Rauner did not become successful in private equity by avoiding tough problems. During his career he created enormous value for investors — including retirees and other mom-and-pop types — as well as himself and his partners. He did it by unraveling complicated messes, reaching decisions in a disciplined way and then setting targets and timetables.
I’ve known people, as most of us have, who inherited wealth and then coasted through adulthood. By contrast, Bruce worked hard to get an education and then helped build one of the leading financial firms in Chicago. His values were formed before he became successful. He was wearing an old watch, driving an old van and cleaning his shotguns long before his run for governor.
Political opponents may repeat, over and over, he’s too wealthy — he doesn’t understand us — he can’t relate to us common folk. Who says? Give me any day the person who worked his way up, created value for others and himself and then gave away much of his wealth to causes and charities that can improve the lives of others.
Suppose you or a family member suffered from a variety of life-threatening diseases. You want the best doctor you can find. You can keep going to the same old family physician — someone who was there when the symptoms of illness first appeared, who should have understood the risks, but yawned and assumed he’d be retired by the time the patient died. Or you can go to a newcomer — an experienced, hard-working, demanding professional — who tells it like it is, pulls no punches and can point to a record of remarkable success.
Would you think — “He’s not like us; he’s too successful; he keeps telling me what I don’t want to hear — that I need to exercise, lay off the booze and go on a radical diet.” Or would you say to yourself — “I want the best doctor I can find. I don’t care if he’s abrasive, or even if he sometimes changes his mind. I want him to tell me the truth about my condition and then to help me get on track to better health.”
Illinois desperately needs a new, smart, impatient fiscal doctor — a leader who will do what’s necessary to save the state and Chicago from economic collapse.
Does it really matter what kind of watch he wears?