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The Rauner years 2015–2019

Illinois has had only a few very good governors, the rest being (to borrow from Robert Howard’s 1988 history of the state’s chief executives) mostly good and competent men. However, even ordinary goodness and competence was conspicuous by its absence from the governor’s mansion in the years between 1991 and 2019. In those 28 long years, a string of crooked and/or inept governors of both parties soured an entire generation of Illinoisans on politics and government.


Among the authors of this disillusionment was Bruce Rauner, the vulture capitalist and political dilettante who was elected very narrowly in 2014. Nominally a Republican, Rauner was a militant libertarian who promised to lower taxes, liberate business, energize the bureaucracy, and chastise the public employee unions.


Promise was all Rauner did do. Uninformed, dishonest, inattentive, and arrogant, he proved to be easily the worst Illinois governor in the modern era and arguably its worst ever. He hired fools to manage the state. Public debt skyrocketed. The bureaucracy was not energized but gutted. The voters of Illinois usually require eight years to recognize a fraud when they see one but they had enough of Rauner after only two or three. He was driven out of office in 2018 by an election margin of 15 points by a man his better in every way, and fled Illinois.


I did not usually write much about Rauner’s predecessors, as both Illinois Times and Illinois Issues magazine had in their pages writers better informed about state government than I was. However, I found Rauner to be an uncommonly provoking public figure. The best of the pieces I did probably was the first. Sadly for Illinois, everything I feared about him on election night proved true.

For no particular reason, these pieces are arranged by date of publication, oldest first. 

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Fixing the Wrong Problem

Term limits are bad politics and worse government

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  September 26, 2013

Shaking Up Springfield

If you liked Dan Walker, you’ll love Gov. Bruce Rauner

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times March 13, 2014

Dangerous Propositions

Rauner wants to give ailing Illinois a dose of California

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times September 11, 2014

Back on the Roads Again

“My way is the highway,” says the governor

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times March 12, 2015

Selling Off a Metaphor

Should the State of Illinois sell the Thompson Center?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times April 9, 2015​

Last Rights

The governor doesn’t want to pay to bury the poor

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times April 16, 2015

The Razor Blade in the Apple

Rauner’s property tax freeze plan hides a nasty surprise

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times June 18, 2015

Reforming What Matters

Getting labor back into politics

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times August 13, 2015

Closing a Deal

Has the governor taken the wrong guy hostage?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times October 15, 2015

Unhappy Days Are Here Again

It’s capital vs. labor again in the capital

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times November 19, 2015​

Bruce Rauner, Progressive

The return of the businessmen-reformer

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times February 4, 2016

Imagining Revolutions

Does the French Revolution hold lessons for Citizen Rauner?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times January 7, 2016

Off the Rack

Judging our elected emperors by their clothes

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times March 10, 2016

It’s Only Fair

Rauner’s principled opposition to SB 1

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times August 2, 2017

Revising a Revision

Are the Rauners giving Illinois a mansion it really wants?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  July 28, 2016


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John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago


The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois


Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives


Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum


The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.


I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)




Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 


Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.


Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 


Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.

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