Earlier this week, Chance the Rapper announced he was getting a sit-down meeting with Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of Illinois, in order to discuss education funding for the state. The announcement followed the governor’s public congratulations of Chance, who took home three Grammy awards during last month’s ceremony, and Chance’s response that he would “love” to meet with him. Though the meeting was postponed because of weather problems that swamped Illinois this week, it was rescheduled for Friday morning.
Judging from reports, it did not go well. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Chance and Rauner spoke for 30 minutes in Chicago about the $215 million set aside for the Chicago public school system that collapsed in an errant budget deal. “He asked me where I thought the $215 million was supposed to come from,” Chance said. He later said his message was “take our kids off the table.”
Reporters captured Chance leaving his meeting with the governor, where they asked about the interaction. In an exchange posted by WTTW’s Amanda Vinicky, a noticeably muted Chance said: “The kids are on the table right now. We spoke for a second, and it sounded like we were going somewhere, but it sounds like it’s hinged on passing another bill. I’m not a politician.” NBC’s Mary Ann Ahern characterized Chance as “not happy,” and reported that Chance told the governor “do your job” as he left. Chance also said the governor gave him a lot of “vague answers,” and implored local and national publications—specifically, Complex and Billboard—to give “a comprehensive history on how we ended up here.”
— Amanda Vinicky (@AmandaVinicky) March 3, 2017
The outcome is disappointing, though not entirely unsurprising. Rauner, a staunch conservative, was elected following a dire financial crisis in Illinois. His anti-elitist, anti-government platform should be familiar to anyone who’s watched the rise of the Tea Party and Donald Trump, though that sentiment has rarely paired with effective governing.
Here’s how Crain’s Chicago Business, who endorsed Rauner during the 2014 gubernatorial race, described his tenure last year: “By nearly every measure, the state is worse off since Rauner took office. Pension liabilities now top $110 billion and are rising by the minute. The stack of unpaid bills is ballooning, turning Illinois into a notorious deadbeat. Vital social service agencies are being cut. Students are abandoning the state’s universities. Illinois’ credit rating hovers just above junk-bond range.”
Rauner’s perspective hasn’t changed through the struggles, which made it unlikely that Chance—well-meaning as he is—could change anything. The Chicago Reader‘s Ben Joravsky, as dogged a chronicler of the state’s byzantine and water-logged bureaucratic processes as any, summed it up as such: “If you can convince Rauner to fork over the $215 million, you deserve a Nobel Peace Prize to go with your Grammys.”
A cynical onlooker might say that of course Rauner didn’t really have an interest in letting a young rapper have any meaningful legislative input—that he just wanted a photo op with a beloved son on the heels of a big win. Politicians never have the public’s best interests in mind when meeting a celebrity, lest Kanye West’s embarrassing Trump Tower hang session with Donald Trump be forgotten. Chance, thankfully, doesn’t seem to have played along.