Friday, September 10, 2010



Carol Marin, Sun-Times reporter and columnist and one of Chicago’s most astute political observers, reports today (9/10/10, page 12) on a McKeown poll, the first of significance, on the most interesting political race in as long as I can remember: the donnybrook that is forming to replace former Mayor-for-Life Richard M. Daley.

The two “frontrunners” (other than “don’t know,” which came in at 35%) were Sheriff Tom Dart at 12% and State Senator Reverend James Meeks at 10%. These were the only two potential candidates in the double digits. Note that in my already seminal 9/7/10 piece, “LONG LIVE THE KING!” I said:

So who do I think will be the next Mayor? Just as God is not talking, He especially is not talking to me on this matter. But let me throw out three names, one a popular guess, one a stretch, and one completely out of left field:”

I then went on to list Tom Dart as the “popular guess” and James Meeks as the “stretch.” It’s still so early that polls are barely worth mentioning, but I think my Tuesday post showed some degree of prescience. My “out of left field” name, that of Alderman George Cardenas of the 12th Ward, has not arisen anywhere. But while he remains firmly ensconced in left field, I have not yet given up the notion that Mr. Cardenas’s name will come up before this battle royale is over.

What amazed me, as, and immediately after, I wrote that piece was that that virtually no one on the radio or television that Tuesday afternoon of Daley’s bombshell announcement, was mentioning James Meeks. This floored me. The next day, John Kass, in his Tribune column, and the Sun-Times, in its reportage, mentioned Meeks, but then only in passing. I even e-mailed John Williams’ program on WGN radio Wednesday morning, when Mr. Williams had Mr. Kass on as a guest, to ask why no one (I hadn’t read Kass’s column when I wrote the e-mail.) brought up Meeks. Only at that prompting did Kass mention Meeks on the Williams program; he had already mentioned plenty of names before my e-mail. I will be the first to assert that few people know more about the politics of this town than John Kass and yours truly, and it looks like the McKeown poll confirms that assertion, but I would have thought that someone would have mentioned Meeks before, or at least concurrently with, Kass and me.

Note also that I still consider Meeks a stretch. Why? Because he has been an ardent proponent of vouchers for Chicago public school children. See, again, the perspicacious
9/7/10 piece, “LONG LIVE THE KING!” This, along with comments he has made in the past about the deleterious impact the Chicago Teachers’ Union has had on the schoolchildren of this city, has won him the wrath of the CTU and probably will make support from labor in general difficult for him to garner. Doing the right thing, especially in this town, is quite a different thing from doing the politically expedient thing.

The McKeown poll, as I said before, is early and thus has little validity, but another interesting finding is that Rahm Emanuel, whom the national media have already coronated as Mayor of Chicago, garnered the support of only 7% of the respondents. As I said in my searingly insightful 9/7/10 piece:

The big talk is about Rahm Emanuel. While I don’t like to make predictions, this is one I will make: Forget Rahm Emanuel for mayor of Chicago. He’s been away a long time and never was much of a power in this town. I say this even after saying that money wins elections.

While I still don’t like to make predictions, I am growing increasingly comfortable with this one. Here is what Emanuel has going for him:

--President Obama has said his chief of staff would make a “terrific mayor.” But that and about $2.50 will get you on the CTA. Further, while this is probably a sincere endorsement of Mr. Emanuel by Mr. Obama, there could be something more Machiavellian to it: it could be a graceful way of conveying to Mr. Emanuel that his services will no longer be needed at the White House after the debacle the mid-term elections should prove to be for the Democrats. And if Emanuel does run, it may be a face-saving way for him to leave a White House that no longer wants or needs him. Just a thought.

--The national media, as I said above, has already dubbed Emanuel the new Mayor of Chicago. But the national media’s grasp of Chicago politics is so pathetic it would be hilarious if they didn’t intone on the politics of our town with such utter certainty. (They should all read my books before they pass on Chicago political matters again.) For example, they are all convinced, and especially those who inhabit the rightward reaches of the national media, that Barack Obama is some kind of political boss back in Chicago (as is, in their opinion, Rahm Emanuel). This is utterly laughable. Mr. Obama learned to accommodate the guys who run this town, but his accomplishments around here were limited to efficiently getting coffee for the like of Senate Majority Leader Emil Jones and keeping his head down while awaiting the nod from the guys who really run things around here.

--Emanuel has plenty of money and the ability to raise plenty more. There is no either denying this or denigrating its import. Money wins elections, and Chicago elections are no exception to this near rule. But will it be enough? We shall see, but I’m very comfortable betting against Emanuel in this election.

I think several local pols put the Emanuel situation best. Congressman Bobby Rush, who, by the way, handily defeated young Senator Barack Obama in the latter’s first run for national office, called the media focus on Emanuel “childish” and said Emanuel’s skills are “not transferable.”

An alderman who preferred anonymity told the Sun-Times, concerning Emanuel:

He’s such a tyrant. We just went through that with Daley. People feel liberated (with Daley’s retirement). The last thing they want is a guy like Rahm. Can you imagine this guy coming in, pointing his finger at people and calling them mother------s? We want somebody we can work with.

This cowardly, or perhaps just circumspect, alderman, has a point but misses the larger point. Can you imagine Rahm Emanuel, even a Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “coming in, pointing his finger at people and calling them mother------s?” when the “them” in that sentence includes the likes of Mike Madigan, Ed Burke, Jimmy DeLeo, Jerry Joyce, Skinny Sheahan, John Daley, Dick Mell, Ed Smith, etc., etc.? That might work with the lily-livered twits who inhabit Washington, D.C., but, believe me, it’s not going to work in this town. And Emanuel’s just full enough of himself to think he can treat the real guys that way.

But the pol who put it best, regarding Emanuel’s chances at the mayor’s office, at least so far, was Congressman Danny Davis, who, because he is still one of those mentioned as a potential mayor, may be talking his own book, but is nonetheless correct, said:

Rahm, if he wants to run, he can come to town and raise money and run and run and run. But the local people of Chicago are going to determine who their next mayor is, not Barack Obama and not Rahm Emanuel.”

I might add, though Congressman Davis may or may not, that “the local people of Chicago” may not mean “the voters of Chicago,” but, rather, “the people who really decide how things go in this town.”

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