Sunday, October 31, 2010



Michael Sneed’s Sun-Times piece today (Sunday, 10/31) was even more interesting than is this “must read” column for anyone interested in Chicago politics. Ms. Sneed, when asking if Mayor Daley’s decision not to seek reelection, which, according to Sneed, caught Tom Dart off guard, caught everyone off guard, answered

Not on your life. The Washington Post reported last January that Emanuel was looking at the mayoral job. It’s a safe bet he didn’t know about Daley’s abdication until his final decision, but it’s a good bet Emanuel had plenty of warning it might happen from his big backer, hizzoner’s brother, Bill Daley, who was encouraging the mayor to retire.”


If Michael Sneed is right and Bill Daley is a “big backer” of Rahm Emanuel to the point at which he would indicate to Emanuel that Rich Daley might not seek reelection months before that announcement was made, then Rich Daley also must be a “big backer” of Emanuel; is the Daley family ever divided in things political?

Juxtapose this with reports that members of the city council and the ward organizations behind them are not at all excited, to say the least, about Rahm Emanuel’s becoming mayor. After 21 years of Daley, who needs another potential puppetmaster lording it over the Council? Just last week, it was reported that such heavyweight committeemen as Ed Burke, Mike Madigan, and Mike Zalewski, and possibly Dick Mell (though other reports indicate that Mell is looking to jump on the Emanuel bandwagon if the deal is right) are holding their cards close to the chest, looking for the ideal anti-Rahm, or looking to make the ideal anti-Rahm. Taken together, reports that Emanuel is the Daley candidate and reports that the big guys in the central committee want no part of Emanuel would indicate that this is shaping up to be a classic battle of City Hall vs. the old ward organizations, a final attempt by the old ward based Machine to cling to life in the face of a vigorous, and largely enormously successful, onslaught by City Hall. This is the very conflict outlined in my books The Chairman, A Novel of Big City Politics and The Chairman’s Challenge, A Continuing Novel of Big City Politics. Further, as I have said in the past, both in this blog (See, inter alia, my 10/11/10 post “HE’S A VERY SCARY GUY, KAY.”), and in public fora of various kinds, if Emanuel should become mayor, it would be, as I put it in that now seminal piece, the final indication that the Machine is, without a doubt, dead, over, finished. Emanuel’s being the Daley candidate only adds cogency and an air of perspicacity to that comment.

However, problems arise from a Daley vs. the Committeemen match-up. Who would be the candidate of the Machine committeemen to slay the mighty Rahm? There are only two alternatives, since there are only two other viable candidates, at this juncture: James Meeks and Gery Chico. It’s hard to see how the Machine could rally behind Meeks, who has been perceived as a Machine opponent since his arrival in politics. Further, given the racially charged atmosphere in Chicago, it’s hard to see a cabal of powerful white committeemen getting behind Meeks, if only because his race would make him a tough sell in their wards. On the other hand, perhaps we are post-racial in Chicago. Further, the Reverend Meeks’ social conservatism should play well in the similarly socially conservative white wards on the geographic fringes of the city. Meeks is a coalition builder who works well with most people, and is working especially hard cultivating the police officers and fire fighters who live in the white wards. These guys will be eager to back anyone perceived as an anti-Daley candidate. And there are a lot of people, and not just fire fighters and police officers, in the Machine wards who would just love to see Emanuel lose this election just to stick it in the ear of a guy who is widely perceived as the president’s guy. People just don’t like Rahm and would love to see him lose everything. A lot of those people live in neighborhoods represented by Machine committeemen. Finally, a lot of what I, and others, have described as “white” wards aren’t so white any more; backing a black candidate wouldn’t hurt committeemen in those wards with their growing minority constituencies. So Meeks might not be such a long shot for Machine support.

On the other hand, I get the sense that Meeks may not be around for the February ballot simply because he has made deals for his support in the past and Rahm might be dealing. On a third hand, if such a thing were possible, Rahm may not be dealing simply because, as long as Carol Moseley Braun (Can you believe it? Just how dumb can the voters be? I hope not that dumb, but I digress.) is in the race, it is in Rahm’s interest to keep the black vote split so that he can win by appealing to his natural base of north side yuppies, sophisticated downtown media and business types, and pols on the take. Further, if you really believe the conspiracy theorists, the only reason Braun is in the race is because Rahm and the Daleys put her up to draw black votes away from Meeks.

It is similarly not easy to see Gery Chico carrying the standard of the Machine committeemen against his former boss, Rich Daley. Stranger things have happened, though, and, as Metternich said of nations, politicians don’t have permanent friends, only permanent interests. And Chico’s mixed white-Hispanic background make him an attractive candidate given the demographics of the town. So maybe he will be carrying the banner of the Madigans, Burkes, Zalewskis, and Berrios of the world.

This could, and, it’s looking like, will change after Tuesday when Congressman Danny Davis, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and County Treasurer Maria Pappas win re-election to their current posts and decide whether to run for mayor. A more natural standard-bearer for the Machine could emerge and we’re all back to square one.

Or perhaps Michael Sneed is wrong and Emanuel is not the Daley family candidate. Gery Chico would seem to be just as natural a candidate for the Daleys, unless they see the obvious advantages to Chicago of having a guy with a firm hold on the President’s ear on the Fifth Floor.

This is all confusing, but one has to admit that such swirling cross-currents are what make Chicago THE place to live if one genuinely loves REAL politics.

1 comment:

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