Friday, November 26, 2010



We had my niece and her family over for Thanksgiving yesterday. As always, a good time was had by all. My nephew-in-law, if you will, is a Republican political operative out here in DuPage County and a very keen observer of the political situation whose opinion is always worthy of consideration and respect. Naturally, some of the conversation, at least over the pre-meal snack table, centered on politics.

My nephew-in-law, and friend, asked me who I would most and least want to run against in a run-off if I were Rahm Emanuel.

The above query carries two implicit assumptions. First, it assumes that there will be a run-off. While I earlier thought there was a possibility that we could once again see who our next mayor will be in February (AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR…, 10/15/10):

It is October 15 and we have already reached the point at which there are only four viable candidates for mayor: Tom Dart, Rahm Emanuel, James Meeks, and Gery Chico. Sure, there are plenty of others still technically in the race, but they represent quite slim pickings. Who really thinks Ricky Hendon, Miguel del Valle, or Carol Moseley Braun has any chance of becoming our next mayor? In fact, I would go so far as to say that, as the deal making continues (Does anyone think Luis Gutierrez dropped out to concentrate on his immigration crusade in Congress?) and the field narrows further, we could see the mayor chosen in February, with no need for an April runoff, just as we have seen since the inception of the non-partisan mayoral election in 1999.

I went on to say in the next paragraph

Note, though, that it is still early; the race only began about five weeks ago and the February preliminary is still almost four months away. Anything could happen. If, say, Lisa Madigan or Danny Davis gets into the race, both unlikely, the former more than the latter, everything changes.

And indeed, things have “happened.” With Tom Dart’s leaving and Danny Davis’s entering, it’s hard to see how there won’t be a runoff. Some of the more learned, and in the tank for Emanuel, in the press think there is a chance their guy wins outright. If I know, or have spoken to ANYONE in the city, I simply cannot see how this can happen, unless Emanuel buys off, or otherwise wins over, the powerful ward organizations both in the inner city and on the geographic fringes of the city. But then, most of the people that I know don’t live in the Fifth Congressional District and so, in the eyes of the media, don’t count. But I digress.

The second assumption is that Rahm Emanuel makes it to the run-off. Even though I don’t see the groundswell for Emanuel, indeed, his near inevitability, that the denizens of the press corps. see, it seems to be clear that Emanuel will be one of the last two men standing. The existence of at least two, and maybe three, serious black candidates makes Emanuel’s survival a near certainty.

So the question remains valid: If you were Rahm Emanuel, who would you most want to face in the run-off? Who would you least want to face?

If I were Rahm, I’d most want to face James Meeks, assuming that Carol Moseley Braun and Roland Burris are not serious candidates. Harold Washington became mayor in 1983 because he was able to assemble a coalition of blacks, lakefront liberals, a substantial chunk of the Hispanic vote, and a small number of white Machine Democrats who, admirably, remained loyal to party despite the racial overtones of the campaign. (I understand that Washington did win under vastly different electoral circumstances; there was no run-off system in 1983 and Harold was thus able to win with 37% of the vote in the Democratic primary. But the aforementioned coalition came into play in the general, when Harold won by a mere 4% (52%-48%) against unlikely Republican Bernie Epton in a racially charged election.) One of the vital elements of that coalition likely would not be with Meeks in a one-on-one against Emanuel because of Meeks’ conservative social views and Rahm’s being the very apotheosis of the near north side, brie munching, white wine sipping, always certain, seldom right yuppie type. Why do you think the press, heavily populated with the aforementioned types, loves him so? Further, in a one-on-one match up with Meeks, who has compared the Chicago Teachers’ Union with street gangs regarding damage done to the black community, labor will be completely in Rahm’s corner, NAFTA or no NAFTA.

Who Rahm would least like to run against is a more interesting question. The easy answer is Gery Chico. That answer assumes, however, that Chico assumes the mantle, abdicated by Tom Dart, of, for lack of a better term, the white ethnic candidate who garners support from the strong ward organizations on the geographic fringes of the city. Speaking very openly about race and ethnicity, as we must do when discussing Chicago politics, despite Chico’s last name, he is clearly the white ethnic candidate in the race, largely because his mother was Greek and Lithuanian and, more importantly, because there are no other white, non-Hispanic candidates of any consequence in the race. He also, again, speaking frankly of race, doesn’t look or sound as Hispanic as, say, Miguel del Valle. But Chico is still Hispanic, which is definitely a plus in this town. (Only in Chicago would one have to state that a guy named “Chico” is indeed Hispanic, but I digress.)

The difficult half of the above assumption regarding Chico is his ability to garner the support of the remaining powerful ward organizations on the fringes of the city. (Roll call: Burke, Madigan, Zalewski, Cullerton, O’Connor, Levar, Schulter, O’Shea (or, more properly, the people behind O’Shea), Mell, Pope, etc.) These people play their cards close to their vests and aren’t about to come out for anybody until it makes sense for the home team to do so. One would think, though, as I have said before, that they would not be amenable to a Rahm candidacy for a number of reasons, including his outsider status, his ethnic background’s, and his association with Barack Obama, being a hard sell in some of those wards, his Napoleonic attitude, or at least his advertised Napoleonic attitude, their lack of desire for another dictator, benevolent or otherwise, on the Fifth Floor, etc. However, these guys are very skilled politicians who understand and crave power and money far more ardently than they regard such trendy piffles as ideology or title of office. They could be bought off with the kind of dealing that characterizes them and, to a lesser extent, characterizes Rahm Emanuel. If they end up in Rahm’s camp, then Chico becomes an easy guy to beat. If not, it becomes a race and, as I have said before, provides an answer to the question of whether the Machine still exists. Remember, also, for what it’s worth, that Gery Chico’s first big job in city government was as a senior staffer on Ed Burke’s City Council Finance Committee and that Ed Burke is, reportedly, fond of Gery Chico. Whether that means anything to those for whom money and power are more important than old times and sentiment is open to question, but that background is worth considering.

How about Danny Davis? If Rahm can buy off the ward organizations, then Chico becomes a non-entity and Davis would be the guy against whom Emanuel would least want to run. Davis would have solid support in the black community and has at least a chance of assembling the old Washington coalition, sans the Machine guys who put Party over race, who will be in Emanuel’s camp. Note that a portion of Davis’s congressional district is composed of self-styled urban sophisticates on its eastern edge and in Oak Park. While those Oak Parkers can’t vote in the mayor’s election, perhaps his ability to appeal to them can translate to their sui generis superior types in the tonier wards on the city’s near north side and in Hyde Park. This will be tough, considering that such types’ predisposition to vote for their own kind, despite their tendency to sneer at others who do so, will probably lead them to vote for uber-yuppie Rahm Emanuel. But Davis, despite his problems with, for example, Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s crown, is the race’s closest candidate to Harold Washington. Note that Congressman Harold Washington also had some problems, not with Sun Myung Moon’s crown but, rather, primarily with the IRS, that he overcame to become Mayor Harold Washington.

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