Thursday, December 23, 2010



Two developments in the Chicago mayor’s race that could conceivably be called big, but neither of which came as a surprise to readers of the Insightful Pontificator, came to fruition today.

First, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners ratified the decision by hearing officer Joe Morris that where Rahm Emanuel lived for the last few years had nothing to do with his residency during that time period. While this development might seem important to the casual or uninformed observer (e.g., national political experts who have suddenly decided that they have, seemingly through osmosis, learned something about the politics of my home town and/or those who don’t read the Insightful Pontificator), this story was completely anticipated by readers of the right material (See, inter alia, my 12/17 post HOME, HOME ON HERMITAGE AVENUE, my 12/7/10 post MAYBE HE DIDN’T “FINISH WITH THE FOOTBALL,” and my 9/10/10 post PRESCIENT MR. PONTIFICATOR? NOT YET.) and is only the first, or maybe the second, round of deliberations on Mr. Emanuel’s residency. If the Board’s decision is reversed at some level of the courts, it will come as a surprise and/or indicate that maybe Ed Burke has more clout in the courts than I, but not some others, had supposed. The likely outcome is that, in the rabbit hole logic of politics in this town, where Rahm lived had no bearing on his residency. How this will sit with Chicago firefighters and police officers, who already have little love for Mr. Emanuel’s most salient local patron and who must live in the city or else, is another issue that may be explored in a future post on the Pontificator.

Today’s more interesting development was the Reverend Senator James Meeks’ dropping out of the race for mayor. Again, my readers anticipated this development (See, inter alia, my 12/17/10 piece THE MAN’S NAME BELIES HIM and my 11/25/10 piece “OPEN THE DOOR, RICHARD!”.). Senator Meeks, nobody’s fool, realized two things. First, as long as three black candidates remained in the race, no black candidate was going to make it past the February preliminaries. Second, given his tendency to speak his mind and his unwillingness to ditch principle for political expediency, the chances of Reverend Meeks’ advancing beyond his very safe senate seat were minimal. And so he did the right thing and dropped out, as he earlier dropped out of a race for governor after cutting a flimsy, and soon forgotten, “deal” with Rod Blagojevich.

But this leaves two viable black candidates, former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Congressman Danny Davis. One of the city’s foremost political columnists is of the opinion that Ms. Braun is a mere stooge of the Daley family, citing as evidence her having hired Daley pal Victor Reyes and, curiously, from an evidential standpoint, Mike Madigan associate Mike Noonan to run her campaign. (There are less sinister explanations for these hires. For example, Victor Reyes is a political consultant, it’s an election year, and Ms. Braun was willing to hire him. While Mr. Reyes may have preferred to work for someone with better credit than Ms. Braun, political consultants have a limited market and when an opportunity arises, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to turn it down waiting for something better that may never come along. Similarly, Mike Noonan has done work for Mike Madigan but also has done work for other clients (I believe Mr. Noonan is a lawyer as well as a political operative.). That hardly makes him a Madigan stooge, or even a Madigan protégé. Further, why hiring a Madigan guy would be evidence that one is a Daley stooge is beyond me. But I digress.) If Carol Moseley Braun is a pawn of the Daley family and the Daleys are solidly behind Emanuel, what Braun does depends on what Rahm Emanuel wants. If Mr. Emanuel thinks a one-on-one vs. Gery Chico is the way to go, a dubious proposition (See, again, my 11/25/10 piece “OPEN THE DOOR, RICHARD!”.), Ms. Braun will stay in the race to assure that the black vote is split and Gery Chico thus makes it to the run-off. If Rahm Emanuel decides that he would rather go one-on-one against a black candidate, thinking that the dazzling self-styled urbanite portion of the old Washington coalition, Mr. Emanuel’s natural constituency, is in his pocket, thus making it impossible for a black candidate to win, then Ms. Braun will drop out, giving Danny Davis an excellent chance to make it to April to face Mr. Emanuel one-on-one.

Not being one of those who believe that Ms. Braun is a Daley pawn but that she is, rather, a misguided egotist whose election would prove nothing so saliently as that the voters are a pack of idiots, I don’t know what she will do. But it is clear that Danny Davis is the most viable black candidate for mayor. One can argue, with more than a little merit, that Mr. Davis has a sporadic, but always opportunistic, background, that he is a man of little achievement, and that he is evidence of the victory of style over substance that so characterizes our modern society. But one could have made the same arguments, with at least equal legitimacy, about Harold Washington in 1983.

That having been said, what I alluded to two paragraphs ago bears repeating. Harold Washington was elected mayor because he could unite the black vote with the “I know everything because I just moved to town from the North Shore” vote that tends to congregate along the lakefront from downtown north to the Evanston border. He also managed to attract some Hispanic votes, but far more in 1987 than 1983. The aforementioned self-styled urbanite vote this year will be in Rahm Emanuel’s pocket; after all, he is the epitome and standard-bearer of the “I know everything because I just moved to town from the North Shore” vote. Thus, it will be difficult for any black candidate to win, unless he can draw a substantial chunk of the Hispanic vote and/or persuade white voters on the city’s geographical fringes to support him, the former more likely than the latter, but neither very likely. Therefore, it would seem that Gery Chico would still be the more formidable challenger in April, and, consequently, that Mr. Emanuel should prefer Mr. Davis to Mr. Chico as an opponent in the Spring. Thus, if the columnist to whom I alluded to earlier is correct in his argument that the Daleys have planted Ms. Braun in the race to split the black vote for Mr. Emanuel, perhaps she will be, er, encouraged to drop out when Mr. Emanuel and his backers realize that Mr. Davis will be easier to beat than Mr. Chico.


Since, as of 5:00 this evening, both Mr. Davis and Ms. Braun remain in the race, even if one drops out now his or her name will remain on the ballot. And you can count on either thus drawing plenty of votes even if s/he has pulled out of the race. It is never advisable to bet too heavily on the typical voter’s being sufficiently on the ball to know who is in the race and who is not.

So the only thing that one can say in the wake of these developments is that this race for mayor is truly one for the ages.

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