And Ransom Captive, Chi-ca-go, I-L
We are now into our second week of early voting for the Mayoral race in the Windy City, as thousands of people go through the motions to reach the foregone conclusion of electing Rahm Emanuel the next Mayor of Chicago. For the other contenders, Miguel del Valle, Carol Moseley Braun, and Gery Chico, the game was over the moment that Rahm announced he was leaving as White House Chief of Staff. Or, actually, it was probably over the moment that Mr. Mayor phoned Mr. Emanuel to confirm he was retiring.
I believe I can safely bet that Daley’s decision to retire (or not retire) was discussed with alacrity with Mr. Emanuel and others prior to the announcement. I will also safely bet that it was only after Daley had confirmation from Emanuel that he would take the job, that Daley felt he could retire, and his beloved City would not fall into chaos, but remain center-stage on the national scene, and more importantly, that the Machine would remain intact, albeit with a few tweaks.
I was born in Chicago and lived for 23 years in the 38th ward where ward boss, P.J. “Parky” Cullerton ruled. My godparents owned a bar in Chicago, (before Uncle Ben was rewarded with a job with the County) and they served as a Democratic precinct captains, so I learned the inside machinations of Chicago politics at the micro level. I also managed to serve as a precinct election judge, when you still had to count ballots by hand. Another education.
And so now we have this illusion of an election, of which I find all its chapters and characters fascinating. From the beginning when Rahm waltzed into town, claiming to be a “resident” because his wife’s wedding dress was in the basement of his house, to the drama of his being removed from the ballot in a 2-1 decision by two judges who actually read the law and had the backbone to enforce it. Then we had the denouement of the Supreme Court appeal, and would Justice Anne Burke recuse herself due to a potential conflict of interest due to her husband. “Aren’t we beyond that? Women have minds of their own. We have spouses in every kind of business.” Right, Anne. And you’re sitting on the Supreme Court entirely due to your hard work and brains. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that your husband, Ed, continues as one of the most powerful ward bosses/aldermen in City history, and has been Chairman of the all powerful Finance Committee for umpteen years.
Rahm was returned to the ballot by the inevitable Supreme Court decision (was there any doubt), and we have the media tripping over itself with endorsements. Crain’s Chicago Business, “Emanuel Offer Chicago Chance for Fresh Start”; The Chicago Tribune, “praised Emanuel for what it called his ‘tactical shrewdness, ethical conduct and inexhaustible energy.’” Yes, you read the word, “ethical”. Amazing.
Do I think Rahm is qualified for the job? The best man for the job? Qualified, despite the fact he didn’t live here for two years, yes. He’s got the smarts and he’s a master arm-twister. The best man, debatable, given a couple of other candidates in the race and Rahm’s ultimate ambition.
The City Council will experience one of its highest aldermanic turnover rates in several decades, so this should be very interesting to see what kind of machine of his own Rahm puts together, and how well it plays in Springfield with Kingpin, Mike Madigan. The City’s $20 billion unfunded pension liabilities threaten to bankrupt both the City and the State, so look for Rahm-bo to revert to his ‘take no prisoners’ mode and heel the unions (pay attention to closed doors). Another fight of wills considering how much campaign cash they’ve fed into Democratic coffers, and that Rahm will need them in his future. And let’s not forget, he needs to figure out how to keep businesses from leaving the City and create new jobs.
But ultimately, one has to ask THE question, how long will “Mayor” Emanuel remain on the job? Is this position merely the missing active verb “governed” on his resume as he plots his next move possibly for Governor in 4-6 years, and then fast-forwarding to 2020, a run for the White House?
And to think, we’re all witnessing history in making.