Upon rolling out of bed yesterday morning, had you told me that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would bid adieu to the impending electoral festivities, I would’ve told your significant other to lock up the liquor cabinet.
I don’t care what the polls said at this early point. C’mon! This is a man who’s already raised $10 million to fend off 12 challengers who wouldn’t have much of a shot in that kind of crowded field. Democrats don’t seem to understand that, when it comes to primaries, more is never merrier.
Though he served for eight long years, Rahm was never suited to that kind of bringing people together dynamic required to succeed as Second City mayor. His specialty has been kicking ass and taking names. In fact, I firmly believe it was his departure that doomed the Obama presidency to utter second term ineffectiveness.
The truth is, being mayor of any city is an exceptionally tough gig but heading up a Machine-less Second City is a virtual impossibility. There are too many powerful factions requiring constantly conflicting obeisance to get the job done. Think about it! You have to placate:
- An often-loony city council
- The Chicago Public School System
- The CPS teacher’s union
- Unions, unions, and more unions
- The perpetually unhappy Chicago Police
- Violent splinter gangs that no one can control
- A slew of “enthusiastic” activist groups besot with tunnel vision
- Insistent unfunded state mandates
- A population that’s beyond diverse
- Property taxes that make Geneva, Illinois’ look sane
- Crushing debt on all fronts
I could continue, but I’m sure you get the idea.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying the Daley bred Chicago Machine days were better, but they kinda were. Because whenever you have this number of absurdly diverse interests consistently clashing with each other, you must be capable of, on frequent occasion, ruling a predetermined political hierarchy with an iron fist if you want to get anything done.
And no one pulled that off like Richard J. Daley.
There’s a reason they called Chicago “The City that Works” because the elder Daley had the political muscle to make damn sure it did. The late, great Mike Royko called it “clout!” You certainly didn’t want “Hizzoner” to become too terribly unamused with you or you’d find yourself exiled to Elmhurst. And who the bleep wants that?
I’m sure Rahm could’ve done it back in those days, too, but the times, and the Machine, have “evolved.” Once those Democratic regulars got a taste of political freedom and minorities took their rightful place at the table, a strong mayoral hand was no longer the answer. And when it came down to the new necessity of coaching and finding common ground, Rahm was never comfortable with peace, love, and understanding.
The best example of the Machine’s waning influence is 12 separate Democratic mayoral challengers on the 2019 ballot – so far! That kind of outright insolence would’ve never have been tolerated in 1973.
“I’ve decided not to seek re-election,” Emanuel said, “This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime.”
Anyone who wants to be da Mayor of Chicagah should automatically be disqualified by virtue of mental defect. It’s a level of insanity to which even I couldn’t possibly ascribe.
And if anyone thinks any mayor can bring an end to the violence plaguing Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods, as that great philosopher Steven Tyler likes to say, “dream on!” No man or woman on this vast rocky sphere can single-handedly end the war on drugs or address the economic blight that leads to gangs and gang warfare in the first place.
And all the unyielding special interests make that prospect even more untenable. There are thankless jobs and then there’s being mayor of The Windy City. It’s a circle of Hell that Dante couldn’t possibly have conceived.
As far as what the looming consolidated election will bring, an incumbent-less field of that magnitude typically means the candidate with the best combination of name recognition and reputation will win the day. And, right now, that would be former Chicago Public Schools CEO, Paul Vallas. With the right message and the right campaign team, this election is now his to win.
Though he was an eminently round peg trying to fit in a determinedly square hole, I’m going to miss Rahm if for no other reason than I will always harbor a vast affinity for all of my ass-kicking compatriots regardless of how ineffective they might be. And I always got the biggest kick out of his unique management style.
So, Rahm! You made the right decision and both you and your family will be far better off for it. Eight years in hell is more than enough public service for any politician. Now you get to laugh as the next mayor comes to terms with the Sisyphean nature of the task.
Put more simply, from one asshole to another, I wish you the very best in your future endeavors. Don’t ever change, baby!
P.S. I want to thank Driver Tom for delivering this news scant seconds after the press release was issued.