I grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. For readers who are not familiar with Chicago this is an industrial and residential neighborhood named after the former Union Stock Yards. There were two things that we could count on in my neighborhood, when leaving for school you would be greeted with the most horrendous smell from animals being slaughtered at the stock yards. The other was The Chicago Machine.
In the sixties, 48th Street and Union Avenue was mainly Irish Catholic immigrants or first generation Irish American families, as was most of the city. Many fathers were fire or policemen. The neighborhood was solidly blue collar workers and they were very loyal to the city, and the, The Boss, Mayor Richard J. Daley.
I remember discussions about the alderman and precinct captains. They delivered Daley’s message to the constituents and it was done. City workers were well paid through various Union contracts. The Union’s legendary negotiations with the mayor assured that the rank and file fell in place. Once a system is ingrained and it appears to work, people are reticent to rock the boat. I have a family to feed, you guarantee my job, and I vote for you, on the surface not a bad deal. City workers knew supporting Daley was job security. It isn’t any different today. People would rather vote for the devil they know, than the one they don’t.
However, Chicago is at a crossroads. A well-oiled machine, is an outdated political model. Looking to the past will not solve the problems that face the city today and in the future.
Is Chicago poised to replace one machine with another? Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff is ready to announce he is running for mayor Friday, will he be a breath of fresh air or just more of the same?.
The Chicago Democratic machine is licking their chops. Emanuel would be the strongest candidate among the growing list of people who are, or want to run. Emanuel is an intrinsic part of the Chicago political machine. Would he be the best Mayor for Chicago?
According to the White House website, Emanuel has served in the House of Representatives, was Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign committee, Democratic Caucus Chair and served as the National Finance Director for the 1992 Clinton campaign, as well as senior advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy. In 1989 he served as senior advisor and fundraiser for Richard M. Daley. He was also involved in the Senate campaign of Paul Simon.
That is quite a pedigree. With Emanuel’s connections the political machine is betting they can continue as they have for decades. Will Emanuel be a puppet of the White House and the Chicago political elite or can he step into the role of Chicago Mayor and clean house. Does he have the will he use his vast political connections to make hard decisions that will bring the change Chicago wants and needs, or will he continue to give Chicago more of the same back room, slap’um on the back, political deals?
It would be a mistake for any candidate to take Chicago voters for granted. They are angry and as the trend in recent primaries has shown, America has little tolerance for the status quo. They want change. They don’t want to watch commercials espousing another candidate’s mistakes. If you are running, you should spend your money on commercials that tell voters what you will do. They don’t want, I promise this or that. Political promises are hollow words.