“Rahmbo” got the message in time.
“Give it up!” a resonance of popular voices in Chicago advised the two-term mayor. “Go home!”
And now, suddenly — catching friends, enemies and journalists by surprise — Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has acceded, giving up his plans for a third term, announcing he will not stand for re-election next Spring.
Early polls showed him leading in the race, but I, and I’m guessing Rahm and his brain trust read that as a tribute to nothing more than name recognition. If the present signs for the 2018 electoral campaigns predict well, 2019 would be an even more disastrous time for an authoritarian political insider to run for re-entitlement.
Even credentialed, and well-liked by their peers at least, Democratic politicians like Congressmen Joe Crowley in New York and Michael Capuano in Massachusetts have suffered embarrassing defeats in primaries in their notably safe Democratic districts.
Having been powerful insiders in the era of extreme inequality proved to be less a credit than a debit for both Crowley and Capuano. Voters from their own party, many of whom had supported them for decades, turned them out in favor of unfamiliar but emphatically new faces. Both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley appealed to voters as forward-thinkers and females, brands that, so far, most Democrats want to buy in this potentially crucial “hinge” election.
I noted that both Crowley and Capuano were popular personalities within the Democratic Congressional caucus. When it came to choosing between being liked or feared, Rahm Emmanuel was proud to be frightening, a champion head-knocker for a city famous for its taste for tyrants — like Rahm’s model, Mayor Richard Daley the First.
But two years into the Trump era, politicians spreading fear are more despised than admired by Democrats, and polls suggest, independent voters as well.
One should not expect voters in 2018 or 2019 to reward campaigns spouting, “He’s an S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.”
But it’s more than his prickly personality that’s dragging Emmanuel to the sidelines, it’s his “legacy” as described in the New York Times by Chicago journalist Kim Bellware: “investment in big business, tourism and amenities for the already-affluent at the expense of the city’s most vulnerable.”
Under “Rahmbo,” Chicago polished two poles of prosperity: a gleaming and tourist-oriented downtown and an expanded O’Hare Airport, the gateway for many of those visitors to the now “Third City”.
In the neglected “drive-by” neighborhoods alongside the interstates that connect the airports with center city, these priorities are well-noted and highly-resented by residents for whom “v” stands not for “visitor,” but “voter.”
The subsidies that have attracted investment in the few concentric hoops around The Loop and the direct investments in O’Hare and Midway have been conspicuously absent from beleaguered ‘hoods like the far West Side or South Side. For them, the Emmanuel years have seen a slide into anger and despair, as mental health clinics and “bad neighborhood” schools were shut down by the dozens.
Speaking of the South Side, that’s where the unarmed teenager LaQuan McDonald died, shot 16 times, apparently by a Chicago Police Officer, Jason Van Dyke. Mayor Emmanuel announced his exit plan the day before Van Dyke went on trial, accused of murder in the first degree.
That “apparently” judgment is based on a police dashcam video which seems to show the policeman shooting the teenager again and again. The video was hidden from the public for almost a year as controversy about the shooting raged across the city.
Somehow, Mayor Emmanuel thought he could exculpate himself from failing to respond to the McDonald case by claiming he hadn’t seen the video until just before it was released to the public.
I guess he was surprised that the people who believed this thought the reason was, “because he didn’t give a shit.”
A gentler judgment, made also in the cases of the ousted Congressmen Crowley and Capuano, might be that he was “out of touch with his constituents.” The words are gentler but the political implication is the same: “Rahm is dead as a doornail.”
Around the country, a lot of once-comfortable incumbents, proud of the ostensible powers their inside position has given them, are scrambling to re-define themselves and re-connect with voters in the less than 2 months before Election Day.
Too bad for them that many citizens hold them responsible for decades of terrible and unsuccessful foreign wars and the radical redistribution of domestic wealth and comfort from the poor and middle class to the ultra-rich. Complicating things for voters is the fact that this political looting was enabled by the leaders of both political parties.
Tea Party Republicanism sprang from these discontents, but its dark roots in propaganda paid for by rapacious billionaires like the Mercers and the Kochs seem to be withering. Maybe Progressive Democrats can address America’s political failures in ways that a winning coalition of voters will support.
The signs are good they’ll get the chance –, including the sign showing Rahm Emmanuel’s political career in a Chicago sidewalk dumpster.