Rahm Emanuel Off The Ballot: The Cook County Machine Is Alive And Well And Living In Chicago

(Tuesday, January 25, 2011)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a big fan of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Of course, while in one way I’m not a big fan of Illinois politics in general or the Cook County Machine in particular either, in an other way you gotta admit it’s always been…interesting. But the decision to exclude Emanuel from running for mayor because he spent two years in Washington working for the president is a whacky move, even for a state and city where a large portion of their former public servants can be identified by not just their names, but their prison inmate numbers.

Ever since the days of Big Bill Thompson in the 1920’s and on through the Daley’s reigns Chicago has, while not exactly being what could be called a shining example of democracy in action, it’s form of government is certainly unique in America- an oligarchy. It always seemed to me that Chicago politics has heavily relied on the political background of it’s candidates…if you don’t have a father, grandfather, uncle or cousin who wasn’t already in the machine, you had no background. And Emanuel, the son of a Zionist freedom fighter and a union organizer, is not a part of the machine. That’s fine; after all that’s the purpose of a machine, to run smoothly with as few parts as possible. And while every now and then the machine will add a new part- Blacks, Puerto Ricans, like that, Jews have never been big in the equation.

And I can understand that the machine would look upon Emanuel as a part that would only fuck things up. Personally, I believe he did more to screw up Barak Obama’s first two years that the mortgage crisis, the Tea Party and the TARP bailout combined. He’s an acerbic asshole. But to argue that he should be excluded because he spent two years in Washington working for the government as Obama’s Chief of Staff is ridiculous. If you follow that argument then by extension, it means that any soldier who did tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, or even were stationed on an American base out of state, couldn’t come home and run for office either, at least until they were back home for a year.

Rod Blagojevich may be gone, Big Bill is no more and the Daley heading for retirement, but Chicago politics goes on. And on and on.