Mayor Daley

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had some interesting things to say yesterday. He seems to be quite disaffected by the National Democratic Party. He noted that it has become a party of insiders and wealthy contributors (i.e., the Clintonistas). He even deigned to admit the Republicans were more successful and closer to the people (i.e. more democratic). Being a big city mayor facing government union intransigence and budget problems, he might be a candidate for a welcoming by President Bush. A modern day return of the prodigal.

He's been mayor a long time (as was his father). That means he's faced a string of management problems. But things have changed for the better since his father's day, often under pressure from outside sources. Locally, the Shakman decree  forced a major reduction in patronage and corruption. Some still exists, but Daley is steering the course to get it fixed.

A generation ago, Education Secretary Bill Bennett described Chicago's public schools as the worst in the nation. The Republicans in the state legislature gave the mayor the financial power and the accountability to improve them. He's used both to make changes and start a process of raising educational standards and building new schools. He had to face off against the unions, especially the teachers and building engineers. A Democrat who fights the unions.

To try and meet a budget shortfall, he asked the unions to accept unpaid furlough days. They have declined. So part of his package of cuts yesterday was to privatize the custodians  at O'Hare Airport. The unionized employees haven't been doing the job anyway and he has already privatized Midway Airport. A Democrat who privatizes government operations.

So he's ripe for outreach, even if he doesn't know it. His thought was to support Howard Dean for leadership of the National Democratic Party, as the one who first enunciated the idea that the party was a captive of the Clintonistas. So his impulses are not always reliably wise.

But he has worked with Republican governors. He has some respect for Republicans and their rapport with the electorate. And practical imperatives are forcing him to reign in the traditional Democratic power blocs such as the unions. He does love his city. And he does have the guts to take big chances, such as Millennium Park.  

President Bush could invite Mayor Daley to advise him on various issues, praise his praiseworthy initiatives, and work with him on education reform, welfare reform, and maybe get him to play a role in devising and selling Social Security reform, for instance. The Democrats have serious fissures, and there is nothing wrong with aggravating them, while scoring points as a uniter, not a divider.

Daley knows he has to continue to clean up the political machine and the corruption. So how about a little outreach to the Prodigal? Some tough love might work wonders. Bring in some of the Republican brainpower to help him fight the street gangs. He clearly had some input on the Patriot Act. His new police commissioner has been implementing lessons learned from Rudy Guiliani's New York and the murder rate is finally falling.

Although Illinois has become a blue state, and Chicago is a historic Democrat stronghold, the cultural divide between the snooty coastal elites and the rest of America leaves Illinois and its metropolis among the red states. Building a long term secure majority coalition requires incorporating them politically where they already are, culturally. Just as the South migrated from Democrat to Republican over the course of a generation, so, too, can Chicago. Mayor Daley is a bold, intelligent, and gutsy guy. Kind of like Senator Zell Miller.

Bruce Thompson has his own website MachiasPrivateer.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had some interesting things to say yesterday. He seems to be quite disaffected by the National Democratic Party. He noted that it has become a party of insiders and wealthy contributors (i.e., the Clintonistas). He even deigned to admit the Republicans were more successful and closer to the people (i.e. more democratic). Being a big city mayor facing government union intransigence and budget problems, he might be a candidate for a welcoming by President Bush. A modern day return of the prodigal.

He's been mayor a long time (as was his father). That means he's faced a string of management problems. But things have changed for the better since his father's day, often under pressure from outside sources. Locally, the Shakman decree  forced a major reduction in patronage and corruption. Some still exists, but Daley is steering the course to get it fixed.

A generation ago, Education Secretary Bill Bennett described Chicago's public schools as the worst in the nation. The Republicans in the state legislature gave the mayor the financial power and the accountability to improve them. He's used both to make changes and start a process of raising educational standards and building new schools. He had to face off against the unions, especially the teachers and building engineers. A Democrat who fights the unions.

To try and meet a budget shortfall, he asked the unions to accept unpaid furlough days. They have declined. So part of his package of cuts yesterday was to privatize the custodians  at O'Hare Airport. The unionized employees haven't been doing the job anyway and he has already privatized Midway Airport. A Democrat who privatizes government operations.

So he's ripe for outreach, even if he doesn't know it. His thought was to support Howard Dean for leadership of the National Democratic Party, as the one who first enunciated the idea that the party was a captive of the Clintonistas. So his impulses are not always reliably wise.

But he has worked with Republican governors. He has some respect for Republicans and their rapport with the electorate. And practical imperatives are forcing him to reign in the traditional Democratic power blocs such as the unions. He does love his city. And he does have the guts to take big chances, such as Millennium Park.  

President Bush could invite Mayor Daley to advise him on various issues, praise his praiseworthy initiatives, and work with him on education reform, welfare reform, and maybe get him to play a role in devising and selling Social Security reform, for instance. The Democrats have serious fissures, and there is nothing wrong with aggravating them, while scoring points as a uniter, not a divider.

Daley knows he has to continue to clean up the political machine and the corruption. So how about a little outreach to the Prodigal? Some tough love might work wonders. Bring in some of the Republican brainpower to help him fight the street gangs. He clearly had some input on the Patriot Act. His new police commissioner has been implementing lessons learned from Rudy Guiliani's New York and the murder rate is finally falling.

Although Illinois has become a blue state, and Chicago is a historic Democrat stronghold, the cultural divide between the snooty coastal elites and the rest of America leaves Illinois and its metropolis among the red states. Building a long term secure majority coalition requires incorporating them politically where they already are, culturally. Just as the South migrated from Democrat to Republican over the course of a generation, so, too, can Chicago. Mayor Daley is a bold, intelligent, and gutsy guy. Kind of like Senator Zell Miller.

Bruce Thompson has his own website MachiasPrivateer.