End of an era in American politics

Rick Moran
Richard M. Daley walked out of city hall in Chicago yesterday for the last time. To say "good riddance" is too simple, and not indicative of the consequential nature of his mayoralty and the corrupt machine he and his father before him ran for nearly half a century.

Reflecting on his legacy, Daley noted an hour or so earlier that he and his brothers carried on the family reputation established by their father, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, even after some had relegated it to the history books."I'm very proud of taking my father's legacy, and most people, when he died, they thought it was the end of me, and the end of the Daley family," the mayor said of the period after his father's December 1976 death in office. "Of course, they underestimated me, my entire family.

"Now today, when I'm leaving after 22 years, my brother Bill is chief of staff for the president of the United States," he added, noting his brother John has been the finance chairman of the Cook County Board under several administrations. "I'm very proud of our family, and proud of my father's legacy and proud of another generation's legacy."


It used to be that all big cities had machines - both Democratic and Republican. The reasons for this are too many to list, but generally, it was a question of having to control millions of people in a confined area. Large metropolitan areas in big European cities were rife with near anarchic conditions - out of control crime, haphazard health conditions, beggars, little justice, and much hopelessness.

Corrupt big city machines like Tammany Hall in New York or the Pendergast machine in Kansas City may have robbed the taxpayer, but they kept the lid on while giving out thousands of jobs to people who probably wouldn't have had one otherwise. They also set up formal social welfare agencies to help the desperately poor under the auspices of club houses and taverns.

As government became more efficient, the need for the big city boss disappeared. By the 1940's most bosses were history - except for Chicago.

Chicago is a hard case largely because the machine always took care of the elites as well as the middle class. It didn't hurt that there has always been an association between organized crime and the city fathers, although the layering today makes it nearly invisible. And Chicago still has, despite Fair Housing laws and court ordered efforts, the most ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods of any big city in the country. This makes it easier for the machine to keep its hands on the levers of power and dole out goodies to its supporters.

Will the Daley legacy endure? Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a creature of the machine but doesn't have the clan connections with city power centers that both Daleys had. It is probable that the machine, grown weaker over the past 20 years, will eventually crumble and disappear as all others before it.

But the Daley name will always be associated with both the greatness and the pettiness of the city of Chicago.

Richard M. Daley walked out of city hall in Chicago yesterday for the last time. To say "good riddance" is too simple, and not indicative of the consequential nature of his mayoralty and the corrupt machine he and his father before him ran for nearly half a century.

Reflecting on his legacy, Daley noted an hour or so earlier that he and his brothers carried on the family reputation established by their father, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, even after some had relegated it to the history books.

"I'm very proud of taking my father's legacy, and most people, when he died, they thought it was the end of me, and the end of the Daley family," the mayor said of the period after his father's December 1976 death in office. "Of course, they underestimated me, my entire family.

"Now today, when I'm leaving after 22 years, my brother Bill is chief of staff for the president of the United States," he added, noting his brother John has been the finance chairman of the Cook County Board under several administrations. "I'm very proud of our family, and proud of my father's legacy and proud of another generation's legacy."


It used to be that all big cities had machines - both Democratic and Republican. The reasons for this are too many to list, but generally, it was a question of having to control millions of people in a confined area. Large metropolitan areas in big European cities were rife with near anarchic conditions - out of control crime, haphazard health conditions, beggars, little justice, and much hopelessness.

Corrupt big city machines like Tammany Hall in New York or the Pendergast machine in Kansas City may have robbed the taxpayer, but they kept the lid on while giving out thousands of jobs to people who probably wouldn't have had one otherwise. They also set up formal social welfare agencies to help the desperately poor under the auspices of club houses and taverns.

As government became more efficient, the need for the big city boss disappeared. By the 1940's most bosses were history - except for Chicago.

Chicago is a hard case largely because the machine always took care of the elites as well as the middle class. It didn't hurt that there has always been an association between organized crime and the city fathers, although the layering today makes it nearly invisible. And Chicago still has, despite Fair Housing laws and court ordered efforts, the most ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods of any big city in the country. This makes it easier for the machine to keep its hands on the levers of power and dole out goodies to its supporters.

Will the Daley legacy endure? Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a creature of the machine but doesn't have the clan connections with city power centers that both Daleys had. It is probable that the machine, grown weaker over the past 20 years, will eventually crumble and disappear as all others before it.

But the Daley name will always be associated with both the greatness and the pettiness of the city of Chicago.