Obama and the Daley Machine

A well-spoken black liberal from Hyde Park is elected to the highest office. Blacks are rejoicing that one of their own had risen so high and affirmed their chance for the brass ring. Been there, done that with the election of Harold Washington as Mayor of Chicago in 1983.

What ensued was called Beirut on the Lake or Council Wars
. By 1989 Richard M Daley was elected mayor. He is now destined to supplant his father, Richard J Daley (1955-1976) as the longest serving mayor in Chicago's history. Simply put, Chicago is Daley's town and has been for over 50 years. There have been eleven presidents elected in that span, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and now Obama. Presidents come and go, the Machine lives on.

Now the Democrats have been out of power for eight years, with the last Democratic President having left office in an ethical cloud of Biblical proportions (Monica Lewinsky, the perjury conviction, the last minute pardons for assorted lowlifes etc. etc.). Not so good for a city yearning for federal handouts. Even worse, during the Clinton administration various Clintonistas had been absorbed into the Daley Machine and vice versa. Some common names are Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel. Then the party chooses and loses with two mopes, Al Gore and John Kerry, opening the way for Hillary Clinton to be the anointed one in 2008.

With typical Clinton tactics, she had been trying to co-opt the Daleys to get the Machine to do her bidding. Bad move, as it alienated them. And they are the masters of co-opting! Since none of them could run for President with their Machine reputation (and U S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald on the Hired Truck case) they needed someone to support against Clinton. They picked Barack Obama. They had seen a black superstar rise before and within six years had re-asserted control.

There are those who will tell you Obama is not a Machine politician, he is a Hyde Park liberal. But read Mayor Washington's biography again: he was in and out of favor a few times. Heck, Richard J. Daley won his first election as a Republican! There are always internal struggles going on among the lieutenants. But they know who's Boss.

It is quite telling that both Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama know their places in the sphere of Chicago politics. Obama's first appointment was Emanuel as his "minder" from the Boss. For those mindful of the rat-tat-tat Chicago of Al Capone, just remember that the St. Valentine's Day Massacre was Capone versus another mob boss, Bugsy Moran. Plus ca change, plus la meme chose!

Find this a bit far-fetched? Note that Daley's biggest future plan is the 2016 Olympics, something he co-opted from Republican businessman Pat Ryan, which has its own minder Valerie Jarrett as Co-Chair. Yes the same Valerie Jarrett who hired Michelle to work at City Hall when she was deputy chief of staff to Richard M Daley. The one who got to chaperone the Barack-Michelle romance.

Barack Obama has a shorter leash than you might assume a president-elect could wear, and Mayor Daley holds the other end.