|HAROLD, HAROLD!: A faint echo|
His death in the very office at City Hall in which 20 people wish to work following next year’s elections brought an end to an era in which the African-American population (which is larger than any other single ethnic or racial group in Chicago) had “one of its own” in the top political post.
EUGENE SAWYER’S MAYORAL stint was engineered by the white political powerbrokers who were looking to undermine the concept of black chief executives, and we have had Richard M. Daley ever since.
So at a time when the bulk of the serious candidates likely to run for mayor are African-American, it seems that the overwhelming favorite is the dreaded Rahm-bo. Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel seems to be the runaway favorite of all the candidates in the running.
A new poll commissioned by the Chicago Retail Merchants Association showed Emanuel taking 39 percent of the vote, if the election were held now. By comparison, the African-American candidate gets 26 percent – if one adds up all the support for former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., Rev./state Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, and Sen. (for four more days) Roland Burris, D-Ill.
If that poll is taken into account, the Feb. 22 municipal election will result in a runoff to be held in April between Emanuel and Moseley-Braun. It would become the emotional challenge for those people who want to rant and rage about electoral politics – since they will be inclined to complain and want to vote against both candidates.
NOW I WILL be the first to admit that I don’t take this poll all too seriously, largely because it is so early in the political process. It shows 18 percent of people being “unsure” who they want, which likely means that Emanuel leads by so much because he has been effective during the past month in pushing the concept that he is THE candidate for mayor.
It is the reason why Moseley-Braun is trying to push the concept that Emanuel’s departure in October from the White House undermined the effectiveness of President Barack Obama – resulting in his self-described “shellacking” in the elections held earlier this month. Make Obama-sympathetic voters blame Emanuel, and maybe they won’t vote for him.
It also is why Davis is going about these days saying Emanuel doesn’t belong on the ballot, trying to dredge up the issue of whether or not Rahm gave up his Chicago residency status when he went to Washington to work for Obama.
|MOSELEY-BRAUN: She's the frontrunner (for now)|
And it is why an attorney who is a consultant to Meeks is the leader of that legal battle to get Emanuel kicked off the ballot.
THAT IS THE point we’re at in this city when it comes to racial politics. The only way the powers-that-be think we can get an African-American candidate elected as mayor is if all the credible white people get knocked off the ballot.
Not that I think such a tactic would work.
I honestly believe that the bulk of the people who are backing Emanuel now would suddenly turn to one of the Latino candidates, most likely former Public Schools and City Colleges head Gery Chico – who earlier this week was pointing out the fact that he has Greek ethnicity in his family tree and was claiming the endorsement of his Public Schools counterpart, Paul Vallas – who had his share of supporters when he ran for Illinois governor in 2002.
So perhaps he becomes the un-Latino candidate who some people will be able to vote for, so as to avoid having to cast a vote for any of the Big Four of the African-American candidates who are in the running (I know “Dock” Walls supporters – all three of them – will claim it really is a Big Five, but I disagree). Or perhaps life-long Chicagoan M. Tricia Lee would suddenly gain significant voter support.
THE SAD FACT is that we’re not as far along the road to racial acceptance as we’d like to think we are. There will be significant numbers of voters in the municipal elections who will let race guide the way they cast their ballot.
|CHICO: The backup choice?|
We may have sent some African-American officials to represent us in the U.S. Senate, at the Statehouse and as president. But I think some people believe mayor is more important because that is here, not somewhere else.
I’m waiting to see what kinds of rhetoric develop once we know which of the African-American candidates will become the front-runner of the group, and the one who will wind up going head-to-head against Emanuel.
It may not be as blunt as the rhetoric (“Before it’s too late”) from Election ’83. But I’m willing to bet that the spirit will be similar to the days when Harold was still with us.