Thursday, March 22, 2018

Is Chicago’s political “Machine” dead? Evidence leans in both directions

“The ‘Machine’ is dead!” Or is it, “Long live the ‘Machine’!”
BERRIOS: Off to political retirement?

For those people who like to rant about Chicago politics and the dreaded “Machine” (a.k.a., the regular Democratic Party organization) that runs it, there was superficial evidence from Tuesday’s primary election to indicate both stances.

IT’S HARD TO say the “Machine” is alive and thriving when the Cook County Democratic Party chairman can’t even get himself re-elected to his own government post.

Sure enough, Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios is out – having lost his primary bid to a political amateur. Albeit one with University of Chicago academia experience. Although in many ways, that qualifies as the ultimate “nobody nobody sent” that the old school says is completely undesirable.

Of course, Berrios had so many people singling him out for a political demise. He had built up throughout the years a massive list of people who had nothing but contempt for his political existence. He was counting on the Democratic organization to turn out the votes to lead to his electoral success.

What is it that made Berrios so many electoral enemies? The fact he liked to have family members on his government office payroll didn’t help his image. Nor did the perception that he was using his office to give significant property tax breaks to business interests who contributed financially to his campaign fund.

HENCE, WE HAD a lot of voters who went to their polling place Tuesday (or an Early Voting center during previous weeks) with two goals in mind – a choice for governor, and ANYBODY except Berrios!

Which is why we now have Fritz Kaegi as the Democratic nominee, and likely the eventual Assessor for the next four years.

Unless Andrea Raila, a third candidate whose campaign got seriously hemmed in by Kaegi-backer antics to keep her off the ballot, succeeds in forcing the election results to be tossed out and a special election to be held.
LIPINSKI: Returning to D.C.

If the ‘Machine’ still had significant life, that might be a possibility. But since there aren’t “re-dos” in electoral politics (just as “there’s no crying in baseball), we’re likely stuck with Tuesday night’s election results.

BUT BEFORE WE say the ‘Machine’ is a relic of the past, keep in mind the apparent victory of Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill.

He’s the Congressman from Southwest Side Chicago and surrounding suburbs whose Democratic partisan leanings are due to his support for organized labor and unions. On many of the social issues that a new generation of Democrats think are all important, he’s hostile – particularly abortion.

Lipinski, the son of Bill Lipinski who also served in the City Council and later in Congress back when the ‘Machine’ was a reality of political life, always gets people claiming he’s “too conservative” to be a Chicago congressman. But this election cycle, he got a challenger in the form of Marie Newman and the many national Democratic support groups willing to prop up her campaign financially.

But according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, the 56.58 percent of votes Lipinski got in the city portion of the congressional district far exceeded the 51.59 percent support the Cook County Clerk’s office says Newman got in the suburbs.

THE DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION can be said to have done its part to send Lipinski back to Capitol Hill and ensure that the Democratic caucus has people representing various points of view on issues within its membership. Although the people who always make this argument don’t seem the least bit concerned that the Republican caucus is overwhelmingly dominated by conservative ideologues.

But back to Berrios for a bit. I suspect there are some people whose objections include a tinge of ethnic hostility. I remember when his daughter, Toni, lost her re-election bid to an Illinois House seat in 2014, with some voters saying they didn’t want Latino political representation for an area with a gentrifying population.

But before anybody thinks I’m saying Joe Berrios was picked upon for his ethnic origins (he’s Puerto Rican), I’d have to acknowledge the political victory the very same night for Aaron Ortiz – who defeated Dan Burke for his Illinois House seat.

Burke most definitely would have won yet another term (he’s been at the Statehouse since 1991) if the ‘Machine’ were truly thriving. Now, he’s probably wondering what’s the world come to when Ed Burke, the City Council’s long-time Finance chairman, can’t even get his own brother re-elected to office.


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