The Ward Room's Mark Anderson (Chicago Needs a Mayoral Challenger. Or Five) offers up a rather gloomy picture of democratic possibilities for Chicago.
The next election for mayor in Chicago little more than 18 months away, and it’s time to face a hard fact: When it comes to mayoral politics in Chicago, democracy could be dead.I'm a little more hopeful. From my view, Rahm Emanuel's once-powerful political base appears to be coming apart at the seams. Polls I have seen, show Rahm faring poorly in head-to-head races against a number of potential candidates. His support in the black community is eroding. His disastrous school budget cuts, school closings, and mass teacher firings have brought the entire public school system to its knees. Throw in his attacks on the pension funds and Rahm has created a potential army of public employees, including cops, fireman, school teachers, parents and staff who could be the foot soldiers working against him in the next campaign.
School closings, primarily in the city's African-American neighborhoods on the south and west sides, threaten to further blight many of those communities, lead to more unemployment, neighborhood instability and more violence. Rahm can't go many places in the community these days, without being greeted with a chorous of boos.
Which brings up Rahm's biggest problem, the image of Chicago as an uncontrollable, corrupt and violent city -- bad for business. Sneed reports that a CNN national security adviser just called Chicago “the Mogadishu of the United States.” (BTW Sneed, Mogadishu is in Somalia, not Iraq).
“All of these things that happen in Chicago go viral. People hear about it all over the world and we need to limit that because tourism plays such a big part in our economy, says Ald. Walter Burnett.The images of thousands of school kids having to navigate "safe passage" routes and police and security cordons just to get to school and back each day, have shocked the world. The recent Cornell Park shootings may have been a back-breaker for Rahm and Chief McCarthy's spin on the city's supposed drop in crime.
On top of all this, you have a widening rift with with the old Daley machine and an emerging split in the state Democratic Party as seen by the withdrawal from the governor's race by Lisa Madigan and Bill Daley and sub rosa support for Republican billionaire candidate Bruce Rauner coming from Rahm, Daley and even Hillary Clinton.
I could go on. There's Rahm's costly blown attempt to privatize Midway. There's the seemingly never-ending press accounts of major corruption scandals most recently involving UNO's Martin Cabrera and the hiring of comptroller Amer Ahmad. There's the shady DePaul basketball arena deal. And on and on it goes.
Despite his seemingly overwhelming advantage against any potential candidate in terms of money-raising ability, the possibility of a low voter turnout, and his (tepid?) support from Obama's camp, there are lots of reasons to believe that Rahm's political machine is a paper tiger, and that the mayor can be had in 2015 -- provided that there is a viable and willing opponent. And that's a big if.
My sense is that the deep dislike of the Mayor, the erosion of his base, especially among his typical north-side neighborhood supporters, plus an emerging movement of mainly young, urban voters (not just in Chicago) could shift the balance and run Rahm out of office. But there's a lot at stake and as we learned back in the Harold Washington days, the machine won't fall unless we hit it.