In a scene reminiscent of his days as a ballet major at Sarah Lawrence College, last week found White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel executing a classic grand jété, shifting the focus of his energies from Washington to his home town of Chicago where he hopes to enter the Mayor’s office.
Emanuel’s access to the highest echelons of the Democratic Party corporate establishment and to attendant hordes of cold cash for the asking makes it a good bet that he will waltz through the Democratic Party primary campaign one which will amount to a coronation ceremony rather than a competition.
While this prospect might be alarming to some liberals, it shouldn’t be. For nothing would be more appropriate than for the foul-mouthed cynic Emanuel to receive the nomination of the Party of Blogojevich, not to mention numerous felons large and small who have for generations made the Chicago Democratic Machine a virtual synonym for sleaze, corruption and opportunism.
While in no way rejecting their core values, recent Chicago pols, most notably those in the Obama circle, would appear to differ from their troglodyte forbears: the tasteful cut of their suits, their Ivy League discourse, their apparent command and adherence to bureaucratic and procedural detail would seem to mark them as a distinct species.
But while Emanuel shares some of their superficially electable qualities, he differs in an important respect: The necessarily backstage, covert activities of bland technocrats allows them to function as blank slates onto which gullible liberals and information starved low income constituencies could project a hopeful facade. In contrast, many of these groups now know exactly what Emanuel stands for and they don’t like it, or him, a bit.
These include environmentalists well aware of his role in pushing through the “pragmatic” appointment of energy industry shill Ken Salazar and Obama’s catastrophic jettisoning of his campaign pledge to continue the ban on off-shore drilling. Others will point to the role of the former investment banker in Wall Street friendly policies and at the expense of an economic stimulus package having the potential to reduce hemorrhaging unemployment. Health care reform advocates whom Emanuel referred to as “fucking retards” might have been wiling to forgive had he not made them look like fools for signing onto an absurd “public option” which had, as it turned out, already been removed from the table in a pre-compromise engineered by Emanuel with his friend chief PHARMA lobbyist Billy Tauzin.
Arab Americans have not forgotten the vile racist slurs which emanated from Emanuel’s father on the first days of Emanuel’s tenure in the White House, nor have African Americans forgotten that Emanuel did nothing to halt, indeed may have actively encouraged, the witch hunting of activist organizations ACORN and Green Energy Czar Van Jones.
More than a few of these members of the Democratic base are looking for payback. And the good news for them is that they have a way to obtain it. For Illinois is home to one of the most thriving state Green Parties, one which is currently fielding a substantial slate of candidates some of whom are running fully credible and in some cases potentially winning campaigns.
Among these is Rich Whitney, who in his previous race for Governor achieved a double digit showing. Another LeAlan Jones, a Polk Award winnning journalist from Chicago’s South Side is expected to acquire similar if not greater numbers of votes in his run for Senate. A third, Jeremy Karpen, recently received the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune in his race for State Legislature in a Chicago district.
The Greens should be fixing their eye on this race as their first big city mayoralty following the heartbreaking near victory of Matt Gonzalez in San Francisco a few years back.
And we should be helping them with the funds and on the ground resources necessary to pull it off.
Emanuel’s candidacy, and his eventual drubbing in the general election, should be the Greens’-and all of our-win.
JOHN HALLE is Director of Studies in Music Theory and Practice at Bard College. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org