Having lived in Chicago for over fifty years, I can still remember the smell of the Chicago Union Stockyards. As a boy who grew up in Chicago, I am quite familiar with noted author Carl Sandburg’s references to the Chicago as THE CITY WITH BROAD SHOULDERS and THE HOG BUTCHER OF THE WORLD. Most memorable, however is the cloud that has darkened Chicago politics for longer than I can remember.
My first home in Chicago was on North Pine Grove Avenue near the famous Lincoln Park totem pole, then north to the Western Avenue/ Peterson Avenue neighborhood, then way south to Avalon Park, back north to suburban Lincolnwood, downtown to the Outer Drive East Apartments, and finally back north to Rogers Park. Having moved to different parts of the City, I was exposed to different political factions and influences. Throughout my experience clout always counted, and was exercised daily.
I still remember as a new resident of Lincolnwood being quickly called upon by the local Democratic Precinct Captain. He wanted to know if I was a registered Democratic, and I told him that I was not. The Precinct Captain told me that it would be of substantial benefit if I registered as a Democrat, because he had the muscle to impact my Property Tax, since he was the Tax Assessor. What would you have done?
Most Chicago residents kept a ten or twenty dollar bill paper clipped to their driver’s license, and tickets were frequently avoided without discussion or negotiation.
Living on the South Side of Chicago the prevailing wind was from either the northwest or the southeast. When it came from the northwest the stench of the Union Stock Yards prevailed, and when it was from the southeast the aroma of the huge City dump on South Doty Avenue dominated. As a citizen of Chicago I learned just what sensatory adaptation meant. People in the City accepted the stench of both the air and their political leadership as a way of life or survival.
Neither was pleasant, but no one ever felt they could do anything about it, so sadly no one ever put up a fight to correct either problem.
The dominance of the all powerful Democratic Machine in Chicago goes back decades. It has deep roots with the early immigrant Irish, but it consists of several ethic groups such as the Polish, Germans, African Americans, Hispanics, Italians, Slavic, and Jewish in various ethnic enclaves around the City. The Machine has long thrived with very close ties to organized labor unions. There are two very good books about the earlier days of political influence in Chicago. Check out “Clout: Mayor Daley and His City” by Len O’Connor, and “We Don’t Want Nobody Nobody Sent” by Milton Rakove.
While the Daley Machine has ruled for decades they are only part of the story. I remember clearly the day Mayor Richard J. Daley died in the office of his doctor, and the city came to a total and stunning stop. Some citizens thought that was the end of life in Chicago without their beloved Mayor Daley. Today one of his sons rules with a strong, behind the scenes velvet hammer. The Daley Machine is well entrenched, but I suggest you read Kenneth R. Timmerman’s revealing book “Shakedown”, which is an eye-opener about the antics of the influential Reverend Jesse Jackson. Did you know that he never completed his formal studies in Theology? After reading the book, I asked myself why no law enforcement official has ever taken any legal action against the Reverend Jackson. Political clout and the fear of arousing racial tensions thrive in Chicago. Politicians have successfully been playing one ethnic group against another for years.
I have never understood why the African American community has so strongly supported the Chicago Political Machine, because they have gotten little or nothing for their loyalty. One point of view indicates that the Machine permits the Black constituency in on a cut of the action, and that keeps them under their thumb.
The Chicago Tribune ran a poll of its readers on December 13th asking the question “Do you think Illinois politics can ever be clean?” The results were:
While that is not a scientific piece of research, I find it very interesting that the citizens of the city have little faith and it seems no desire to clean up corruption anytime soon.
The Blagojevich scandal will not go away quickly. There is the familiar Chicago stench swarming around this situation, and it has the potential to take down a lot of high ranking individuals. I pray that I am wrong when I say that President-elect Barack Obama has much to fear. I see no way for him to not be negatively influenced by this Blagojevich scandal. When he takes the Presidential Oath of Office, President Obama will not receive the normal period of grace that newly elected Presidents are granted. The main stream media that so overtly supported Obama now smells a good story, and he must divert his attention to getting this scandal settled and/or his administration cleared.
With so many vital issues confronting the new administration and our nation, it is tragic that a diversion of attention from vitally important issues is already taking so much of Obama’s time. Experience has taught me to be very suspicious when so many questionable characters converge around one individual. Just consider the well established close relationships or questionable dealings between President-Elect Barack Obama, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Tony Rezko, Reverend Michael Pflagger, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Congressman Rham Emanuel, Advisor David Axelrod, the labor unions, Alderman Dick Mell, Patti Mell Blagojevich, and Governor Rod Blagojevich. Everyone on this list is from or deeply associated with the Chicago political machine, which I call the Chicago Clout Factory.
Remember Illinois is a state that convicted three Governors, and they were sentenced to prison. Governor Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, and George Ryan all were guilty of corruption, and now there is a fourth accused, Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Our President-Elect has already made a huge public relations blunder in not getting out in front of the Blagojevich scandal. He should have addressed it immediately, firmly, and with total transparency. Instead Obama has stalled for time to consider his options. Why has Rham Emanuel been hiding? Now it has been disclosed that Emanuel did have numerous contacts with the Governor on the Senate seat succession, but that should have been stated immediately not days later. Doesn’t it disturb you that Campaign Manager David Axelrod said Obama had talked with the Governor about his replacement, and later claimed he misspoke? I hope I am wrong, but there is suspicious involvement here, and Obama is starting his “administration of change” on a very cloudy footing.
This scandal stinks to high heaven with deepening roots, and the man who promised CHANGE is delivering less than clear answers. The early record of the next administration does not represent the CHANGE the electorate was promised. America deserves honest answers, and definitive transparent action to get us back on the President-Elect’s promised proper course. Remember, Chicago politicians have a long history of eating their young. The aroma of Chicago politics lingers, and it will not clear until all the interwoven facts are exposed.