Sunday, July 24, 2005

Don Rose on beating Daley

I've been thinking about Don Rose's article from the July 17, 2005 Trib for over a week now. Rose wrote,

But today, for many and varied reasons, white voters appear far more willing than ever before to support a prospective black mayoral candidate--a sign of the continuing reduction in racial-political animosities we saw in Barack Obama's remarkable sweep of all voting blocs in last year's Senate primary election.

Ironically, Daley himself contributed to this improvement in the city's race relations. He's made friends with most of the dissident black (and liberal) aldermen and appointed numerous blacks to high posts in both his personal staff and city departments. He supported others for high elective offices, from state's attorney to secretary of state to president of the Cook County Board. Democratic precinct captains who once dealt out the whole deck of race cards were forced to become agents of brotherhood in later elections. They can't call for a new deal now.

Talk about unintended consequences! Those pivotal white voters are looking at him more objectively, assessing whether it is more important to have a white mayor or a more honest one or simply a better manager. Unfortunately for Daley, the scandals backed him into a corner: If he is not viewed as personally corrupt, he is increasingly seen as responsible for the mounting misdeeds. If he is, as his admirers claim, a master of management, why hasn't he been able to stem the tsunami of corruption?
I've seen race tear the city apart. I found some of the recent tributes to older Daley glossed over his role in the city's more race relations.

You see that side better in books like American Pharaoh : Mayor Richard J. Daley - His Battle for Chicago and the Nation and learn from the Publishers Weekly review of it on the Amazon link,

Later, he ran the city in accordance with these values; the authors explain that he always assessed his options in terms of what would both enhance his power and encourage Chicagoans to stay in their proper place. Cohen (a senior writer at Time) and Taylor (literary editor and Sunday magazine editor of the Chicago Tribune) use the most famous crisis during his tenure, the 1968 Democratic convention, to illustrate how the mayor's rigid values dictated his actions--but more importantly, they say, his myopic passion for order worked together with his deep racism to shape modern Chicago. And, they argue, his legacy is a cultural legacy--through him, early 20th-century ethnic narrow-mindedness shaped everything from the character of Chicago politics to its landscape.
I sure remember the deep racism and thank the current Daley for helping change it.

But there is an unintended consequence as Rose finds. Daley loses the lock on the white vote because whites no longer scared to death by the "they're coming" rhetoric.

It's a better city now. But the best thing Daley could do now for Chicago is drop out of a race for reelection with his legacy intact, and open up the way for a healthier and competitive political environment.

The days of race politics are over, and the days of one-party politics should come to an end now too. Daley stepping aside would be the best start.

The Republicans offering and funding a credible candidate would be the second best thing.

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