RAHM UNDER SIEGE – AT 10:41 A.M. ET: Rahm Emanuel is the frontrunner in the race for mayor of Chicago. The election is February 22nd. If no one gets 50%, a runoff will be held in the spring.
The contest has turned openly racial. Chicago is, racially, still in the 1960s, with the large presence of Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan. And, ironically, it is Rahm's service as Obama's chief of staff that is being held against him. This, from a well-reported Washington Post story, is incredible:
As Rahm Emanuel prepared to leave Washington last year to run for mayor of Chicago, President Obama gave his chief of staff an emotional send-off in the East Room. He praised Emanuel for his service and pulled him in for multiple hugs. Emanuel would be a "terrific" mayor, the president predicted in a television interview.
In the months since, Emanuel's close relationship with Obama - who is still enormously popular in his home town - helped to make the former congressman an easy front-runner in the race.
Now Emanuel's rivals are trying to turn those presidential ties against him. African American and Hispanic leaders inside and outside Chicago are lining up against Emanuel as a way to vent their long-simmering complaints that Obama has not done enough to help their communities. In recent weeks, Obama's record as president has become a major undercurrent in the campaign.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D), whose district includes Chicago's South Side and who defeated Obama in a bruising 2000 House primary, said many of his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus "harbor major resentment" against Emanuel for what they see as his lack of concern about minority issues. That, Rush said, has made Emanuel a "convenient target" for broader frustrations with the White House...
...The mayor's contest has become polarized along ethnic lines in the past two weeks as many black establishment politicians have coalesced around the candidacy of former senator Carol Moseley Braun. A Chicago native who served one term in Washington, in the 1990s, she is the only African American woman elected to the Senate.
COMMENT: The state of black politics in Chicago can be judged by the coalescing around Moseley Braun, a corruptionist and hopeless mediocrity. There are serious questions about her tax returns and investment practices. As a senator she was a joke. Her only qualification seems to be race.
It's gotten rough in Chicago. Bill Clinton wants to come to town to campaign for Emanuel, but several black politicians have threatened him, saying that would alienate the black community. He's coming anyway.
Chicago, where I went to school, is stuck in the past politically. Its South Side is a shooting gallery, with a heartbreaking number of black children murdered every year. While New York has largely addressed street violence, Chicago seems incapable.
Whoever becomes mayor has the task of moving the city into the 21st century, something that may be impossible with the sixties-style racial politics still being played.
January 15, 2010