Chicago's 174-year existence, the mayoralty has
never been a political steppingstone.
it's the top of the heap. The ultimate
achievement. The pinnacle of power. Any other
office is, by comparison, inconsequential --
except that which requires the occupant to live
and work in a big house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
in Washington, D.C.
mayor elect Rahm Emanuel, age 51, the job is a
steppingstone. He is the exception. Having supped
the elixir of power as a White House aide during
the Clinton and Obama administrations, Emanuel
will not deign to spend the remainder of his
mortal or political life in City Hall.
will run for Illinois governor in 2014, and he
will use that job as a steppingstone to seek the
presidency in 2016 or 2020.
by ideology or political gamesmanship, Emanuel is
motivated by a simple philosophy:
self-advancement. As demonstrated by his mayoral
campaign and his 10-hour grilling before the
Chicago Board of Elections, Emanuel possesses
magnificent stamina and singleness of purpose.
Politics is his life, and every moment is devoted
to the furtherance of his ambition. Having been a
senior advisor to the president at age 33, a
congressman at 42, the Democratic congressional
campaign chairman at 46 and the White House chief
of staff at 48, Emanuel has the hubris -- meaning
insolence or arrogance -- to believe that he can
be as competent as his former bosses, Bill Clinton
and Barack Obama, if not more so.
is the soul mate and descendant of a long line of
nimble, facile, opportunistic politicians,
extending from Henry Clay to William Jennings
Bryan to Bill Clinton (and even Rod Blagojevich),
who are smart, clever, perhaps genius, and
rapaciously egotistical, but who are lacking in
conscience and moral compass. Their desire to do
good is to do themselves good. Their end, which is
aggrandizement of their power, justifies whatever
means are necessary.
Mayor Rich Daley's unanticipated retirement,
Emanuel's game plan was to return to Congress in
2012 or 2014, pushing out successor Mike Quigley,
get back into the Democratic leadership, and
become speaker of the house by the end of the
decade. The Republicans' House takeover in 2010
and likely dominance in upcoming elections, and
former speaker Nancy Pelosi's refusal to
relinquish control of the Democratic minority,
make that option not feasible. The speakership is
now foreclosed. But, as Chicago's mayor, the
presidency is not -- although he needs to win
another job, Illinois' governorship, to get there.
mayor, Emanuel need not curry favor with special
interests, such as the public sector unions,
because he has no intention to run for reelection
in 2015. His goal is to be a competent,
innovative, decisive, reformist, cost-cutting and
absorbed the intricacies of
"triangulation," or co-opting the middle
ground, from Clinton, Emanuel will position
himself on every issue so as to maximize his
publicity, enhance his reputation and demonize his
enemies. He will be neither liberal nor
conservative, but rather patently opportunistic.
He will obsess on two major issues: fighting crime
and upgrading educational performance. Having been
elected without the backing of the police and
teachers' unions, Emanuel owes them no debt. He
can be creative, redeploying officers where
needed, demanding teacher accountability, and
embracing charter schools to inspire educational
choice and invoke competition. If he performs
deftly, he will be monumentally popular among both
black and white voters in the short term.
goal: To produce tangible results within 2 years
and then in 2014 venture into the fiscal and
political wasteland of state politics, posturing
as the "savior" who can rescue Illinois
from the stupidities and vacillations of Governor
Pat Quinn's 6-year "Reign of Error." By
2014 "Governor Jello" will be about as
popular as a blemish at a beauty pageant. Quinn is
a lame duck; he barely won in 2010, and he will
not be electable in 2014.
bonded debt is $30.4 billion, and pension debt is
$80 billion. Debt service and pension borrowing
will cost $5.4 billion in 2012 and $6.2 billion in
2013 -- roughly 10 percent of the state budget.
Quinn's solution to the 2010 deficit was to borrow
$8.75 billion, which will cost taxpayers roughly
$500 million a year through 2025.
question is: After 4 years of unrestrained
spending, capitulation to unions, more borrowing,
tax hikes, flip-flopping and spinelessness by the
Quinn Administration, can any Democrat win the job
Emanuel puts Chicago's fiscal house in order,
proves himself an able administrator and eschews
social issues, he can, simply because Illinois is
such a Democratic state. If he wins Chicago by
400,000 votes and comes out of Cook County with a
margin of 500,000 votes, he's the next governor.
2014 Republican field has already narrowed to two
contenders -- state Senator Bill Brady of
Bloomington, the 2010 31,834-vote loser to Quinn,
and state Senator Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, who
lost the 2010 Republican primary to Brady by 193
votes. Dillard is less conservative than Brady on
social issues, but he opposes abortion.
hindsight, two conclusions are apparent: Brady
lost to Quinn because the pro-choice group
Personal Pac sent out an anti-Brady mailing which
moved 100,000 votes, and if Dillard had been the
Republican nominee, he would have beaten Quinn.
2014 roadblock will be Illinois Attorney General
Lisa Madigan, the daughter of Illinois House
Speaker Mike Madigan, who is positioning herself
to run for governor. Mike Madigan, recognizing
Emanuel's threat, delivered his 13th Ward to Gery
Chico by 6,177-4,592 in the Feb. 22 election. That
quandary is easily soluble: Lisa Madigan could run
for reelection in 2014 and then for Chicago mayor
in 2015, and, if so inclined, for governor when
Rahm "goes Washington."
is the Emanuel strategy:
In 2008 Obama won Chicago with 85.7 percent of the
vote in a turnout of 859,038, bolstered by a 97.2
percent sweep of the city's 20 black-majority
wards, where turnout was 466,136. He won Cook
County by 721,808 votes and the state by 1,388,169
votes. Obama will not lose Illinois in 2012, but
expect Emanuel to be Obama's chief state
strategist, cheerleader and advocate. The 2012
election will be a warm-up for the 2014
pitch to black voters in the February election was
that he is the president's ally, that he would use
his mayoral power to reelect Obama, and that
electing a black mayor was inconsequential
compared to reelecting a black president. Turnout
in the black wards was a meager 229,948 on Feb.
22, down 236,188 from 2008. Emanuel amassed
135,898 votes (59 percent of the total), while the
so-called black "consensus" choice,
Carol Moseley Braun, got 45,518 votes (19.7
percent). Had more black candidates run, Emanuel's
vote would have withered.
"Obama connection" got him enough black
votes to become mayor, and presuming that Obama is
still in the White House in 2014, it will provide
the necessary votes to get him nominated for
Quinn defeated Dan Hynes in the 2010 Democratic
primary for governor by 8,372 votes, in a turnout
of 915,726. Quinn won Chicago's black wards, which
cast 146,425 votes, by 29,493 votes, getting 60
percent of the vote. In an Emanuel-Madigan
primary, the Emanuel would get 75 percent of the
black vote, making him unbeatable.
the state comptroller, ran as a fiscal reformer,
as would Lisa Madigan in 2014. Hynes' ancestral
base was the Southwest Side, and Democratic
committeemen in the 10th, 11th, 13th and 19th
wards delivered for him and he barely lost in the
23rd Ward. That was the template on Feb. 22, as
Chico beat Emanuel in each ward, plus Ed Burke's
14th Ward. Those wards will back Lisa Madigan in
Quinn topped Hynes on the Lakefront and in the
Northwest Side and Hispanic wards, winning
citywide by 31,066 votes. After three competent
years as mayor, even against a formidable foe like
Madigan, Emanuel would carry the city by at least
any other state, Quinn's incompetence would assure
a "regime change" to the Republicans in
2014, but Blagojevich's corruption didn't aid the
Republicans in 2010. If Emanuel positions himself
as a proven "reformer" and a Mr. Fiscal
Fix-It, he'll easily dispatch either Brady or
There certainly will be "Obama fatigue,"
similar to "Bush fatigue" in 2008.
Hillary Clinton, who will be age 69 that year, may
be passť. The Democratic up-and-comers will be
three post-baby boomers: New York Governor Andrew
Cuomo, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin
Newsome and Emanuel, but only if the latter two
are elected governor in 2014.
capturing City Hall, Emanuel has become a major
player on the national stage. A presidential
nomination in 2016 or 2020 is within his grasp,
but only if he performs spectacularly as mayor and
becomes Illinois' governor.