no doubt. U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr.
(D-2) is running for mayor in 2007. At a July 15
rally organized by the Northwest Side Democratic
Organization, the black South Side congressman
laid out his issues and strategy. Jackson intends
to run as a political reformer who happens to be
black, not as the black community's candidate. He
will attempt to build a biracial, anti-Daley
coalition, and he does not seek racial
polarization. And, to win, he needs a huge black
turnout and at least 25 percent of the white vote.
Here's his game plan:
Jackson, age 40, will relentlessly and
repetitiously attack systemic corruption in
Chicago, as manifested by 31 federal indictments
of city employees. "We need to change the
ethic and the attitude of city workers and city
officials," proclaimed the eloquent Jackson,
who has the stem-winding, inspirational speaking
skills of a Baptist minister. "Politicians
serve the people; the people don't serve the
declared that it is time to embark on "a
righteous cause. Let us pledge to permit no more
fraud and corruption. Let us pledge to permit no
more scandal and abuse." The congressman
understands that he must make 2007 a referendum on
Mayor Rich Daley and that the central issue must
be corruption and Daley's accountability for it.
By emerging early as the reform candidate, fully
19 months before the February 2007 election,
Jackson is trying to preempt the anti-Daley field,
and also to discourage any other black contenders.
the mayoral races of 1989, 1991, 1995, 1999 and
2003, Daley carefully framed the contests as a
choice between himself, the successful white
mayor, and the "disruptive" black
challenger. He avoided making the race a
referendum on himself, and he won each election
handily. Chicago voters didn't want any change. In
2007, however, large numbers of previously
pro-Daley, but now "reform-minded,"
white voters may want change, and they could bolt
the mayor. And if Jackson positions himself as an
acceptable, competent, non-racially divisive
alternative, he could win.
Jackson will try to engender economic populism and
geographic solidarity, pitting Chicago's relative
"have nots" against the Daley-allied
"haves." At the July rally, Jackson
ripped the Daley Administration's
"preoccupation with the Loop . . . and with
big projects." Instead, Jackson said, city
dollars "should be spent in the
neighborhoods, and not just where the rich live .
. . not just on Hyatt, Hilton and UPS." He
added that whites on the Northwest Side "have
more in common with blacks on the South Side than
they do with whites in the Loop or in
Bridgeport," and that all Chicagoans
"deserve a comparable quality of life."
Jackson is trying to build the perception that as
a mayoral candidate, he will be a geographic and
economic ally of the Northwest Side, and not a
racial rival. He is trying to cobble together an
outlying, outsiders' coalition.
third, Jackson needs to excite his base. He needs
to portray the 2007 election an as epic struggle
for Chicago's soul and future -- thereby prompting
an epic-like turnout. He needs to get black voters
registered. And he needs to develop anti-Daley
sentiment in white and Hispanic wards, which he
will do by fielding and funding challengers to
turnout has steadily dwindled since 1983, when
more than 1.2 million Chicagoans voted in the
Washington-Epton mayoral election. It was roughly
900,000 in 1989, 650,000 in 1991, 550,000 in 1999,
and a modern low of just 450,000 in 2003.
most notably, it has been black turnout that has
imploded. Harold Washington won the 1983
Washington-Byrne-Daley Democratic primary with
419,266 votes, getting 36.3 percent of the total
cast, and he upped that to 668,176 (51.4 percent)
in the subsequent election. In 1987 he got 599,881
votes (53.6 percent). But then Washington died,
black politicians started squabbling, black voters
became disunited and discouraged, and the vote for
subsequent "black movement" candidates
declined to 412,864 (40.3 percent) in 1989, then
to 159,608 in 1991, increased slightly to 207,464
in 1996, then declined to 106,567 (28 percent) in
1999 and to just 61,888 (14 percent) in 2003. In
sum, the vote for black mayoral candidates has
plummeted tenfold over 20 years, from 668,176 to
surprisingly, the Daley vote has bottomed out, in
a peaking and dipping arc. In the tempestuous 1983
primary, Daley amassed 343,506 votes (29.8
percent); in the 2003 election he got 347,698
votes (79 percent) -- putting him back where he
in the 1983 Democratic primary was 1,142,228,
while in the 1983 election it was 1,288,102; in
the 2003 election it was an anemic 442,772. In
between, Daley garnered 574,619 votes (56.1
percent) in the 1989 election, 450,155 (71
percent) in the 1991 election, 350,785 (60.1
percent) in the 1995 election, 418,211 (72
percent) in the 1999 election, and 347,698 (79
percent) in the 2003 election. The obvious
conclusion: Daley's political machine can count on
a base vote of about 350,000, which is more than
enough to win as long as the anti-Daley base
doesn't turn out. But what happens if the
anti-Daley black base turns out, and there's
attrition of the mayor's white and Hispanic base?
Then the mayor loses.
city population according to the 2000 census is 44
percent white, 37 percent black and 19 percent
Hispanic. The voting population is 50 percent
white, 45 percent black and 5 percent Hispanic. To
keep his job in 2007, Daley needs 90 percent of
the white and Hispanic vote and 5 percent of the
black vote. To beat Daley, Jackson would need 99
percent of the black vote and 25 percent of the
white and Hispanic vote.
the recent rally, Jackson proclaimed that the
registration of 650,000 new voters would
"change the culture of Chicago politics and
restore trust in government." That's absurd.
The problem is black turnout in mayoral races, not
black turnout in general. Look at the record: In
the 2004 Democratic Senate primary, Barack Obama
got 301,199 votes citywide and 208,762 in the
three black-majority city congressional districts.
Obama's five white opponents got a total of
146,221 votes, meaning that Obama carried the city
by 2-1 and got about 100,000 white votes. In the
2004 election Obama got 801,991 votes in Chicago
and 359,463 votes in the city's 19 black-majority
other words, Jackson does not need to register
more black voters, he just needs to turn them out.
also needs to resurrect Obama's black/white
liberal coalition. And this is where Jackson's
"Coconate connection" comes in. Frank
Coconate, of Edison Park in the 41st Ward, has
been a minor political player in Northwest Side
politics for two decades, losing three bids for
state representative and founding the Northwest
Side Democratic Organization. A 27-year employee
in the city water department and an outspoken
critic of Daley and his policies, Coconate was
fired just days before the Jackson rally.
ushering Coconate around at a June Operation PUSH
breakfast, where his controversial father was
present, Jackson leapt to Coconate's defense at
the July rally, blasting the Daley Administration
for violating Coconate's right to freedom of
speech. "We are fighting in Iraq for freedom
and democracy, but we don't even have that in
Chicago," Jackson said.
has developed an "Opposition 2007" plan
which is enormously helpful to Jackson. It takes
roughly 300 nominating signatures to run for
alderman in each ward, and Coconate has embarked
on a quest to recruit and train anti-Daley
aldermanic candidates in all of the Northwest Side
white-majority wards. He has a commitment from Pat
McDonough, who recently was fired as a city
plumber, to run for alderman in the 48th Ward.
According to Coconate, he already has recruited
anti-Daley candidates in the 30th, 33rd, 36th,
41st, 43rd, 45th and 46th wards, and he's still
looking for candidates in the 39th, 40th, 47th and
50th wards. Coconate said that he is inclined to
give 38th Ward Alderman Tom Allen "a
pass," since Allen has been critical of
Daley's job privatization policies. He said that
he has been "approached by seven people"
who want to run against 45th Ward Alderman Pat
Levar. The "Opposition 2007" candidates'
mantra will be identical: Vote for change. Vote
against Daley. Vote against Daley's alderman.
puts every pro-Daley alderman in an acute
predicament: Do they leap to the mayor's defense?
Or do they prevaricate and equivocate, putting
distance between themselves and their mayor? And
if they don't work for Daley, then who is out
there working for the mayor? And, given the
collapse of the mayor's political operation, who
has he got to work for him anyway?
way, local dissonance helps Jackson. If 25 to 30
percent of the voters in the predominantly white
Northwest Side wards decide to vote anti-Daley,
then Jackson has a very real chance to win.