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The town that Billy Sunday couldn't shut down...

By Michael J. Smith on Monday January 24, 2011 06:10 PM

That would be Chicago, of course.

I've quarreled, unfortunately, with all my native informants in Chicago, that toddlin' town where I misspent eight irreplaceable youthful years, years I wish I had misspent almost anywhere else, including Waziristan.

So I don't have the benefit of any inside dope on the delightful reversal of fortune that the vile filthy Rahm Emanuel recently experienced: the Illinois courts have apparently determined -- at least, until the next appeal -- that this not-so-covert Israeli operative failed to maintain enough of a "residence" in the City Of The Big Shoulders, during his giddy years in Congress and the White House, to be eligible to run for mayor -- even though he left his piano there! And his wife's wedding dress.

Chicago is kind of a sui-generis place. There's a recent piece in Harper's, which I wish I had written, that places Obie quite nicely in the Chicago context:

Maybe I was being skeptical to the point of cynicism [at the height of Obie-mania, in 2008]; maybe, as one leading liberal editor argued to me, the Chicago machine itself had changed, that Mayor Richard M. Daley was significantly different from his thuggish father, Richard J. Daley. Maybe Obama was in the machine, not of it, and would use its power in the cause of peace and good government.

Now it seems I wasn’t skeptical enough. The appointment of the Chicago-trained liberal-baiter Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff confirmed my fundamental point that the machine’s political apparatus was moving to the White House, not some fresh-faced parvenu with an African name.

Apart from the tender-heartedness toward "liberals", of course. But the fundamental point is a good one -- seeing Obie as the entirely predictable hellspawn of the Chicago political machine, which really hasn't changed much since the palmy days of Richard J Daley -- or Big Bill Thompson, if it comes to that.

Comments (12)

"seeing Obie as the entirely predictable hellspawn of the Chicago political machine"

I knew he was the hell spawn of something or another!

I don't know enough about Chicago to say much about the political corruption there, heck I've got enough corruption to deal with among the local good ol' boys in my neck of the woods, but it does seem to explain a lot about Obama.


i'd rather deal with a traditional city machine then wall street nuncios
even if wall street has subverted the machine

old man Daley so far as i know
had his side saddle liberal
father S recalls him clearly i'm sure
the ultimo swish egg head... adlai stevenson

the rahm i think actually suggests the true nexus of off stage power
and though it may run with the chicago
" machine "
such as it could be said to function
in the old fashion way
the rahm backers are not some attached
motorless side car

do dah name pritzker mean anything to ya ??


i'd prefer to think
daley dynasty not perpetual machine
like the medici

as to machines ..how else do you run
a large diverse local ballot box certified power node
the truth is most times these machines are either in fragments or the repair shop or waiting to get back behind the big desk

machines are very distasteful
not just to red hots like our man crowsome
they're pig dirt
to jeffersonian post doctorals everwhere
and most merit class
non bird cage professionals

have it your way
call him a thug ..a thug with goons
but because
the old man had his blue myrmidons
muss up a few strident peaceniks ...
back in 68 ...and called senator ribicoff
an ethnic street name ...please

"the whole world is watching" indeed

that night the mayor didn't have no predators
on the 24/7 kill hunt ...right ??

force in history is best met with counter force
---shrewdly calibrated counter force of course
strategy and tactics
geared to the ratio of strength ---

as far as civil disobedience
nothing like armless blood gettin spilled
that is so long as martyrs
delight when they take a beating
for the righteous cause


i note a hhh sticker behind his honors head

now the hump

there's a pliable machine friendly liberal

hell is there any other kind ...that gets consistently elected ??

one recalls st woodie
to me his act of betrayal
once the jersey machine lifted him
to the national lime light
is far more grotesque brutish and grim

loyalty is a fairly useful human passion don't you think

two oppsing loyalties
simply thrash it out toe to toe
whether betrayal comes tru 30 pieces of gold
rather then a recrudesence of moral vanity
well ...take your pick in judases

I couldn't be happier about Rahm's being kicked off the ballot. I hope it sticks.

I came to Chicago as an adult, but I came from Louisiana, so corruption in government came as no surprise to me. What did come as a surprise was that under Richard M. (I don't know about Richard J.'s regime) there's a conscious and consistent effort to include just about everybody in the benefits that can befall from government.

Neither Obama nor Emanuel ever learned that lesson. They were part of the Blagojevich generation, where money is the only thing that matters, so people with the money are the only ones who get anything from government.

Neither of them was ever part of the Richard M. Daley machine, I assure you. There's only a cool politeness.

Carolyn Kay


And yet Kay it's another daley son that got ram's wh job

Michael Hureaux:

I was just thinking that same thing the other day, Carolyn. Ward heels and hacks were party operatives and that creates problems all on its own, but at least when you stuffed envelopes for "democrats' in those days you had a pretty good chance of landing at least a temporary gig that helped you pay rent for a couple of months. These days they'll let you stuff envelopes til you drop and then act as though you should be grateful because you got a copy of their photograph on the brochure. Cool politeness indeed. Too bad you can't eat it. On the other hand, there's always an extra helping of bullshit.


MH, your words ring poetic and true, but nonetheless I think that in this case, structure trumps agency. I can't think of a single big-city mayoralty anywhere that has not been objectively neo-liberal since Harold Washington's. Can you? AFACIT Tony Villaraigosa and Dave Dinkins don't make the cut. Cripes, maybe Rocky Anderson in SLC?

Michael Hureaux,

Lots and lots of bullshit, but alas, not the kind we can eat if we ever needed to in an emergency.

Remember, too, that Nancy Pelosi is a child of the same sort of Democratic machine as the Daleys, and despite her annoying mannerisms, she passed a lot of meaningful progressive legislation that the Senate sat on.


Obama's appointment of Bill Daley as his Chief of Staff is the most populist move he's made as president. Not that Bill Daley is a progressive, but he did grow up in this environment where you take care of your base.

Don't know if it will have any influence, but I hope so. At least, we won't likely be called fucktards any more. At least not in public.

Carolyn Kay

under Richard M. ... there's a conscious and consistent effort to include just about everybody in the benefits that can befall from government.
This is sorta true, if by the "benefits of government" you mean a share of the graft. Old-fashioned machine politics always did try to give a lot of people some stake in the system, and this was as true of the old Courthouse Gangs down South as it was of the big-city machines. Whether they can continue to operate that way in the era of neoliberalism and plutonomy is an interesting question.


harry truman's last year
defense as percent of gdp

bush juniors peak year less then

ike reduced the %
and so did bush senior

in fact
the four years of bush senior
may have produced
a faster annual rate of share drop
then the eight years of your queen bee shoeless bill clinton

conclusion in the raw data:

both raising and lowering the defense gdp share
is bi partisan

>>Whether they can continue to operate that way in the era of neoliberalism and plutonomy is an interesting question.

Blagojevich is the example. Suitcases full of cash, and benefits only for the largest contributors.

As to the benefits of government, I include the trash being picked up reliably and on time, potholes being fixed reasonably quickly, etc. Making government work, in other words. In an oligarchical environment, there's no time or money for minutiae like that, they're too busy filling the suitcases.

Carolyn Kay


"The City That Works," they used to call Chicago. When I lived there, I couldn't see that it worked any better than any other city. The cops were brutes and thugs, the streets (on the South Side, anyway, where I lived) were a complete mess.

But the regime undoubtedly enjoyed a great deal of legitimacy, because *everybody* either had a no-show government job, or his brother did.

They used to say that the real motto of Chicago was "Ubi meum?" -- "Where's mine?"

Nostalgia for the Daley machine seems a little misplaced, particularly when couched in empty abstractions about abstractions, like "the benefits of government." On the other hand I freely acknowledge that it was infinitely better than the grinding horror of neoliberalism -- because at least the graft was *spread around*. Pirate-ship socialism, you might call it.

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