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The Magic Touch of Rahm Emanuel

Russ Stewart 30 March 2016 No Comment

There comes a “tipping point” in every politician’s career. It’s when the end is nearer than the beginning. It’s when one’s career has become indelibly, irreparably, irretrievably tarnished. In short, you’re unelectable.

For Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s beleaguered mayor, March 15 was his “tipping point.” Two candidates with whom Emanuel is politically and personally joined at the hip – Anita Alvarez and Hillary Clinton – fared poorly, if not disastrously, in the Democratic primary.

It will be remembered that Emanuel won an unimpressive 329,701-257,101 April 2015 runoff, after spending upwards of $25 million. And that, with the benefit of hindsight, was only because he concealed the Laquan McDonald shooting tapes until after the vote. Had the tape been released earlier, Emanuel would now be peddling his resume.

How politically toxic has Emanuel now become? Analyzing the March primary results, particularly in the Clinton-Sanders presidential contest, the state’s attorney race, and the Clerk of Court contest, it’s somewhere between mammoth and monstrous. The politics of race, dormant since the 1990s, has been resurrected. A black mayor of Chicago in 2019? It’s gone from implausible to likely.

The trouncing of incumbent Alvarez for renomination as state’s attorney, where she got a paltry 169,665 votes (25.8 percent) in Chicago, compared to winner Kim Foxx’s 409,837 (62.4 percent), coupled with Clinton’s anemic 375,055-315,953 (53.7 percent) triumph over Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, seals Emanuel’s doom. Those results conclusively indicate the realigning and/or reawakening of three major Democratic party bases: Blacks, white liberals, and white ethnics. All decisively rejected, for various reasons, the politics of Emanuel/Clinton/Alvarez.

In a three-candidate contest, Foxx, who is black and very lightly credentialed, and the hand-picked choice of emerging party boss Toni Preckwinkle, won an absolute majority in 36 of Chicago’s 50 wards, including all 19 black-majority wards, where she got 231,218 votes. As depicted in the adjoining vote chart, even Barack Obama should take notice. In the 2008 Illinois presidential primary, when Obama faced Clinton, Obama won the city’s black wards overwhelmingly, getting 262,941 votes. Foxx got only 31,723 fewer – an amazing indication of black voter unrest and rebellion. Foxx also won a majority in 11 white wards and six Hispanic wards. Alvarez, despite the support of such venerable powerhouses as Ed Burke, Mike Madigan, John Daley and Bill Lipinski, won a majority in six wards, and a plurality in four others.









Countywide 743,686 638,226 472,511 304,091
Chicago 462,503 409,837 292,395 181,356
Cook Co. suburbs 281,183 228,389 180,116 122,735
Black-majority Wards:

3rd Ward

10,647 12,837 9,144 4,415
4th Ward 15,579 14,651 9,165 5,364
5th Ward 14,410 13,848 7,846 5,288
6th Ward 18,919 13,825 10,179 5,027
7th Ward 15,117 12,881 9,101 5,243
8th Ward 20,114 16,954 9,548 9,056
9th Ward 14,723 15,088 11,148 5,381
15th Ward 8.618 3,811 4,028 1,685
16th Ward 7,425 7,563 6,884 2,202
17th Ward 14,132 11,006 9,299 3,296
18th Ward 16,241 11,934 9,084 5,493
20th Ward 9,708 9,742 7,566 2,822
21st Ward 20,798 16,229 12,477 5,621
24th Ward 12,696 9,929 7,982 2,807
27th Ward 10,064 10,582 7,741 3,476
28th Ward 11,284 11,310 9,600 2,556
29th Ward 12,550 12,558 10,399 3,945
34th Ward 18,944 15,509 11,207 6,081
37th Ward 10,972 10,961 9,387 3,035
Total: Black Wards 262,941 231,218 171,785 82,793
Total: Black

Suburban Townships

114,022 102,778 81,233 44,075
Total Black Vote 376,963 333,996 253,018 86,868

Note: Black votes scattered in other wards and townships is not calculated

Overall, Foxx beat Alvarez 638,226-314,344, with Donna More getting 142,368 votes. In 2008, black voters erupted from their quietude to support a black candidate for president; in 2016, black voters again erupted to oppose the perceived “anti-black” incumbent state’s attorney, and Foxx was simply in the right place at the right time. And the stigma which attached itself to Alvarez also infests Emanuel.

There are defeats; and there are repudiations. When an 8-year incumbent like Alvarez loses 2-1, it’s the latter. Emanuel is next.

In the Clerk of Court race, blacks vented their wrath on the party establishment, which had dumped 16-year black incumbent Dorothy Brown. Normally, blacks are like robots, programmed and predictable: They vote as instructed by their ward and township committeemen in the primary for the “slated” candidates, and then vote against every Republican in the election. In 2015, Emanuel triumphed because he had (or bought?) the support of black city committeemen, and won their wards 106,511-98,447 (51.9 percent). That will never happen again. Take 106,511 votes away from the mayor’s 329,701, and he’s down to 34 percent.

Brown, under federal investigation for her hiring practices, was slated and, when committeemen got nervous that white attorney Jacob Meister might beat her in the primary, dumped her. She was replaced by Michelle Harris, the black 8th Ward alderman and committeeman, ally of Preckwinkle. Everybody thought Brown would just fade away, or get indicted before March 15. But she got on the ballot, didn’t get indicted, had negligible money, was attacked by the party establishment – and won. Black voters grasp the concept of a political lynching, and they reacted. Defying their ward and township bosses, they voted 171,785-82,793 for Brown over Harris in the city, and 81,233-44,075 for Brown in the black suburbs. Even in Harris’s 8th Ward, once the domain of the Strogers, Brown won 9,548-9,056 (see chart); Brown won every black ward and township by at least 2-1 over Harris. It is interesting to note that the combined Brown-Harris vote in the black wards was 254,578, just 8,363 votes shy of Obama’s 2008 high-water mark. There will be a black 2019 mayor candidate, either city treasurer Kurt Summers or Alderman Roderick Sawyer, and that “controlled” (180,000) and uncontrolled (292,000) vote will unite behind that black contender

Meister was endorsed by the major media, and got a respectable 30-40 percent in Chicago’s black and Hispanic wards, but only 24 percent in the suburbs. The party spent a bundle to send out four 70,000-household mailers to Democratic voters, all highlighting Brown’s legal problems, mentioning the snatching of her cellphone by FBI agents, and stressing that Harris was the “slated” candidate. After her win, Brown thanked the committeemen for dumping her. Brown got a majority in 14 wards, and got 30-45 percent in the rest; in only three wards did she dip under 30 percent. Harris, by comparison, won no wards, and fell under 30 percent in 28 wards. In the suburbs, Brown topped Harris 180,116-122,735 (45.3 percent). Did somebody say that being “slated” was valuable? Did somebody infer that committeemen can still “deliver”?

In the overlooked, under-reported Clinton-Sanders race, the outcome is worse than ominous for the Clinton/Emanuel combine. It will be remembered that Emanuel hooked up with the Clintons in 1991, helped engineer the 1992 presidential win, was a White House aide until 1998, made a couple million as an investment banker using Clinton’s contacts, and then went to Congress in 2002; in 2009, he went back to Washington as Obama’s chief-of-staff, and re-united with Hillary Clinton. When he ran for mayor in 2011, Bill and Hill raised big bucks for him. Emanuel is the kind of guy who has gamed the system, gotten rich, and cares only about himself and keeping his job – and voters now keenly understand that.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton didn’t seek nor want the mayor’s endorsement. He’s the kiss of death: First, Emanuel has alienated the blacks; and second, he has no political organization. If Clinton is elected president, there won’t be any “golden parachute” for Emanuel to land as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

And, as the primary results demonstrated, there are a lot of restive and angry whites. How do you explain why the 41st Ward, nestled on Chicago’s far northwest side, and chock full of Irish-American and Italian-American cops and firefighters, and which has an alderman purported to be a Republican, votes 6,683-5,985 (51.2 percent) for Bernie Sanders – an avowed socialist? Yet it gives Alvarez 54.8 percent, and Meister 40.8 percent. It’s a combined rejection of both the current ”culture of politics,” as exemplified by Clinton and Emanuel, and a rejection of the “culture of anti-police politics,” as evidenced by the Foxx win. A vote for Alvarez was a vote for “law-and-order.” Expect Donald Trump to do very well in the 41st Ward.

But that’s no aberration. In the adjacent 45th Ward, which has a large pocket of liberals in Portage Park, Sanders got 54.8 percent, with Alvarez dropping to 42.2 percent.  Sanders also got over 50 percent in the northwest side white-majority 38th, 39th, 40th, 47th and 50th wards. Plus, Sanders won a majority in all 11 Hispanic wards, and even carried Madigan’s 13th Ward and Daley’s 11th Ward. Sanders won a majority in 22 of 50 wards, and a plurality in two. This is dissatisfaction writ large.

Clinton had a majority in 25 wards, and a plurality in one, but 20 of those 25 were black wards, in which she got 60-65 percent in 16. She won only four Lakefront white wards: The 42nd, 43rd, 44th and 46th. Ironically, it was the huge anti-Alvarez, pro-Brown black vote which enabled Clinton to score a desultory 59,102-vote win. In the suburbs, Clinton won 251,193-214,030. Hillary has serious problems.

The political compass, in Chicago and Cook County, as well as nationally, has gone awry. There is a mood, and developing attitude, which should make every incumbent and insider quake. For them, the worst is yet to come.

Russ Stewart is a political analyst for the Chicago Daily Observer

E-mail Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com.

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