The field lining up to run against Mayor Daley sure has a lot in common with Mayor Daley. They’re all white, all Catholic, and mostly Irish. For almost two decades, Daley has faced challenges from black politicians who still haven’t gotten over the fact that he ended their community’s six-year occupation of City Hall, which began with the election of Harold Washington. That was a period of racial conflict on the City Council, which earned Chicago the nickname “Beirut on the Lake.”
Daley, as the story goes, restored racial harmony to Chicago. During his last re-election campaign, he won nearly 60 percent of the black vote, as he carried every ward in the city. The Chicago Tribune once called the rapprochement between the white and black political communities the mayor’s “crowning glory.”
Is it peace? Or did Daley just put blacks back in their place? As a result of his 21-year reign, and his electoral humiliation of Timothy Evans, Danny Davis, Joe Gardner, Bobby Rush and Dorothy Brown, Daley has convinced blacks that there’s not going to be a second coming of Harold Washington. Washington’s election now looks more and more like a fluke. Thanks to the elimination of partisan primaries, Washington’s election would not be possible today. If the current rules had been in place in 1983, Washington would have been forced into a run-off with Mayor Jane Byrne. Which he would have lost.
Just four years ago, Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez were plotting races against Daley. But Jackson’s political ambitions have been curtailed by his role in the Blagojevich scandal. And Gutierrez told ABC7 this week that “I’m gonna go out and campaign for Mayor Daley for re-election.”
Daley was once quoted as saying that Chicago needs a “white mayor.” (Although he claims he said we need a “wet mayor.”) After two decades, he has ensured that whoever succeeds him will be a mayor in his own image. Maybe that means it’s safe for him to retire.
Crowning glory, indeed.