Last Friday morning, your Ward Room blogger was in Springfield, standing in front of Abraham Lincoln’s old house. I was taking the day off, so I asked a park ranger a question that had nothing to do with Chicago politics.
“Has anybody lived there since the Lincolns moved out?”
In Illinois, it turns out, every question has something to do with Chicago politics.
“The Lincolns were the last owners,” the ranger told me, “but they rented it out when he was president.”
According to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site’s website, when Lincoln left for Washington in 1861, he rented his house to Lucian Tilton, president of the Great Western Railroad. The Tiltons lived there until 1869, although some ghost hunters believe Mrs. Tilton still haunts the house, straightening out after the visitors who have disrupted her domestic life for 150 years.
In other words, Abe Lincoln was in the same living situation as Rahm Emanuel. If he’d decided to quit the presidency while the Civil War was going badly and run for mayor of Springfield, he would have to rent a room at an inn. And they both have tenants who are haunting them, although Emanuel’s is still alive.
So the Renters, who believe Emanuel isn’t a Chicago resident because he has a guy living in his house must also believe that Lincoln stopped being an Illinoisan because he leased to a railroad executive.
Rahm Emanuel is no Abraham Lincoln -- he’s short, loud and can’t ride a horse -- but he’s as much of an Illinois resident as Illinois’s greatest president was. Lincoln always planned to come back home, although he didn’t come back the way he’d hoped. Emanuel always planned to come back home, too.