Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Rahm Gives Teachers The Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    After attending a concert by union backer Bruce Springsteen, Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls the teachers' strike unnecessary. Nowadays, most Bruce fans would probably agree.

    This was Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s weekend schedule:

    Friday: Bruce Springsteen concert at Wrigley Field.

    Sunday: Give the Chicago Teachers’ Union the Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.

    Rahm and Bruce are longtime buddies. In 2009, Springsteen -- a supporter of Barack Obama and liberal politicians in general -- gave Emanuel 10 free tickets to a concert in Washington, D.C. In return, Emanuel persuaded Springsteen to play a few bars of the Jewish folk song “Hava Nagila.”

    Now that the 63-year-old Springsteen has reached late middle/early old age, his audience is far from the blue-collar characters in songs such as “Born to Run” and “My Hometown.” Over the weekend, it seemed like every lawyer, politician and journalist in Chicago had Springsteen tickets, which ranged from $45 to $103 -- less than he could have charged, but more than the laid-off factory workers he sings about can afford.

    In his legacy years, Springsteen has been profiled on CBS Sunday Morning and in a New Yorker piece by editor David Remnick, who also wrote a flattering book about Obama. Bruce is especially beloved by liberals like Rahm and Remnick, who came of age in the 1980s, because he shared their opposition to the policies of Ronald Reagan. Now that those liberals have achieved wealth and political office, attending a Bruce concert allows them to indulge in nostalgia for their young, poor and powerless years.

    However, the number one Bruce fan in America is a politician, but not a liberal one. According to a recent article in The Atlantic (which is edited by James Bennet, brother of Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet), New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie has attended 129 Springsteen concerts, where he shouts along with the lyrics to his favorite song, “Thunder Road.”

    Springsteen is a critic of Christie’s conservative policies and has refused to play at his inauguration, or even meet him in person. But as the article pointed out, “the people who grew up with Springsteen in Freehold, the people who first came to listen to Springsteen, the people whose lives Springsteen explores in his songs—they voted for Christie. Sixty-three percent of white voters with only high-school diplomas went for Christie in his 2009 race against the incumbent Democrat, Jon Corzine.”

    Springsteen has always been a supporter of labor unions. In the 1980s, at a concert in Pittsburgh, he allowed laid-off steelworkers to collect money for a food bank outside the concert hall, and then donated $10,000 of the gate himself. If Springsteen had stuck around Chicago after Saturday’s concert, he’d undoubtedly take the side of the Chicago Teachers’ Union. Springsteen hasn’t changed -- but his fans sure have.