Obviously, Chicago’s black leadership made a huge mistake by choosing Carol Moseley Braun as its consensus candidate. Her “From Harold to Carol” campaign was the least successful comeback attempt by an early-’90s African-American icon since the sitcom Arsenio went off the air.
After polling at 20 percent early in the race, Moseley Braun finished with 8 percent of the vote. She lost every black ward to Rahm Emanuel, the Jewish Mini-Me of Barack Obama, whose career Carol helped ignite when he was running Project Vote! in 1992. As further proof that time has passed her by, Moseley Braun was trounced in her own 4th Ward, while former Obama aide Will Burns was elected alderman.
Maybe, though, the mistake was having a consensus candidate at all. If Moseley Braun hadn’t been such an inept candidate, she would have forced Rahm Emanuel into a runoff. But Moseley Braun, Danny Davis and James Meeks on the ballot would have guaranteed a runoff, because each represents a different geographic base in the black community: South Side, West Side and Out South. The three of them together would have pulled at least 20 percent of the vote, preventing Emanuel from winning a majority, and forced him to make a deal with one or all of the candidates. Since Emanuel was going to win anyway, that was the best deal the black community could have gotten.
Now, in spite of Emanuel’s overwhelming support by black Chicagoans, he owes them nothing. In fact, his election reinforces several trends that are damaging to the black community. It represents the triumph of the North Side. For decades, the North Side has dominated Chicago culturally and economically. Now, it will control the city politically, too. Emanuel will also intensify the process of gentrification that drove 200,000 African-Americans out of Chicago during the last decade. He’s the only mayoral candidate who didn’t support the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance, which would set aside 20 percent of TIF money for affordable housing. It’s sponsored by Ald. Walter Burnett, who helped cripple Moseley Braun’s campaign by refusing to endorse her after leading the selection process for a consensus candidate.
Blacks clearly felt more affinity with a sidekick to President Obama than with a long-retired senator. Now, let’s see how much affinity Emanuel feels for them.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!