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Tuesday, November 21

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The Mechanics
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Daley Fri Mar 12 2010

Hell Hath No Fury Like the Reader Scorned

Not long ago, Mayor Daley's press office unceremoniously denied the Reader's entreaties to sit down with them for an interview that might actually force him to answer some of their many, many pieces on his administration and its shortcomings:

Mick,

We respectfully decline your request for an interview.

Thank you.

Maybe the Mayor should have availed himself of the opportunity to make a case for himself to two of the city's most dedicated reporters on city government. This week the Reader has a number of Daley-centered pieces, including a Richie-as-King-George-III portrait on the cover of their print edition. Both Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky--the aforementioned reporters--have pieces intensely critical of the Mayor and his reign. Dumke's cover story calls whence an opponent for the 2011 elections, making the case that the Mayor is as vulnerable as he has been in recent memory--or maybe ever. Joravsky meanwhile can't resist taking The New Yorker profile of the Mayor (which we discussed here) to task for making the same mistake national press--or lazy local press--often make when talking about His Elective Majesty's era: mistaking the city framed by a limo window for the full view.

Dumke's call for a revolution reads more like a report on the Mayor's deteriorating electoral strength and more generalized voter revulsion; and as befits a City Hall watcher he has eschewed rose-colored glasses to remind us that the Mayor is still the Mayor:

So voters of all stripes might be ready for a choice other than Daley next February. But the path to a first-rate challenge is littered with obstacles.

The first is money. Anyone who wants to be taken seriously will need to be able to afford a sustained ad campaign, primarily on television. Analysts tell me this would require at least a couple million bucks. "I wouldn't want to go into it with less than four or five million," says one local pol--who, like many others I spoke to for this piece, didn't want to be identified because he feared retribution by the mayor.

This is the time to mount a challenge to the Mayor, but there isn't a real likelihood of the Mayor actually losing in 2011. The city's progressive elected officials are entirely too faint of heart; the campaign professionals unwilling to alienate him, and the Machine Lite money machine too good at turning the spigots on and off. What is needed isn't a revolution, necessarily, but a well-thought-out reconnaissance mission by people with nothing to lose.

Who has nothing to lose? Well, not incidentally, the folks most impacted by the invisible Chicago Evan Osnos couldn't bother to visit in writing his profile of the Mayor. There are existing networks of disaffected community activists with no ties to the large institutions and organizations terrified of the Mayor, angry block clubs leaders with no incentive in the current system and new arrivals with no inborn affection for our high-pitched jowly Mayor.

In other words, while there is little chance--particularly at this late date--of defeating the Mayor head on, this is the election cycle where a challenger or challengers could begin to use the public attention on a campaign to stitch together the coalition that could defeat not The Mayor, but the institutions and individuals and networks that protect the status quo (in other words, real reform). It'll take one run to shake things out.

Another important thing to keep in mind: defeating the Mayor is not a good in and of itself. The city needs more competitive local elections: that's a good thing. But "Anybody But Daley" is the type of organizing principle that will lead to fleeting alliances of convenience that tend to implode. Is there a governing coalition in Chicago that can cross the city's traditional political, ethnic, racial, class, and geographic boundaries? We need to answer that question before we can know what a revolution would look like--or where we'll end up.

 
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Anna Tarkov / April 17, 2010 7:04 PM

So what do you think the answer is? Is such a governing coalition possible?

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Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
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Editor: Mike Ewing, mike@gapersblock.com
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