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The Mechanics
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Chicago After Daley Fri Nov 26 2010

Not Everyone's Consensus

The hunt for a "consensus candidate" to represent the African American community in the forthcoming mayoral election ended several weeks ago. Few outside the inner circle of the decisionmaking body of the Chicago Coalition for Mayor, made up of many prominent African American politicians in the city, know how the consensus was reached, and at first, no one seemed very forthcoming with details of the process. But an incredible little interview on Vocalo.org with one of the process's participants slipped almost entirely under everyone's radar last week, despite the inside look it gives on how the candidate was chosen.

Christopher Cooper, a local civil rights attorney, had considered throwing his hat into the 2011 mayoral race, only to promptly retract it. Rep. Danny Davis of the 7th district was eventually chosen, and he's quickly entered into campaign mode (which thus far appears to mostly mean lobbing bombs at Rahm).

But let's rewind for a second. How did this "consensus candidate" sausage get made? Everyone acknowledges that it's a messy process--the very idea entails boiling down all of the complexities of a large, diverse community, with all its different ideas and interests, into one candidate who supposedly represents all of them--but there are few insider accounts of how the actual process went down. Enter: Cooper's appearance on The Barber Shop Show last week.

Few seem to have noticed Cooper's appearance on the show. (I only found it while lazily perusing Vocalo's web site and deciding to listen to some old episodes of The Barber Shop Show.) Which is strange, given Cooper's incredible candor as he provides some intimate details of what it meant to enter into the "consensus candidate" process. Observe a few choice quotes:

The things that the coalition said to me...certainly implied, "We're going to make it impossible for you to get even a dime."
The coalition made it clear that it would destroy any black person who dared run against "the Consensus Candidate."
The individuals involved in the coalition made some very, very serious threats... essentially, we will destroy you, we'll make sure you don't get name recognition, we'll work against you.

Cooper goes as far as naming a few names during the interview. His honesty and openness in discussing the behind-the-scenes action in local politics is almost shocking in a city where political decisionmaking has historically been done with little transparency.

In the middle of the interview, Cooper says, "I'm young, and if I plan to have a future in Chicago politics, I really need to be careful about making members of the coalition angry." If that's the case, he better hope no one from the coalition minds his airing of their dirty laundry on-air.

To hear Cooper's interview, listen to the first segment of The Barber Shop Show here.

 
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