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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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The Mechanics

Election 2008 Thu Nov 20 2008

More to Jesse Jr. Than Some Think

By all accounts, Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is on the "short list" of possibilities to fill Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat for the next two years. Some newspapers and activists have been actively lobbying for Gov. Blagojevich, who has sole discretion in the decision, to appoint Jackson.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (9)

Election 2008 Mon Nov 17 2008

Was the 2008 Presidential Election Transformational?

The national punditry has, thus far, spent much of the post-election period arguing whether or not President-elect Obama received an electoral mandate on Nov. 4. The answer to that question is quite simply YES. In this era of closely fought presidential elections a 7 percent margin of victory in the popular vote coupled with at least 365 Electoral College votes and the flipping of nine formerly Red States is most definitely a mandate. Sean Hannity and his FOX News brethren need to stop spinning the election as something less than that before they lose what little credibility they have left as "journalists."

The much more salient point is whether the 2008 election was politically transformative in the way that Franklin Roosevelt's election was in 1932. And what was transformative about FDR's election, you might ask? Well, it wasn't his margin of victory or even the innovative policies he implemented once in office. It was the way in which his election shifted the political allegiances of whole demographic groups across the country, ushering in nearly 40 years of Progressive policy-making and Democratic electoral dominance. The answer to this second question is more complicated but here are some very encouraging signs, at least from this Progressive's point of view.

First, let's take a look at the total voter turnout in 2008 compared to recent presidential elections:
2004 turnout: 122 million voters
2000 turnout: 105 million voters
2008 turnout: 129 million voters (current estimate)

Continue reading this entry »

Jerry Morrison

Election 2008 Sat Nov 15 2008

Fix this Cycle! Illinois' Too-Long Elections

No matter who they supported, most Americans could probably agree on one thing in the recent elections: they went on way too long. The huge surge in early voting reflected eagerness for change, but may also have been in part a referendum by a large, unpolled voting bloc that, exhausted, was way ready to get it over with. After nearly two years of rumors, fundraisers, debates, speeches, vetting, outing, leaks, attack ads, furors over non-issues from preachers to wardrobes, and the omnipresent red-blue electoral map, by mid-October even many of the most hardcore political junkies I know were secretly praying, "Please, God, make it stop."

If you agree that this record-breaking marathon was too long, I have some bad news: the next elections are just beginning. Yes, that's right; in a scant 9 months, petitions will be circulating for the 2010 primary.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Election 2008 Thu Nov 13 2008

Case Study: How Do Chicago's Players "Resolve" An Open Seat?

One of the great things about Chicago politics is that they're both really wild and kind of static. There are so many powerful vested interests and office-holders-for-life that the sudden opportunity for genuine competition kind of makes everybody go insane. Senator Obama's open Senate seat, in tandem with his drafting of 5th District Congressman Rahm Emanuel, has created a flurry of activity that will reach deep into the local level.

What often happens when there are bona fide open seats that need to be competed for is that players will get involved for the explicit purpose of extracting concessions, favors, or agreements with the people with the better likelihood of winning (or greater hunger for) the seat.

After the jump, we'll take a quick look at the 5th District seat and the players.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Election 2008 Sun Nov 09 2008

19th Ward results, concession calls

The Southtown offers an urban political geography lesson on Chicago's 19th Ward. This area encompasses the neighborhoods of Beverly, Morgan Park, and Mount Greenwood:

The 19th Ward of Chicago traditionally is a high-turnout, independent-leaning enclave of the city. Voters tend to pull Democratic
ballots in the primary election but shift between parties in the

The neighborhoods of the 19th Ward are lined with brick Georgians and Cape Cods occupied by Catholic-leaning city workers and
firefighters. They devour their local newspapers and take notice of the
ward's endorsed candidates but decide for themselves how to vote on
Election Day.

Let's drill into election results from the ward:

• Of the 66 precincts in the 19th Ward, Hillary Clinton won 15 of them Feb. 5. All 15 precincts were in the Mount Greenwood community. On
Tuesday, John McCain won 13 of those 15 precincts. So if you're looking
for some Clinton Democrats who couldn't stomach Obama, look no further
than Mount Greenwood.

During the primary, Clinton's support was highest in the 33rd Precinct near 105th Street and Central Park Ave. She took 55 percent of
the vote. On Tuesday, McCain won the precinct with 59 percent of the

• Overall, the 19th Ward chose Obama with 65 percent of the vote to McCain's 34 percent Tuesday. The Mount Greenwood voters were squashed
by the eastern half of the ward, which swung heavily to Obama.

If you read the whole thing you'll know that this isn't the only area in the Southland (the south side of Chicago or even the South Suburbs) that are covered in this article. It generally talks about the results from the recently concluded Presidential Campaign.


Election 2008 Fri Nov 07 2008

Cities Sitting Pretty With Urbane Obama

The media, understandably, were quick to seize on Barack Obama's race and relative youth as reasons for his historic victory. These salient, obvious characteristics correlate neatly to two demographics - black voters, and younger voters - among which he did handsomely. Less apparent and far less discussed, but manifest in national voting patterns that go deeper than the over-tired red-blue electoral map, and with equally significant portent for future national policies, is Obama's urbanity. Not only is Barack Obama the first Chicagoan (albeit non-native) to gain the Oval Office, he is the first president in a long time who hails, at least in adult life, from a city.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (3)

Education Thu Nov 06 2008

My Endorsement for Secretary of Education

It shocked many education wonks when President-elect Barack Obama announced Linda Darling-Hammond as his campaign's education policy adviser.

Their pick would have more likely been a staffer from one of the big-city school districts that adhere to the a very simple orthodoxy. The formula is simple. Deprofessionalize teaching, hire fresh-faced Ivy-League graduates ready to do their two years of service in the classroom (that they would normally reserve for the non-profit sector), privatize everything from school services to curriculum, and make the bottom line as small as possible.

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Kenzo Shibata / Comments (1)

Aldermen Thu Nov 06 2008

Chicago Aldermen Have Wish List for Obama

From Clout St., Obama just became president-elect, but city aldermen are already expecting some favors from him. Relax a minute, he hasn't even been inaugurated.

I like this quote by Ald. Ed Smith (28th):

But Ald. Ed Smith (28th) sounded a rare cautionary note, warning that local expectations for Obama may be unrealistic.

"We can't dump all the problems on him," Smith said. "There's thousands of cities out there and he has to look at all of those cities."


Election 2008 Thu Nov 06 2008

Yes Kids Can. And Boy, Did They.

I think I'm finally emerging from the punchdrunk haze of the last 48 hours, and starting in on the "Choose Your Own Adventure" book that is about to be Illinois politics.

(For instance, Cong. Rahm Emanuel has accepted the position of President-Elect Obama's CoS. If ABC vacates his/her seat to run for the 5th CD seat, turn to page 14. If you think XYZ will jockey for ABC's now open seat, continue to page 19. My head already hurts.)

After reading a bajillion (that's a technical term, btw) columns and blog posts written by esteemed and politically-savvy insiders, I just stumbled upon some of the most honest, spot-on commentary I've seen for a while. Via Harlem:

Dear President Obama,

I want to say you are the bomb. I love all your speeches. Even my grandma does. I feel sorry for your grandmother but she's there up in heaven watching over you. When you get to the white house you will have our help.

I'm so happy that you are becoming president. Can you make a change about the cops? They need to pay more attention at the Lincoln Tunnel.

Write back.

Your friend,

These kids nail it. Go read more letters posted by their 4th grade teacher (and my dear friend) Lauren Rubinfeld at the Huffington Post.

Aviva Gibbs / Comments (2)

Election 2008 Thu Nov 06 2008

Illinois Congressional Delegation Musical Chairs

Senator Obama's victory Tuesday creates a senate vacancy; his request to Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff could create a Congressional vacancy; the appointment of a Senator to replace President-Elect Obama will likely create another Congressional vacancy; and the filling of those two Congressional seats will probably create two General Assembly vacancies. Who will go where? Political junkies love these games.

Greg Hinz at Crain's speculates on the larger question of Chicagoans going to DC. And who will be the new Senate President!? Could that factor in!?

UPDATE: Politico is reporting that Rahm Emanuel has accepted the job as President-Elect Obama's Chief of Staff.

Follow after the fold for more.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Election 2008 Wed Nov 05 2008

Voices from the Obama Rally

A crowd of nearly 240,000 people gathered around Grant Park and the outskirts of the Loop to watch Senator Barack Obama's run to the White House finally come to the finish line. Gapers Block spent the day tracking the noises and voices of the people who waited in line and risked being packed like sardines to be a part of Obama's historic celebration.

1:15 p.m.: With roads already blocked off and security forces blocking some pedestrian accesses, vendors are already setting up shop, selling buttons and tee-shirts with the words "hope" and "change" found on nearly every item.

4:16 p.m.: The line for lucky ticket holders at the event stretches in three rows from Columbus Drive to Harrison. An automated message reminds everyone that, "As you go through security, please leave your coats on. Remove all metal from your pockets. Turn your cell phones and electronics on, and open your purses. Thank you for coming."

5:31 p.m.: After letting the first group of ticket holders in a little after 4 p.m., Mike Mantel is standing in the front of a group now blocked off at South Columbus Drive and East Balbo Drive. Mantel, 58 and a Hanover Park resident, has waited in line since 1:30 after receiving his ticket Monday night. He says he's supporting Obama because he represents "change, something different." "Hopefully, [he'll change] the partisan politics that's been going on over the last 10 years. Maybe actually something will get done."

5:35 p.m.: The security guard tells the crowd that he will be removing the barricades so ticket holders can go through the third and final security checkpoint, which he likens to airport security. "When everyone comes through the street, we all have to work together [so] there is not a huge rush. We have a lot of street we need to conquer here and we have plenty of time to do that. You are at checkpoint two. We will be taking you to checkpoint three. We're going to do that in about 10 minutes. That's good. Okay? Everyone is working really hard to get you guys in before 8:30, so we need you all to work with us. We don't want any running. We don't any pushing. We want everyone to be sweet to each other because that's why we're here."

5:44 p.m.: When the guards remove the barriers, a man screams in excitement, "Checkpoint three, here we go!"

6:50 p.m.: South Holland couple Courtney Parrott, 58, and his wife Marion got downtown around 4:30 p.m. and are anxiously awaiting news results from the CNN jumbo tv to their left. Packed deep in the crowd, Parrott holds up a copy of a Vibe magazine with the cover proclaiming, "It's Obama Time." "I wish I could be a little closer [to the stage], but I'm very happy," he says. Proudly wearing an Obama hat, tee-shirt and button, Parrott says if Obama wins, he's going to open a 2001 bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne tonight.

Courtney Parrott and his wife Marion.jpg

7:17 p.m.: Schaumburg resident Radha Jaya Raghavan, 53, stands next to her son, Rohit, 30, and his wife Lucy, 26, of Chicago. They arrived to Grant Park around 5:30 p.m. Radha Raghavan spent the day volunteering at Obama's headquarters and says there was an "overflow" of people who were calling Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio. "I'm big on healthcare," she says. "I'm paying out of my pocket, so it's going up in November again for me. And I want to see that I'm getting the benefit of Obama's healthcare [plan]."

7:45 p.m.: Outside the packed crowd gathering around the stage, participants are sitting on the grass in front of the CNN jumbo tv, cheering loudly when the network projects a win for Obama and booing every projected McCain state. Naperville resident Sterling Reynolds, 15, came to the rally tonight around 5 with his dad after his mom received an emailed ticket. While he's not old enough to vote yet, he's still highly engaged in this election. "I'm here when history is being made, so that's all I can ask," he says. "I feel it's very important. I'm in American Government right now and I'm recording a lot of this right now on my camera to take to class. It's a once in a lifetime chance. And if you can't take that chance, it's not good."

8:53 p.m.: Chicago resident David Miele, 31, is sitting on the grass with four of his friends after arriving at Grant Park around 6:30 p.m. "It's pretty amazing," he says. "I would have loved to had a chance to go to another Obama rally during the long campaign season. But I feel really fortunate to be [at] the last one of the season, especially given the circumstances." Explaining his support for Obama, Miele says, "He has an amazingly quick and comprehensive intelligence. I trust his judgment because of it. I feel that he shares a lot of the same values I have, which are a lot of democratic and liberal leading values. The fact that he doesn't have a lot of traditional hallmarks of experience never really bothered me."

Grant Park crowd.jpg

10:57: As Obama approaches the stadium to give his victory speech, a woman standing in the background sighs. On the verge of tears, she proclaims, "He did it!"

11:33 p.m.: Walking toward Michigan Avenue after attending the rally, 51-year-old Anna Preacely and 58-year-old Adelle Washington, both of Chicago, excitedly talk about the future Obama brings. As two African-American women, Preacely and Washington are especially proud tonight -- not only because Obama is African-American, but because he is the best candidate for the job. "This goes back to King's speech," Washington says. "He says one day we will be judged by the content of our character, and not our color. That's Barack Obama. King was the dreamer, and Barack Obama is the dream."

11:45 p.m.: As midnight approaches, pedestrians dance and sing on the normally car-congested Michigan Avenue. It's safe to say that every person here, at least once, proudly uttered the word "Obama" tonight.

Sheila Burt

Election 2008 Tue Nov 04 2008

Reporting Live from the Grant Park Rally!

Reporter Sheila Burt is on the scene in Grant Park and will be reporting from there LIVE! Check back for interviews and reports from our reporter on the scene.

Updates: Pictures from the Rally Inside!

Continue reading this entry »

Sheila Burt / Comments (3)

Election 2008 Tue Nov 04 2008

Mechanics' Election Coverage

In case you didn't spot it over on the right, here's a link to our Election Day coverage, which is anachronistically datelined Nov. 2.

Andrew Huff

Column Tue Nov 04 2008

Welcome To Mechanics, a Chicago Political Blog

Welcome to Mechanics, the political section of There are some great writers, activists, and thinkers who are going to be contributing to bring a lively debate to you, our loyal readers.

For today, check back for election coverage and notes.

When we first discussed launching a political blog, we felt strongly that it should reflect not one political viewpoint, but rather be a place to unify the political viewpoints and debates of all Chicagoans and Illinoisans. Because the reality is that we share a city and share a state, and by virtue of the community we share, what we have in common confounds our trivial differences of opinion. Partisan media may have its purpose, but if we really believe the point of political discourse is to both find the truth and convince our fellow citizens, then a forum for diverse writers and activists can better serve our community.

I think second amendment rights are a perfect example. Here was an issue on which I generally toed the party line, but exposure to ideas and arguments from different parts of the political spectrum, particularly in the course of political and organizing work, got me thinking a different way; got me to finally really consider the disparate legal and philosophical arguments. I began to hear the same arguments "my side" was making differently. But this would never have happened if that argument was being made only by strictly partisan thinkers for a strictly partisan audience. It took a community setting for me to even entertain the fact that there were multiple sides to the issue, and that "my" side was wrong.

I hope Mechanics can serve that purpose.

We have Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, libertarians, leftists, and others lined up to contribute pieces. Our only rule is that they be related to state and local issues, and that they not be the same old talking points. Intellectual honesty is our first principle..

Launching on this historical election day is an added bonus. No matter what the results today, if our candidates' rhetoric is at all to be believed, we're headed towards a change in our nation's direction. Hopefully this site can be a place where our corner of the country can come to debate the direction of that change.

Our Latin slogan you see on the banner, Dubitando ad veritatem venimus, means "Through skepticism, we arrive at truth." Truth is much more fun than spin.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Election 2008 Mon Nov 03 2008

"The Scariest House on the Block"

Reader Lindsay Banks sent us these photos of "a house I biked past in Evanston today."



Andrew Huff / Comments (3)

Election 2008 Thu Oct 30 2008

Why I voted for Barack Obama. And a few others.

In February of 2007, I took a bus to the Old State Capitol in Springfield, to witness Senator Obama formally kick-off his campaign in the spot where President Lincoln once spoke of a house divided.  In front of me stood a handsome woman with perfect hair and a fur coat (who unknowingly blocked the bitter wind). Behind me was a man in a service station uniform who smelled of motor oil and long hours. On my right was an iPodded young woman who was likely voting in her first election, and to my left, a Republican State legislator who smiled when he noticed me noticing him.


I was standing in the center of the Obama campaign.

You rarely witness that kind of cross-section - people of "all walks," as my grandmother would have said - standing shoulder to shoulder, looking in the same direction. You see it occasionally in airports. Or at the DMV, where social or economic status doesn't get you a better place in line. But you don't tend to see it voluntarily on a nearly sub-zero day in Springfield.  It could have been summer though, and I still would have had chills; something remarkable was happening.

You rarely witness that kind of cross-section - people of "all walks" - because they so rarely have anything in common, until now. What I saw that day was a glimpse into the rest of Senator Obama's campaign. On that bitter cold day, each person in my small unlikely circle had his or her own set of unique challenges and craved a fundamental change from recent history.  Maybe the young woman wanted to know that this new administration would take a pragmatic approach to climate change. Maybe the fancy lady bought that coat in the '90s, when she was in a more confident financial position, and wanted to know now that her grandchildren would have access to affordable healthcare. Maybe the mechanic, who likely makes less than $250,000 a year, wanted middle-class tax relief. And maybe the Republican State legislator, who has spent plenty of literal and figurative cold days in Springfield, wanted a leader who would pierce through the divisiveness and remind us of our common ground.

They came for different types of change, and it seems clear to me that Barack Obama managed to answer each of their calls directly.

Continue reading this entry »

Aviva Gibbs

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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