Chicago Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel won a sweeping victory Tuesday Night. In all, Emanuel won 40 of 50 Wards and the only ones to reject him were those controlled by the old guard; i.e. Ed Burke, Michael Madigan, the Beverly Area and the far Northwest Side where many of the city's policemen and firemen reside which backed Gery Chico. Rahm Emanuel was able to to win every African-American ward comfortably and that would suggest that Black voters did not buy the arguments Carole Moseley-Braun brought to the table. If anything, they were turned off by Braun's foot-in-mouth moments. The old guard politicians, meanwhile, showed how they still control their wards. What exactly that will mean down the line, will become clearer after the run-off elections on April 5th.
Rahm Emanuel, by winning outright, will now be able to spread some of his sizable war chest around to support select aldermanic elections. That will go a long way in shaping the next City Council and determine the amount of control he will have to begin his administration. Given earlier statements made during the debates, my guess is that Emanuel will be looking to diminish Ed Burke's power in the council. But, Emanuel will need considerable support form the new council members.
Personally, giving Burke the proverbial boot and a little discomfort is a long time in coming. Ed Burke doesn't like Rahm Emanuel and Emanuel doesn't like Burke. Ed Burke is Chicago's version of Michael Madigan and giving that much power to any individual is always detrimental to good government. The people's agenda is much to often stifled by the whims of powerful individuals. How much legislation has been allowed to die in committee for no other reason than "I don't like it, so it goes nowhere?" But, that is what it has been. Yet, people elect these obstructionists time and time again, much to the chagrin of the rest of the population. Perhaps one day there will be a wake up call resembling something other than a scene from "Groundhog Day" in Chicago Politics.
According to the Chicago Board of Elections, the voter turnout was a dismal 40%. That, to me, is not only surprising but sad. The people of Chicago had the opportunity to have their voices heard. Not only was there the mayoral election to consider, but nearly every ward was in play. If there was ever a chance to change the makeup of city governance, this was it. Yet, you cannot motivate people to come out? There is something fundamentally wrong with that scenario. A low turnout always favors the machine and their controlled vote.
I realize that Chicago voters are not as engaged as their counterparts in Iowa or Minnesota. Perhaps it is because our history is different from theirs or maybe it is because, contrary to public complaints suggesting otherwise, Chicagoans really don't mind paying the extra corruption tax. For all I know, everyone that does business in the city, non-politician and politician alike, run their businesses in the exact same manner. Maybe the Chicago Way is the Chicago Way. I certainly don't know any other way to explain the indifference.
One thing is certain, though. Chicago is at a precipice. Never in her storied history has she had as many woes as now. Dwindling revenues will have to be addressed and I suspect will bring even more pain to the people. Illinois, in general, is facing hard times and economic growth has been hampered by a stubborn economy. There is an aging infrastructure that needs to be addressed and without the necessary funds to spark the economy, it will only get worse before it gets better.
I don't envy Rahm Emanuel and as he ascends to a position that he has always wanted (besides Speaker of the House), how will he be able to keep the promises he made without unleashing higher costs for everything? Unfortunately, that has always been the approach taken by the politicians in the city and state.
Mark my words, those "hard truths" that Rahm Emanuel was talking about while on the campaign trail was that the taxpayer will again be forced to sacrifice even more. Politicians will not look at reforming the system or cutting their wasteful spending habits. that has never been in the cards, nor will it be now. Nothing will change.
Then again, with barely a 40% turnout, how do you hold anyone accountable?
Better yet - who is ultimately responsible?