Emanuel and Garcia: The little guy versus the little guy

Emanuel and Garcia: The little guy versus the little guy
Image: PV Bella

Chicago's mayoral race is shaping up as the little guy versus the little guy.


Mayor Emanuel attending a JRW game on Chicago's South Side. (PV Bella)

The incumbent, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is short in stature tall in power. He is derisively known as "Tiny Dancer".

Emanuel is facing challenger Chuy Garcia, who is being portrayed as the" little guy" because of his humble beginnings and supposed concern for the plight of the weak and powerless.

Chuy Garcia (Chicago Tribune photo)

Chuy Garcia is no little guy. He has been a career member of the political class for over thirty years.

Garcia became a Democratic ward Committeeman in 1984, a time when committeemen held real power.

Some ward committeemen were more powerful than aldermen.

Garcia was elected to the Chicago City Council in 1986. In 1992 he was elected to the Illinois State Senate. After leaving the Senate, Garcia founded a community organization and PAC which became a political power unto itself in the Little Village neighborhood.

In 2010, Chuy Garcia was elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners. He is serving his second term. Garcia is the Floor Leader, a very powerful post. He is closely allied with Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle. It is rumored Preckwinkle is consolidating or building a powerful political base similar to the former Stroger family's.

Chuy Garcia is part of the political establishment. He did not come out of nowhere.

Garcia is not a little guy living some humble life.

Garcia is not a nobody nobody sent.

Chuy Garcia is somebody. He is somebody somebody sent. He is powerful.

The little guy with humility is a facade.

Rahm Emanuel started his career working for a political action organization. He moved on to become a campaign organizer and successful fund raiser. After a stint in the White House, he entered the financial world where he made his fortune.

Emanuel was first elected to office in 2003 as Congressman of the Fifth Congressional District.

Both men have been kicking around Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois politics for three decades. Rahm Emanuel is better known and more aggressive than his counterpart. That should fool no one. In politics it is the quiet guys you have to watch. The perceived humble guys. The guys who pull real the strings of power.

Chicago's race for the Fifth Floor throne is not David versus Goliath. It is a battle between two very powerful men. It is a battle of who will dominate City Hall and Chicago politics.

There was another humble quiet guy in Chicago. A guy no one paid much attention to. A guy from working class roots. His father was a union man. His mother, a suffragette. He was a guy from a tough gritty working class neighborhood.

He worked his way up, quietly, silently, learning where all the bodies were buried. He was very religious. He lived in a humble abode in a humble neighborhood.

This guy appealed to the blue collar worker, lunch bucket crowd, strap hangers, people with dirt under their fingernails, and saloon sitters.

This guy appealed to the Sunday morning church goers and Sunday afternoon dinner eaters. He appealed to softball players and bowlers.

He had nothing in common with "Downtown," the big money people, the suits who inhabited suites, the powerful who pulled the levers at City Hall.

Or so it appeared.

This guy ran against the money guy. A downtown guy. A Lake Shore Drive guy. A multimillionaire guy. The incumbent mayor.

Richard J. Daley (Chicago Tribune photo)

Richard J. Daley beat Martin Kennelly in the 1955 mayoral race. Richard J. Daley was not who people thought he was.

Daley was not just some humble, quiet, church going family man from a working class neighborhood.

Richard J. Daley slowly and quietly worked, climbing his way up the myriad strings of power like a spider. Then one day, the quiet, little, humble man from Bridgeport held all the strings.

He ran for mayor and won. He beat the money boys. The neighborhood guy beat the downtown gentlemen. He beat the multimillionaire incumbent.

Late on the election night, in an Old Town saloon he owned, a Chicago alderman uttered famous words. Words that would resonate through Chicago politics for decades.

Words that are as true sixty years later as they were in 1955.

In one sentence, so pure, simple, concise, and crystal clear, alderman Mathias "Paddy" Bauler, summed up Chicago politics. It is Chicago's eternal clarion.

"Chicago ain't ready for reform."

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