Maybe like me, you grew up observing and becoming very familiar with the "Daley Family", their standards, their objectives, their work ethic, their social proclivities. If so, you know first-hand, that our Mayor's father, the first Mayor Daley, who took office in 1955, very frankly believed that racism and segregation was simply part and parcel of the natural order. You listened as our Mayor's father, the first Mayor Daley, in 1968 issued his infamous "shoot to kill" order to the Chicago Police Department during the grievous civil unrest, arson and destruction following the assassination of Dr. King. You also know first-hand, that our current Mayor, Richard M. Daley is a product of that racist, segregationist mentality household and of a community, "Bridgeport" which also vigorously upheld and supported segregation as simply part and parcel of the natural order.
Curiously, this may begin to explain the paramount reason behind Richard M. Daley being elected six times to serve as mayor of Chicago, with decisive victories throughout the city in all but one election. The same reason so many of us have, over the years, grown to feel comfortable and accepting of him - We know him. We know his demons. We know his resume'. We know his character foibles, his faults and his failings. He can't hide, we know from whence he came. We've watched him grow and evolve from an insecure, pseudo-arrogant, lackluster, somewhat Homer Simpson-esque fortunate son of a proud-to-be-racist father into a secure, humbled, pensive, somewhat charming, open-minded, proud homeboy Statesman.
Under the leadership of our first Mayor Daley, the city incubated and festered in a grimy pool of corruption that grew roots long and strong enough to tangle themselves around every floor in City Hall. This was an atmosphere that so permeated the consciousness of the city that it became normal, something that most shrugged their shoulders and even joked about. That is until, (following the death of the first Mayor Daley, an abbreviated term served by Michael Bilandic and, the election of Chicago's only female mayor, Jane Byrne) the city, like some unknown super-hero elected an African-American mayor, Harold Washington, Chicago's hope for the future. Harold promised fairness, accountability and the end of corruption and patronage politics, and we all believed. Mayor Washington served a full term from 1983 until 1987 and was then elected to a second term. The idea of reform was solidifying and becoming real and seemed attainable. Just months into his second term, in November of 1987, Mayor Washington died suddenly. Every liberal mind and idealist in the city was traumatized, the excitement of reform was paralyzed. After the revolutionary climate flickered and died, as Washington supporters carried thoughts and conversations of what might have been, the city went back to the old, familiar and, in 1989 elected Richard M. Daley to serve as mayor.
I guess it could, nonetheless, be said that, given our shared experiences and history, we have "feelings" connected to our current Mayor Daley, we think of him as "Richie Daley". This is not so with the list of contenders seeking to take his chair. There are no feelings or sentiment connected to Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley-Braun, Gery Chico, Miguel Del Valle, Bill Walls or Patricia Watkins...only thoughts and suspicious uncertainties. Since Daley announced on September 7th of 2010 that he would not seek a 7th term, we have found ourselves in the position of starting brand-new, on the proving grounds, in the courtship phase of a possible long-term relationship. Some might agree that, "IF" Daley were in the race, 1) the contenders would be different and, 2) regardless of all that has been said over the past 21 years including sporadic outcries for Daley's resignation, recent low approval ratings and, "the Jody Weis situation" of late, Daley 'would' take a 7th term. So, now, the question of "Who?".
Now that we, the city, are together in this relatively unfamiliar place of electing a career politician to serve as mayor of our city, we each owe it to ourselves and each other to vote consciously and conscientiously, with eyes wide open, from our heads and not from our hearts or egos. One task before us is to look closely at intentions and agendas.
That introduces the concern that the job of Chief Executive of Chicago could possibly fall into the hands of an individual with questionable intentions or unjust agendas. Since race always matters in Chicago, this could be the case whether they be ethnically Jewish, African-American, Mexican-American or Puerto Rican-American. Who could that be? What could be their questionable intentions or unjust agendas? In theory, It could be ANY one of the current candidates...Emanuel, Moseley-Braun, Chico, Del Valle, Walls or Watkins. In theory, the questionable intentions or unjust agendas, since race and economics always matter, could relate to the sacrificing of the financial stability and well-being of one group for the unbalanced benefit of another. The question now introduced is: "Race and/or ethnicity aside, who has a foundational agenda and intent broad and sophisticated enough to include benefiting the city and ALL of its people?...Who's intentions and agendas are fair, balanced and progressive?".
We must remember that the atmosphere of any political campaign breeds liars, so right now we are all listening to a bunch of possible big fat liars. Remember, we're in a courtship and the courtier or the candidate wants only one thing...power, that little bit of power that comes with each vote. But if we're to get this right we must recognize and discard the empty rhetoric. We must look beyond the over-zealous, foot-stomping of the well-intending but sometimes misled, ill-informed, slightly ego driven campaign workers including clergy endorsements and aim only for the greater good. Who is the person most deserving of your power, who is it that can maturely and responsibly handle the intrinsic power that comes with being the Mayor of the City of Chicago? To assure that we get the answer right, we must give concentrated thought to the consequences of getting it wrong. We must pay close attention, make our own informed decision and, remember that the atmosphere of any political campaign breeds liars. So, let's not be naive.
"The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use - of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public". Robert F. Kennedy (1925 - 1968)