Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Rahm the Reformer"

The first sentence of an article about Rahm's run for Mayor in the Chicago News Cooperative:
"Rahm Emanuel, who boasts tight relationships with President Obama and Mayor Richard M. Daley, could credibly portray himself as the mayoral candidate most able to continue Mr. Daley’s legacy of avoiding legislative gridlock and getting things done."
"Avoid legislative gridlock" and "get things done", huh? That's certainly one way to put it. Another would be that Daley used an elaborate patronage system to circumvent democracy in order to enrich himself, his friends, and corporate elites to the extent that these are distinct groups.

And what's not to like about the things that Daley "got done"? How about the "hundreds and hundreds of millions of property tax dollars intended for the poor that he showers on the rich (yes, I'm talking about tax increment financing again). And [how about] the way he's fired teachers while giving raises to central office bureaucrats and farmed out charter school contracts to acolytes like the United Neighborhood Organization. [Or how about] how he bleeds the police department through attrition while telling us he's adding more cops to the force." (for more on this see the Ben Joravsky's "Me and My Mayor" here).

Or, how about Daley's obsession with privatizing public assets by selling them off to rich friends at criminally low prices? How about how he used his clout to force through midnight deal to privatize all of Chicago's parking meters, costing the city billions? How about his fight for a multi-billion dollar, taxpayer-funded throw-away party (i.e. the Olympics) amidst infrastructure, schools, and municipal institutions in dire need of adequate funding? Or, how about his way of "getting things done" as Cook County State Attorney? During his tenure in that position, the Jon Burge torture scandal went down, where (aside from the fact that people were tortured) hundreds of (mostly black and brown) Chicagoans were sent to prison (or Death Row) for crimes they didn't commit, for which there was no incriminating evidence. Is that "getting things done" as well?

This CNC article is complete drivel. It is a view from the top. But it's not just a view from the top -it's a view from the top that purports to be something else, i.e. a universal, common view appropriate for the mass of Chicagoans. But the view from the bottom looking up is much different. It doesn't have to do so much with the P.R. tactics of moneyed politicians or the back-and-forth between various Aldermen and other rip-off artists associated with the Machine. Such trivial blathering among elites is of little consequence to the vast majority of us. Yet, this is constantly held up in front of us as though this was the be-all-end-all of politics. We are encouraged to think that such blather is important, worthy of being studied and internalized by any person "up" on recent events.

But what falls out of this picture is the massive gap between the interests of ordinary people and the conservatism of our political institutions. Instead, ossified political institutions, such as they are at present, appear as a neutral backdrop to reality itself. Something so complicit and unreflective should not be able to pass for journalism.

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