Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Awful NY Times Piece on Chicago Elections

From the NYTimes:
This city has had one mayor, Richard M. Daley, for 22 years, and, like his approach or hate it, Chicago has certainly grown used to it. So when Mr. Emanuel, the former chief of staff to President Obama, moves into the fifth floor at City Hall in May, it is expected to upend the politics of this city — not only because things have been mostly the same here for so long, but also because of Mr. Emanuel’s harsh style, his relationships and rivals, and the enormous challenges facing the nation’s third largest city.
“There will be more turmoil,” Kenneth Gould, a suburban Chicago resident, said recently, as the outcome of Tuesday’s race — an outright win by Mr. Emanuel — became increasingly likely. “Rahm will make more noise.”
First of all, this is going to be a totally smooth transition from Daley to Rahm. Chicago has merely exchanged one strong-man machine boss for another. There will be no "upending" whatsoever. On the contrary, Rahm will sit down in Daley's throne before the seat even has a chance to get cold. Business as usual is sure to continue. (For the record, I'm not convinced that any of the contenders were aiming to "upend" anything either. They were all machine-friendly candidates; no reformers in the whole lot, although Del Valle was marginally less bad than the rest. The main distinguishing feature of all of them, as Cornel West might have put it, was their "unadulterated mediocrity").
Second, why is the first person quoted on the election from a suburb? I don't know what "suburban Chicago" means. Either you live in the city or you don't. Suburbanites don't vote for Mayor. This much, however, is clear: Mr. Kenneth Gould probably doesn't want to pay Chicago property taxes and shoulder the responsibilities of funding the city of Chicago. Sure, he's probably happy to tell people he's from "Chicago" and opine as to how it should be run. But when it comes to actually being democratically responsible for the shared fate of Chicagoans, he'll likely admit that he's not really a "Chicagoan" per se, but a Blackhawks fan who lives near the city or whatever. I'm sure he's really happy in his single-family home in a tax haven far enough away from the darkness of the city, but close enough to his job (which is likely in city limits). These suburbanites like to play fast and loose with the mantle of "Chicago" when it comes to appropriating the things they like. But when it comes to actually sharing the burdens and benefits of social cooperation that Chicago makes possible, they prefer their exclusive sprawling enclave outside the city itself.
Why not begin the article with a Chicago voter? And if you are going to interview a Suburbanite, why not make clear that they are a different constituency with different interests from most Chicagoans? I feel like that bit speaks volumes about the perspective of the article.
My only remarks regarding Rahm are as follws. Grrrrrrrr.


Anonymous said...

I think its worth noting that suburbanization and the shift in focus from 'cities' to 'metropolitan areas' (both literally and conceptually) was a conscious strategy by the ruling class for exactly this reason. Dividing urban workers into smaller single family homes accross a larger area not only physically divided the urban working class but also served to split the proletariat ideologically, to divide our class interests into 'suburban' and 'urban' parochialism in order to neutralise the solidarity networks which inevitably occur in large working class populations. I recommend reading Harvey's Enigma Of Capital on the subject (which, looking at your blogroll I suspect you already have) particularly the chapter 'the geography of it all'.

t said...

I totally agree with all of your comments. I also despise the notion of a "metropolitan" area. I also like Harvey's stuff on this topic a great deal, although I haven't got around to reading his most recent book, which I need to do soon. I've also found that Mike Davis is good on this stuff(he had an amazing New Left Review piece that touched on this called "Who Will Build the Arc?"). And I recently acquired this 1970s collection of papers on "Marxism and the Metropolis" edited by William K. Tabb (a Monthly Review guy, if I recall correctly) which looks really good.

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