• Jane Byrne

During the winter of 1979, after Jane Byrne beat Daley-machine seat warmer Michael Bilandic to become mayor of Chicago, Mike Royko began his daily newspaper column like so:

“It was the most stunning upset in the long, wild history of Chicago politics and this column is about the single most important person involved in that incredible upset—the remarkable individual who made it happen.

“And who would that be?

“No, I’m not talking about some brilliant campaign manager, or media manipulator, or generous back-room financier, or any of the other political operatives who usually get top billing in day-after-election stories.

“And, no, it isn’t about Jane Byrne, although little Ms. Sourpuss finally has something to smile about.

“This column is about you. That’s right—YOU there, on the L train or bus, or in your kitchen reading this over morning coffee. You, at your punch press, or in your firehouse, or hospital cafeteria. You, behind the counter at the department store, or jockeying the cab or unloading that truck.

“You did it, you wild and crazy Chicagoans.”

I thought of those lines when Barack Obama took the presidency four years ago and thought of them again on Tuesday, when he repeated the feat. (I’d have transcribed Royko’s entire, gorgeous utterance into this post if I’d been able to find it; it’s a disgrace to American culture that even the fragment given here is hard to dig up.)