When a quarter of a million people descended on Grant Park on January 21 in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, one man was curiously absent: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The official public schedule from the Mayor’s Press Office gave notice the night before the demonstration that “Mayor Emanuel will attend the Women’s March on Chicago” at 11:30 AM.
So why’d Rahm flake out?
The mayor’s deputy press secretary Lauren Huffman explained this morning that Emanuel canceled when the Grant Park rally had reached capacity and the march portion of the event was officially canceled. (Thousands of demonstrators made the trek downtown during the rally anyway.) Earlier that morning, at around 9:45 AM, he’d gone to Kinzie Elementary School in Garfield Ridge on the southwest side to announce new International Baccalaureate programming at three CPS elementary schools.
On January 19 and 20, the mayor was busy hobnobbing with Democratic party bigwigs at a three-day closed-door Democratic donor conference in south Florida called Democracy Matters 17. Imagine the global elite’s annual World Economic Forum in Davos if held in a Disney World-like luxury resort full of politicians, pundits, and plutocrats sitting down to lavish meals and cocktails. On the night of January 19, according to Politico, Emanuel was spotted with a group dining at a Miami Beach steak house called the Forge. And according to a conference agenda that was marked “private & confidential” but was obtained by Politico, Emanuel took part in a January 20 lunchtime discussion called “Trump’s First 100 Days.”
Organized by Clinton operative David Brock—who The Nation has described as a “conservative journalistic assassin turned progressive empire-builder”—Democracy Matters is a summit billed as an attempt by the blue team to rebuild itself from the pile of smoking rubble it’s been since a certain low-rent con man beat their candidate in November. Brock has positioned himself to be for the Dems what the Koch brothers are to the GOP—the party’s moneyman and puppetmaster, creating a political machine and donor network needed to win future elections.
Emanuel’s fellow Clinton administration vet James Carville was one of the “top Democratic strategists” slated to speak at the “What the Hell Just Happened?” election recap on the morning of January 20. Next, the mayor was scheduled to take the stage around the time Trump was sworn in during the inauguration ceremony. The discussion was described as a look “at what actions Trump may take in his first 100 days and how we can resist these regressive and dangerous actions Trump may take.”
One has to wonder if grassroots political activity like the Women’s March on Chicago was part of Emanuel’s prescription—or if the mayor stayed for that afternoon’s “Winning Women & Winning Elections” session, which attempted to answer an important question: “What needs to happen to get voters to care about preserving women’s rights at the ballot box?” (One answer is surely prioritizing spending more time backing constituents’ causes rather than courting billionaire d0nors.)
Emanuel’s absence from the Women’s March on Chicago is certainly odd given that he’s been on a concerted 14-month public relations campaign to salvage his image after the Laquan McDonald controversy made him only slightly more popular than Donald Trump among Chicago residents. From a purely political perspective, why would he let a surefire photo op at the Women’s March go to waste?
Maybe he really was counting on a nice stroll downtown with the protestors before he got word that the march was canceled. Or maybe he feared that the venom directed at one iron-fisted politician could all too easily be directed at another. Either way, it would’ve been nice of the mayor to show up wearing a hand-knit pussy hat and holding a sign that read: “I’m Rahm Emanuel—and even I think Trump is an asshole!”