Perhaps my favorite note of skepticism written about Obama in recent months comes from Ben Joravsky:
“Obviously his reluctance to take on Daley was calculated. It was pointless to try to lead the people where they are too afraid to go. I don’t think he’d ever admit it in a million years, but he clearly saw us for the hopeless losers that we are and began to plot his way out almost from the moment he parachuted into town.”
As hopeful as I am that Obama will be a good, even great president, it’s worth considering why change never came to Chicago, and this is a compelling way to reframe the question: instead of “why didn’t he change things?”, “why didn’t we ask for change?” As Martin Marty puts it, quoting Royko: “Farewell, President Johnson. You weren’t the best president a people ever had, but we were not the best people a president ever had.”
I don’t know; political apathy in Chicago is a mystery to me. But this year and the next promise some very compelling local elections, and perhaps a reason to hope.
At the beginning of March, a special election to fill former Daley fund-raiser Rahm Emanuel‘s seat will take place, and 26 candidates have signed up, among them some compelling names. I can’t vote in the Fifth District, but if I could I’d be taking a close look at Mike Quigley and Thomas Geoghegan (I’m not saying there aren’t other worthy candidates, just that I have more homework to do). Compared to the messy, unpleasant process of installing the barely tolerable Roland Burris, I hope the special election gives us reason to continue changing the legislation to call for more.
Meanwhile, Toni Preckwinkle, one of the City Council’s few independent voices (and with a Hyde Park constituency that can support independents), has announced that she’s running against abysmal Cook County Board prez Todd Stroger. And she’s not fucking around: “The kindest thing you can say is, he’s inept.”
Today was important and moving. As The Private Intellectual puts it: “it’s a reminder that bending the arc of history is a collaborative undertaking.” We haven’t made that effort, or found that weak point in the arc here in clout city, the city that turned back King’s dream. But there are elections to come, important ones, and perhaps change as well.