- Brian Jackson/Sun-Times Media
- Senator Mark Kirk went there.
A few days after last week’s election, a few of us political junkies were trying to predict who would be the first mayoral flag waver to mention Detroit.
As in, that’s what Chicago will become if we don’t reelect Mayor Rahm.
And the winner is—U.S. Senator Mark Kirk!
Mayor E’s old friend and adviser—David Axelrod—sort of riffed on this theme with his election-night remarks about “big and complex” challenges.
But leave it to a Republican—the party of Willie Horton—to rip that scab right off the wound.
I realize that, technically speaking, Senator Kirk’s not part of the mayor’s reelection team.
He’s just a loud singer in the chorus of corporate, civic, business, and political titans who have been in a tizzy because the peasants are threatening to eat their pudding before they eat their meat.
So to speak.
I have a special fondness for the Detroit analogy in part because as an admirer of poetry I appreciate any attempt, no matter how feeble, by anyone in this book-banning town to resort to anything even vaguely resembling a metaphor.
Plus, it’s been hurled at me for almost ten years.
Mayor Daley’s defenders—many of whom are now defending Rahm—used it on me when I was unsuccessfully pleading with Chicagoans to vote for anyone other than Daley, after a steady stream of his aides, advisers, contractors, and pals headed off to the joint in one scandal or another.
To which the mayor’s defenders explained that corruption is the price we pay to keep from becoming Detroit. So shut the fuck up!
As always, mayoral defenders are an enlightened bunch.
Then as now, I must point out that parts of Chicago are already very much like Detroit. If by that you mean there are large swaths of underpopulated, undeveloped, high-crime, low-income communities.
These are the neighborhoods most in need of jobs and economic development funds. Alas, they’re hardest hit by Mayor Rahm’s cuts, closings, and firings as he pours hundreds of millions of dollars into booming communities like the South Loop.
So one might say Mayor Rahm’s working hard to turn more of Chicago into Detroit.
My guess is that Senator Kirk dropped the D-word in a not-so-subtle attempt to scare the shit out of white liberals, always a jittery bunch, by exploiting their fear that Chicago’s one step away from becoming what George Clinton, in a different context, may have called Chocolate City.
As long as I mentioned it, c’mon, Senator Kirk, let’s sing it together . . .
“Gainin’ on ya! Can’t you feel my breath, gainin’ on ya. All up around your neck—heh, heh . . . “
In this case, Senator Kirk was picking up on a theme, usually championed by the Tribune‘s editorial board, that goes like this . . .
If we don’t have a real tough mayor to snatch some pension money from retired cops, teachers, firefighters, and other geezers, we’ll go bankrupt. Like Detroit.
Or as Senator Kirk recently put it: “A collapse of Chicago debt, which already happened with Detroit, I think would soon follow if somebody who was really inexperienced and irresponsible replaced Rahm.”
At this point I must remind everyone that Mayor Tough Guy’s been office for four years, and the unfunded pension problem has only gotten worse.
In fact, Mayor Rahm was proceeded by an equally tough mayor. So perhaps the tough-guy mayor isn’t working for Chicago.
As we move on with this campaign, I have a request: At least change the analogy so we’re not covertly exploiting racial fears.
Instead of comparing us to Detroit, try, oh, San Bernardino, California, which filed for bankruptcy a few years ago.
Better yet—why limit ourselves to public-sector bankruptcies?
Private companies—most of them white-owned—go bankrupt all the time.
I know this from firsthand experience because Creative Loafing—the outfit that once owned the Reader—went bankrupt.
For that matter, Mayor Rahm’s beloved Tribune recently crawled out of bankruptcy.
Let’s try this campaign slogan: Reelect Mayor Rahm or Chicago will turn into the Tribune!
Feel free to use it in your next mailing, Mr. Mayor.