When Mayor Rahm left office, my friends and colleagues consoled me, as though I’d lost my reason for existence.
“What now, my friend—what are you gonna do now?”
I reminded them that they’d asked me the same question eight years ago, when Mayor Daley gave way to Rahm.
But I understood their concern—I think I may have ripped Rahm even more than Daley. Though it’s close.
And then, as if the TV gods were looking down on me, ABC hired Rahm as a contributor. And there he was last week, offering pre- and postdebate advice on what Democrats must do to defeat Donald Trump.
And just like that—man, I’m back in the Rahm-ripping business!
OK, let me make one thing perfectly clear, to quote Richard Nixon . . .
I do not in any way begrudge Rahm for getting that gig or ABC for offering it to him. With his nervous, giggly edginess, he is kind of entertaining.
My greater concern has to do with my beloved Democratic Party. Please, Dems, please—whatever you do, don’t take Rahm’s advice.
As much as possible, go in the opposite direction of the way he recommends. Unless, of course, you want to help Trump win reelection.
As exhibit A for why I say this, consider the following exchange between Mayor Rahm and Yvette Simpson in ABC’s predebate show from last Thursday.
Simpson is the chief executive of Democracy for America, a progressive PAC created by former Vermont governor Howard Dean.
On a tangent—Dean and Rahm are old adversaries. Dean may dislike Mayor Rahm even more than most Chicagoans—as hard as that is to imagine.
Anyway, in the predebate show, Simpson was making the perfectly sensible argument that the key to Democratic victory in 2020 is to energize and bring out the base.
Here’s how she put it: “I think progressives are really where the energy is right now. And I think if, if you can expand the electorate, which is what I saw in ’08, bringing out new voters, particularly Brown and Black voters, young voters. Energize the base, where you don’t have to change your message much, right? Just go ahead and get those voters excited—we can win.”
Simpson hadn’t even finished her comments when Rahm started shaking his head. Here’s his rebuttal: “First of all, Donald Trump’s gonna do a great job turning out our vote. And in ’08 as well as ’92, ’96 and in ’12, [we won] because both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama brought other people—not just people in the party—other people to the party.”
In other words, if you fire up the base it’s bad. ‘Cause you’ll automatically turn off moderate or independents. So shut up, base, and get in line!
Give Rahm credit for consistency. He’s been at war with the Democratic left-of-center base since his days as a Clinton White House aide in the 90s.
It would take Dr. Freud to figure out exactly why he hates the base so much. But his general attitude toward lefties is that they have no choice but to vote Democrat, so fuck ’em.
And then once in office, his attitude is fuck ’em some more. You know, just ’cause you can.
If Donald Trump had a similar attitude toward his Republican base, he’d be telling Alabamians: “Kiss my ass, you redneck mother[bleeps] . . . ”
It should be possible for Democrats to offer progressive proposals that fire up the base and bring over some moderates. You shouldn’t have to sell your political soul to convince suburban swing voters that the current occupant of the White House is a freaking lunatic.
Now that I think about it, I can understand why Rahm’s not big on whipping up the Democratic base. In his own career, he counted on them staying at home.
Think about it: He won in 2011 and was reelected in 2015 largely because turnout was low.
If the base that Simpson talks about—younger voters, Blacks, Hispanics, progressives—had turned out strong in Chicago, there would be no Mayor Rahm. And he wouldn’t have been able to get away with such mayoral misdeeds as, to pick two . . .
OK, that’s three misdeeds—four, if you count Lincoln Yards and the 78 as separate misdeeds. And I didn’t even mention closing mental health clinics and then spying on protesters.
Now I’m up to five or six misdeeds. Better stop now before I get into the schools.
The point is, Dems like Rahm want a turnout, but not too much of a turnout.
It’s the strategy Rahm followed in his two mayoral elections. He ran strongest in Lincoln Park and other upscale north-side enclaves that are like suburban swing districts in that they’re filled with relatively well-to-do social liberals who don’t really care about pocketbook issues. ‘Cause they don’t have to. And he used his ties to Barack Obama to bring out enough Black voters to win.
Sounds like Joe Biden’s strategy. Which sounds like Hillary Clinton’s strategy—and we all know how well that turned out. Don’t we, President Trump?
When Rahm says, “Donald Trump’s gonna do a great job turning out our vote,” he’s forgetting voters have a third choice besides voting Democratic or Republican. They can choose not to vote at all. As roughly 65 percent of Chicagoans did in the last few mayoral elections.
A low turnout may work wonders for Mayor Rahm. But it will be bad news for any Democrat running against Trump. v