Emanuel in stage one of political downfall
by RUSS STEWART
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s political career is imploding with meteoric rapidity. The consensus among Chicago Democratic politicians is that he’ll be gone by the end of 2016.
I’d say the line is 2-1 that Emanuel will be gone by July 1, 10-1 that he will be the ex-mayor by Oct. 1, and 100-1 that he will not complete his current term, which will end in April of 2019. Those are better money-making odds than plunking down cash on the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 pennant-winning chances.
There are four stages of political downfall, (1) Rodney Dangerfield, (2) Watergate, (3) Richard Nixon and (4) King Lear.
Emanuel is at the Rodney Dangerfield stage. He gets no respect. The members of the City Council, subservient under Emanuel’s iron fist in the pre-Laquan McDonald era, sense a power vacuum. The council is factionalizing along racial, ideological, geographic and chronological lines, but the common core is this that no alderman facing re-election in 2019 wants to be tainted as pro-Emanuel or in any way supportive of him.
Routine matters, such as gaining council approval of $2.35 billion in bonding authority, have unmasked the mayor’s political impotence. On Jan. 13 the council 40-4 voted to slash $1.25 in general obligation bonds to $650 million. When the 2016 budget was approved, the vote was 34-16; that means that 24 more aldermen are no longer mayoral flunkies. The narrative for 2019 is quickly developing: "Blame it on Rahm." Like the buffoonish prison sergeant in the old "Hogan’s Heroes" TV show, "I know nothing" will be their mantra.
The aldermen, all alpha males and females, are predators, quick to sniff weakness. One of them will be the next mayor, and they know it. Either Brendan Reilly (42nd) or Pat O’Connor (40th) will be the acting mayor.
Emanuel’s current firewall consists of two people, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The mayor worked in the Clinton and Obama White House, he is tapped into the same donor base, and he is part of their social circle. Emanuel learned from the master, Bill Clinton, the arts of dissembling, stonewalling and prevaricating. Yet, in the firestorm of Chicago’s alleged police misconduct, Obama and Clinton are mum. Nary a negative word about good old Rahm.
If Chicago had a Republican mayor, every Democrat in America would be apoplectic with outrage, indignant and righteous with demands for resignation and, perhaps, even indictment. Such is the hypocrisy of the liberals. Emanuel gets a pass — so far. He’s on our side, they rationalize. Yet there are cracks in the proverbial dam. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist who is making serious strides against Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, weighed in against the Chicago police, and Salon, a left-wing online magazine, has been ripping Emanuel as a Clinton-style political opportunist. The magazine portrays him as an "enabler," meaning a politician so desperate to stay in office and aggrandize power and so needy of white votes that he ignores the city’s "police culture" and colludes to conceal any abuses.
With Clinton having to move leftward to counteract Sanders and the "Black Lives Matter" movement seizing on fatal police shootings in Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore and Chicago, there will come a time when Clinton will throw Emanuel under the bus in order to win the black vote.
Next is the Watergate stage, when the cover-up collapses. That commences when all the relevant negative revelations about police shootings and black fatalities over the past 4 years have surfaced and the inevitable spate of lawsuits begin. Expect that by mid-2016. Federal court will be the venue for civil rights violations, and state court will be the venue for wrongful death actions, with monetary damages. Subpoenas will be issued, depositions will begin, and the mayor will be a party-defendant. Chicago taxpayers will be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in settlements, although the McDonald case was settled for only $5 million. Some pundit will surely dub it "Rahmgate."
In that stage the narrative focuses on the cover-up. As Howard Baker famously asked during the Watergate Committee hearings: "What did the president know and when did he know it?" Those are questions that Emanuel does not want asked or answered.
The priority of "damage control" is suddenly exploded by document production. The media go into a frenzy, filing Freedom of Information Act requests for internal city memoranda, e-mails and telephone records, police videos and audios, and incident and medical reports. Already the evidence is clear that the mayor and his staff delayed McDonald case disclosures until after his 2015 re-election, including the pre-election settlement, which was rammed through an ill-informed City Council. A half-decade of litigation will now ensue, paralyzing Emanuel, his administration and the Police Department. The names of the late McDonald, Quintonio LeGrier, Bettie Jones and Cedrick Chatman will be immortalized, rising to the level of martyrs in the black community.
No smart deputy superintendent will consider applying for police superintendent, as he or she would be tainted by association with Emanuel and would spend the rest of Emanuel’s term as a go-fer for federal investigators, the Independent Police Review Board, lawyers and the media, forever producing documents, coordinating "sensitivity" training and crafting excuses. The next top cop will need to be a whiz at public relations, not law enforcement. Emanuel will have to pick a non-Chicagoan, probably a black woman, for the job.
In the interim, violent crime will be rising and police morale will plummet. The murder rate is up in 2015 over 2014. "Cops are just going to sit in their cars," one officer said. "They’re not going to risk their job to catch a perp." Welcome to Dodge City, Illinois. Gang members will be even more brazen, and drive-bys will be even more numerous.
The last is the Richard Nixon stage, by the end of 2016, when Emanuel will be a toxic political pariah. That will coincide with the 2016 presidential election. By that time, any remotely intelligent Chicago politician (which may or may not include most Chicago aldermen) will have abandoned the mayor and the city and the council will be in paralysis, as it was for Nixon during 1974. The late-2016 focus of every politician will be on who’s going to be the next mayor, not on electing Clinton president or Tammy Duckworth senator. The pressure on Emanuel to resign by the end of August will be excruciating, and so will be the pressure on the City Council to choose a black acting mayor.
Presidential politics will dictate Chicago politics. Under the bus Rahm will go. Clinton will need 90 percent of the black vote, being for Emanuel will be equated with being anti-black, and there will be no "golden parachute." Emanuel will no longer be able to bail out and get a cabinet post in a prospective Hillary Clinton Administration. He is toxic. He will either have to quit and go into oblivion or stay to the end. Chicago has no legal mechanism to remove a mayor.
The fall of Emanuel was evident in the Jan.15 meeting of Democratic committeemen to rectify their non-slating of Kim Foxx for state’s attorney, Toni Preckwinkle’s former top aide, against incumbent Anita Alvarez. Alvarez’s political downfall has progressed beyond the Dangerfield and Watergate stages and is now at the Nixon stage. First, she was criticized for her focus on "black and brown" crime, especially her high-bail and no-plea bargain policies.
Then Alvarez was rapped for playing politics and not zealously prosecuting the rogue relatives of connected politicians or rogue cops. Rich Daley’s nephew and Jon Burge come to mind. Her lassitude in pursuing the McDonald case, which originated in April of 2014, is a gargantuan political liability. Alvarez is joined at the hip with Emanuel. Her reputation is in tatters, and the ward and township committeemen needed separation. Slating Foxx pacifies the black community, which is now alienated from Emanuel, and gives Preckwinkle the leverage to bludgeon white and Hispanic committeemen. Such powerhouses as Ed Burke, John Daley, Mike Madigan and Joe Berrios have been behind Alvarez, as was their option in an "open" primary, with no slated candidate. Now they must make a weighty choice: back the party or buck the party?
If they buck the party, there will be consequences. Burke wants to install his son, Ed Burke Jr., as sheriff in 2018, and Madigan wants to install his daughter, Lisa Madigan, as governor in 2018. Are they going to risk those plans by backing Alvarez? She goes under the bus.
Finally, there is the King Lear stage, named after Shakespeare’s 1606 play in which the Celtic king descends into madness and denial. It was rumored that during the summer of 1974, Nixon walked around the White House talking to portraits of former presidents and pondered a military coup. By 2017, if Emanuel is still mayor, he’ll be in that stage.
My "Rahm-B-Gone" prediction: October of 2016.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.