The Chicago Way

When Barack (HUSSEIN!) Obama was running for president, a number of naysayers complained that he was part of the Chicago Machine, the enormous gears of power churning within the City of Big Shoulders.

I always marveled at that assessment, because from what I could see, Mr. Obama was an outsider to Chicago politics, an unconnected nube in the University of Chicago intellectual circles who wasn’t an alderman, wasn’t a councilman, wasn’t a city attorney or even a distant relative to the Daley family. I’d lived in the reign of Richard Daley, Michael Bilandic, THE FIRST WOMAN MAYOR (who my parents hated) Jane Byrne, Harold Washington, then eventually another Richard Daley (My parents called him Richie).

Although we were suburbanites, our news came from the Chicago stations, and my mother was a native South Sider, so watching Chicago politics was a family tradition. As much as following Da Bears and the Bulls and the Cubs, we watched politics closely. You could count on three subjects being discussed at dinner; sports, religion, and politics.

I found out as an adult how corrupt politics was in the state of Illinois, the full breadth of infestation of graft and greed among the elected officials. When I saw how entrenched it was at the state level, I was working at a state university, and discussions of trials of our elected officials were mundane. Regular. Part of the every day.

Obama, however, was an outsider from Kansas, a professor, not a teamster or the owner of a trucking company or some kind of businessman who got in on the action. He seemed unconnected. I watched cautiously to see threads connecting him to traditional Chicago corruption, and I never saw anything.

When Rod Blagojevich went to prison for trying to sell off Obama’s senate seat to the highest bidder, he was just the latest Illinois governor in a string of corrupt fellas who got caught at the game Chicago had mastered. Do a Google search with the words “Illinois Governors” and the first thing that pops up is “Illinois governors in prison”.

Government officials being corrupt, being caught being corrupt, and going for jail for being corrupt, while not a proud Illinois tradition, is certainly something to which Illinois natives are accustomed. We’d (they’d, since I’m now an Oregonian) like that tradition to end, and would like some common sense to take over the beleaguered state, but we have no shock at elected officials being greedy bastards who cheat the people out of true representation.

Again, while some questionable characters (Penny Pritzker? come on, man. Was she really qualified to be Secretary of Commerce? really? Or was she just a super-wealthy donor?) showed up in Mr. Obama’s administration, his time in office was scandal-free, clean as a whistle. And it had to be that way, for the first black president in this harrowingly racist country; black people historically have to be twice as good at everything to get half as far as white people.

But here we are as a country facing our most daunting task to date; what to do about the disgusting bag of sewage running the country right now. The current presidential administration has more corruption per capita than the Philippines under Marcos, the kleptocrat who set a high bar for our Cheeto in Chief to meet. I hear a lot of hand-wringing about how we should proceed, now that we are getting daily doses of indictments and sentencing to digest with our dinners. The bombshells keep going off on the west coast right about 6 p.m., and we are riveted to the news of the shitgibbon’s unraveling schemes every damned weeknight, and often twice on Fridays.

But what will we DO? They ask. We can’t INDICT him! We can’t IMPEACH him! However will we manage? So many people are claiming that impeaching or indicting him would cause too much division in the country, and we’d be rudderless in an unstable sea.

Good grief, we don’t exactly have a rudder NOW. And this asshole’s throwing chum in shark-infested waters because he’s entertained by all the sharp teeth.

Maybe this is naive. I know I’m naive about a lot of things. But listen; Illinois has been dealing with this shit for several decades. By the looks of it, Rahm Emmanuel has brought corruption back to Chicago in a big way, albeit in a better-looking package than either of the Richard Daleys. But we could learn a thing or two about carrying on after a sitting elected official is indicted and sent to prison by looking to Illinois. Did they crumble? Did they start an internecine war? Have they ceased to function altogether?

No, man. They sent that shitbag to prison, dusted off their hands and said “next!”

I believe it’s possible to get rid of the philistine in the Oval before his term is up and deal with the political fall out as a country. All legal arguments about his removal aside, and they are plenty, I think we should leverage the decades of knowledge developed by Illinoisans in handling post-indictment and imprisonment governance. Let’s give Michael Madigan a call–he’s probably the most corrupt of all Illinois politicians, but he might have some tips on how to right the ship after some greedy peckerwood takes it out for a joyride.

I have confidence that we can get through this. No more pussyfooting around, let’s get this done. Take a cue from Chicago, the City that Works, and decide we’re going to make it happen. We just need to put our shoulders to the wheel together and push, and get up tomorrow and do it all again.

Sean Connery and Kevin Costner in "The Untouchables"

one of my mom’s favorite movies because it showed “her” Chicago. For you pedants, yes, I know the quote is “he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. That’s the Chicago way.” I’m using it slightly differently. Poetic license.

 

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