I’m usually content to allow abstention to be my protest vote, but in the latest round of municipal elections here in Chicago, I have been sufficiently motivated to cast my protest vote (via absentee ballot, meaning it won’t even be counted until after all the shouting is done). So what motivates me to break my voting silence? Simply put, the mayor (small m, always small).
Chicago’s Feb. 24, 2015, municipal election might as well be called the 2015 Mayoral Re-Election considering what’s at stake and how the outcome is mostly a forgone conclusion thanks to modern polling practices. Besides re-electing the mayor, three other officials are running unopposed (varies by precinct/ward) and there are four
pointless nonbinding referenda. Pretty slim ballot. We already know that four challengers to the incumbent mayor will mostly likely share the minority vote and thus be unable to force a runoff necessary to focus on just two candidates (or one viable challenger). My interest in removing Rahm Emanuel from office (an intent echoed plainly by his challengers) stems mainly from reporting in The Chicago Reader by Ben Joravsky. I trust Joravsky’s view of local issues, published in an independent newspaper, far more than anything that might appear in the city’s two leading rags (The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times — no links), both of which I ignore. The lesser influence is Kari Lydersen’s book Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99%. I admit I haven’t read the book (I refuse to wade into that sewer) but I have read reviews, which are a nearly unanimous chorus of disgust at “Rotten Rahm.”
All this brings me back yet again to wondering why public office is a desirable destination. Half of the political rhetoric is about “taking back” (for the people), acknowledging that government at all levels has been hijacked, while the other half is “giving back” (to the people), a presumed bourgeois (Kennedyesque) devotion to public service shared only by those who are decidedly not bourgeois (read: rich, powerful, and insulated from the masses). It’s largely incumbents on one side, challengers on the other, but that’s not wholly true, as Illinois’ newly elected and installed governor (small g, always small) was a challenger. I find it difficult to judge motivations; results are more transparent. The nastiness of the results, judged individually and over time (since the early 1980s is a typical jumping off point when political economics are discussed), demonstrate that it’s been a radically uneven system of rewards and punishments. The underclass and minorities (large overlap there) are by turns abandoned to their fates and punished for their lack of success, the middle class continues to be squeezed out of existence by policies and practices that proceed with the inexorable power of demographics, and the rich get the spoils. It’s unclear whether any challenger to Chicago’s current mayor will act for or against the people, just as next years’ presidential (small p, always small) election will likely shape up as battle of political intents and promises, but I’m all for moving on from those whose results clearly demonstrate a different battle being waged and won.
Update: Well, color me surprised! The incumbent mayor (small m, always small) failed to achieve a majority, so there will be a runoff election in April against top challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. I couldn’t be more pleased. Even the media is reporting on Rahm Emanuel’s flailing attempts to polish the turd that is his administration. I guess a $16 million campaign war chest and rebranding effort proved insufficient to overcome all the bad faith he has earned over the past four years.