Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Chicago Tuesdays: The Viability Issue

Miguel del Valle has just won the coveted Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO)* endorsement, as well as the endorsement from the Northside chapter of the newer (and national) Democracy for America (DFA).

According to del Valle's campaign website, IVI-IPO State Chair Alonso Zaragoza had this to say at the press conference:
“Miguel del Valle is the only progressive candidate in the field. With del Valle, Chicago voters finally have the opportunity to take back our city government from the special interests who have long had it under their thumb.”
The DFA wasn't so confident - which may have more to do with perceptions of winnability than actual credentials. According to Gaper's Block:

The DFA was not so absolutist, with a number of speakers in discussion acknowledging, in particular, Mosely Braun's progressive voting record. and at least one saying he supported Emanuel. While not one person at the DFA session spoke in favor of Chico (and one speaker said the former schools chief was "full of [it]" for saying he'd never gotten paid for public service), Emanuel came in for the harshest words, with one group leader referring to Emanuel as "Voldemort" and another simply referring to "he who shall not be named" (tho neither said why). By contrast, multiple speakers lauded Del Valle as a proven administrator and the candidate with
the least ethical or other baggage, "squeaky clean." Acknowledging Del Valle's apparent position as trailing in polls and money, supporters urged their colleagues to avoid the circularity of "viability" arguments and to instead take a stand that would communicate to a larger audience why Del Valle should be mayor. This argument was persuasive, with nearly 90% voting to endorse.
In the end, they went with the underdog. The man who, about a month ago, polled at about 3%.

But this brings us into the bigger (and national) issue about "viability" (why am I using quotes here? I don't know...). Politics in the US has a serious price, but it's treated as a game, and it's a sick and sad game.

We often proclaim that the campaign trail is like an interview process - a way for us to get to know our prospective clients well enough to judge who would be best at their prospective jobs. But it isn't. Because with the interview process, often the cream rises to the top. An employer may look at the stack of resumes on her desk and whittle (with any measure of qualifications) it down to 50%-10% of what it was, but after that, it's not generally the wealthier or more-well-known candidates who get the most face-time.

So the most "viable" candidates are then the people who do not mind returning favors for big money gifts. Since these people have money, they are seen as more likely to win. Therein, they receive more money, more press, and more accolades, further disappearing the best candidates.

Some of the best political candidates in recent years are the best option partly because they refuse to take corporate gifts and are thus not beholden to any other special interests than the people they serve.** But because they do not have those funds, they are not able to compete with the well-entrenched powers that do (and usually without reservation). This is so wrong
because access to City Hall is then given primarily to those who give the most for the candidate's coffers, are intimately connected to family, or have done business with the candidate. Another leading mayoral candidate, Gerry Chico, received millions - personally - from his law firm representing potential city clients before the city. Although he would officially sever ties with the lawyer and lobbying firm, that's a bit like Dick Cheney severing ties with Haliburton to become the vice president.

Stolen from Wired mag for a very different story.

Rahm Emanuel is a prime example of such powers. A millionaire himself who made his living in the bank industry and used considerable clout to clear the way for big business interests while a legislator and at the White House, Rahm would take (tight) control over Chicago at a time when big business interests should specifically NOT be given first ear.

In fact, the apparent trading going on between him vying for Richard Daley's mayoral throne while brother Bill Daley is primed to swap in as the new Chief of Staff only further solidifies the connection between the old Chicago Democratic Machine and the direction that the Machine is going and growing. If the old CDM was kept in place by droves and droves of patronage jobs, the CDM 2.0 is ordered by lots and lots of advertisements. City contracts to privileged few (at a major loss to tax payers) is the common thread (to mix metaphors).

* Wikipedia: Historically IVI-IPO was at odds with the Chicago Democratic Machine. During the 1980s "Council Wars," IVI-IPO sided with Mayor Harold Washington. Its adopted positions are generally liberal, and in recent years the organization, more often than not, endorses Democrats. It also endorses in primary races.

** A great example would be friend and Green Party candidate for IL Representative here in Humboldt Park, Jeremy Karpen. But... since he was running against Joe Berrios' daughter and Joe is the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party (a role that Daley I used to hold while mayor). The Berrios's get campaign funding from firms that represent clients that come before Joe in his role as Cook County Assessor, of course.

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