2007/03/26

Obama and the Chicago machine

For some time now Barack Obama has been getting close to Daley's political machine. His latest favor to the machine was to endorse Dorothy Tillman in the runoff election for the 3rd ward. The ward includes much of Bronzeville, the historic black district of Chicago, parts of which are gentrifying while other parts languish in economic depression.

Tillman started out as a civil rights organizer in the '60s and was elected alderman in 1985. Since then she has spoken out strongly for slavery reparations while integrating herself ever more tightly with the Daley machine and indulging in corruption. Most recently, hers was one of the key votes that sank the big box ordinance, a bill that would have forced large chain stores in Chicago to pay their workers a living wage. As a result, labor unions have worked hard to defeat her, and may do so - no thanks to Obama, who issued his endorsement as he left a labor rally.

This comes on the heels of Obama's endorsement of Daley in the mayoral election. Before that he backed Todd Stroger for president of the Cook County Board. Stroger succeeded his father in the position, and won the primary as the machine candidate against a reformer. He has thus far distinguished himself by cutting county health services for poor people.

Why has Obama tied himself so closely to the corrupt and conservative Daley establishment? The machine's election workers will help avoid the possibility of an embarassment in the Illinois primary. Keeping in Daley's good graces also provides access to all the big political donors in Chicago - mainly large corporations, developers, and financial interests. And since the city's progressive opposition is pathetically disorganized, Obama will not pay a political price for throwing his weight behind the machine.

The real question is why would Obama not support the machine? Unless, of course, he were serious about transcending the game of power, access, and privilege that is politics.

2 comments:

Patrick said...

I keep sharing your posts with my officemates, and one of them responded defensively: "Why do you always have to be so negative about Obama?"

Sigh.

Jake said...

if obama ever gives me a reason to be positive about him, i'll be happy to blog about it.

but i do feel kind of bad writing so much about the presidential election. you can bet i would be completely apathetic if it weren't for the edwards candidacy throwing me off my game. but because we have a viable candidate offering solid progressive policies on domestic issues, the support that many progressives are giving to obama's very centrist campaign is something that has to be questioned.

and if obama should end up as president, progressives need to really understand what kind of policies he's going to pursue. otherwise they'll be anaesthetized into inaction when he sends weapons to dictators or coddles the insurance industry or fails to take meaningful action on global warming.