Monday, June 8, 2009

Another Myth?

"All smart analyses of the Obama administration begin with Chicago...The Chicago mentality is the one thing they take with them wherever they are...That means they start with an awareness of diversity. The nation and the world are a bunch of jostling wards that have to be knit together...Chicagoans like to see themselves as pragmatists, not ideologues."

David Brooks, "The Chicago View," The New York Times, June 5, 2009.

This op-ed is about Obama in the Middle East, his speech and approach to refashioning the U.S.role. Brooks has enough real Chicago experience that he should know better than pander the fantasy about Chicago as "jostling wards" and neighborhoods in search of the pragmatic deal. Does Brooks remember Chicago being called "Beirut on the Lake" in the early 1980s when Harold Washington became Chicago's first African American mayor? And the jostling was mean-spirited to the stockyard bone: Remember St. Pascals and the racial hatred that greeted Congressman Washington and his electoral entourage on Palm Sunday, 1983. In a broader sense, Chicago neighborhoods are rife with the history exploitation by somebody in search of a buck, like in Beryl Satter's Family Properties.

Obama put together a unique coalition in Chicago and then nationally that bridged wards, interests, motivations, histories, and inclinations. He may have learned how to do that in Chicago -- but let's not kid ourselves that this is the DNA of Chicago politics. Having a king and a dynasty is more like a Chicago way.

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