It’s official: Rahm Emanuel will be the next mayor of Chicago. The former White House Chief of Staff won 55% of the vote on Tuesday, decidedly beating out the other names on the ballot. And while the results have not been a shocker, the decisiveness of Rahm’s win is not just a statement for Chi-town but politicians across the country.
Though there was talk of a potential runoff, Rahm pulled ahead by thoroughly winning over neighborhoods analysts thought would be hard for him to compete in. Even with strong Latino voter turnout, Gery Chico, a former chief of staff to Mayor Daley, came in second with less than half the number of votes won by Rahm. In fact, of Chicago’s wards, Rahm won majority vote in forty of the fifty throughout the city.
Last night’s results not only show the end of the Daley-era in Chicago politics but also the failure of the city’s African-American leadership to consolidate their demographic behind one candidate. Carol Moseley Braun, the first African-American woman to ever win election to the U.S. Senate came in last place despite her longstanding record in Chicago politics. Braun who had gained the endorsement of Cornel West, never was able to be competitive in this race, due to the overwhelming magnitude of Rahm’s campaign.
From the outset Rahm was the candidate to beat. It seemed Rahm had been aiming for the Chicago mayoral seat during all twenty-two years of Daley’s time in office and launched a blitz of a campaign no one could out do. Speaking to USA Today Gery Chico’s top aides, Ken Snyder said:
“Running against Rahm felt like waking up every morning and running face-first into a gale-force hurricane. He had $13 million. He had two beloved presidents (Clinton and Obama). He had Hollywood stars. He had the tacit support of (retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley), plus a hell of a resume.”
Rahm’s victory is not only a defeat for Braun, but for all politicians who depend on blacks to be dependable consensus voters. Though Braun claimed Rahm was hiding behind President Obama’s influence, she and other black leaders appeared shaken by the crumbling of their own.
Rahm managed to split Chicago’s black and latino vote despite the popular rhetoric that voters in local politics align by demographic. And while few would be able to re-create Rahm’s tour-de-force of a campaign, it’s a lesson that political leaders of color around the country could do well to keep in mind.
What’s your take on Rahm’s win- a force of nature or a change in the wind?