A number of things jump out at you from the map.
First off, the land beyond Chicago is blank. In my experience, Chicago politicians are uniquely uninterested in the rest of the world beyond the 50 wards. What happens in Da City is all that matters. Mayor Richard J. Daley was surprised when, in 1957, the 27-year-old Dan Rostenkowski asked him for support for the nomination (i.e. asked him for the nomination) in the 8th Congressional District.
Why would you go to Washington when you could stay in the city and accumulate real power? the mayor asked. But young Dan had a vision of staying in the House for many years, accumulating seniority and becoming a committee chairman. It was a vision that came true, and Rostenkowski served as Ways and Means chairman from 1981 to 1995 and, in my judgment at least, served quite capably. But in 1957 the issue was decided this way: Joe Rostenkowski, Dan Rostenkowski's father, was the Democratic committeeman for the 32nd ward. He had supported Daley in the 1955 primary for mayor against Benjamin Adamowski--a Pole supporting Daley (who was not yet mayor) against a Pole, and with adverse consequences: Joe Rostenkowski lost his seat on the Board of Aldermen. Daley owed the family. He delivered. And the nation got, through the adept leadership of Dan Rostenkowski among others, the tax reform act of 1986. The first Mayor Daley would probably have been astonished (he died in 1976), but then he might not have cared much. The Ways and Means Committee was out of town.
Second, the boundaries of the 50 wards are very erose. Only a few (6, 8, and 17 in the black South Side, 47 and 40 on the ethnic North Side) have more or less regular boundaries. Why are most of them so erose? Because politicians have much invested in controlling a ward--and control in Chicago usually hinges less on being alderman from the ward (though that matters quite a lot) than on being Democratic ward committeeman.
So the districts are drawn, I presume, to preserve the power of the aldermen and especially the ward committeemen.
Lines are drawn so that black neighborhoods and even city blocks are excluded from the wards of white aldermen and ward committeemen. And the other way around too: Black politicians have plenty of bargaining power. So wards are handed down in families, with consequences in the blank land beyond the city limits of Chicago. The Hartigans were long the ward committeemen in Ward 49, on the lakefront at the northern edge of the city (never mind that the Hartigans are Irish, and this was long a Jewish ward). Neil Hartigan, who followed his father as ward committeeman, was lieutenant governor and attorney general and the Democratic nominee for governor in 1990. Michael Madigan is the committeeman in the 13th Ward. He has also been the Cook County Democratic chairman and the speaker of the Illinois House. His daughter, Lisa, is Illinois's attorney general. Edward Burke is, like his father was before him, the committeeman of the 14th Ward. He has been a leader in the Board of Aldermen for more than 20 years and his wife is a judge. He is a highly literate man, and the last time I saw him he was taking Spanish lessons (I presume that by now he i fluent) in deference to many of the new residents of the ward. Dick Mell was long (and so far as I know still is) committeeman from the 33rd Ward. His son-in-law, Rod Blagojevich, was elected congressman (from Rostenkowski's old district) in 1996 and since 2003 has been governor of Illinois. To preserve these power bases, I presume there are detailed negotiations when it comes time for redistricting, which keep everyone in power who should be and ruthlessly expel from power those who shouldn't be. I would love to be present at such meetings--or even better, to be delegated the task of drawing the lines.
Look at the map now and you can make out the different communities and their responses to the current Mayor Daley. He has won great support from affluent whites; he has kept the city humming with business and, as a kind of secret aesthete, has populated the city with trees, iron fences, and other forms of civic beauty that make living there a pleasure. He has cultivated the city's Hispanics--more Puerto Ricans on the North Side and Mexicans on the South Side, as I understand it--and made common cause with them. He has cultivated the gay community. In the 1990s I asked his brother, Bill Daley, what their father would have thought of Richie marching in the Gay Rights Parade. Bill said, as nearly as I can remember his words, "My father always told us that when a group was big enough to dominate a ward, you should pay attention to them." The white ethnics have always been with the current Mayor Daley: He is one of their tribe. And he has also cultivated black politicians, filling vacant aldermanic seats with political allies while accommodating those who supported Harold Washington, who beat him for mayor in the 1983 primary, in various ways.
What do you see on the electoral map? The one ward where Daley won less than 50 percent (though he still carried it against divided opposition) was Ward 6, on the black South Side. In other black South Side wards (3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 34) he won between 51 and 59 percent of the votes--not overwhelming, but entirely adequate. The voters here clearly don't see Daley as the enemy of black people. Far off in the southeast corner is Ward 10, still white ethnic, the base of Eddie Vrdolyak, the alderman who was the chief enemy of Harold Washington in the council wars of 1983-89: it voted 84 percent for Daley. Also at the fringes of the city you have Ward 19, home of the affluent and still mostly white Morgan Park neighborhood, the site of the South Side St. Patrick's Day parade (Chicago has two St. Patrick's Day parades, and the chief enemy of the South Side parade is the North Side Irish): 79 percent for Daley.
Then there are the neighborhoods, historically entirely ethnic (mostly Irish), now intersprinkled with Hispanics, mostly on the south side of the Chicago River (wards 11, 12, 13, 14, 22, 23), the country where 100 years ago Finley Peter Dunne's Irishmen commented on the politics of the day in an Archery Avenue (Archer Avenue) tavern: 82 to 93 percent for Daley. (The ward committeeman in Ward 11 for many years was Richard J. Daley; the current ward committeeman is Richard M. Daley's brother, John Daley.) Take a plane to Midway Airport, rent a car, and you'll find yourself driving through these neighborhoods. This is the home area of former Rep. Bill Lipinski, who withdrew from the congressional race in August 2004, having been renominated in the March primary. The ward committeemen who, under Democratic Party rule, chose the new nominee included John Daley, Edward Burke, and Michael Madigan. They nominated, without opposition, Daniel Lipinski, the incumbent's son, who at the time of his nomination was a professor of political science at the University of Tennessee--Knoxville. He is serving his second term in the House.
The black West Side wards (24, 37, 28), like those on the South Side, delivered small majorities for Daley; this is a community tht seems to be decreasing in size, as black people leave burned out neighborhoods and Hispanics move in. West Side wards with lots of Hispanics (1, 26, 27, 35) delivered 64 to 77 percent for Daley (though I may be underinformed about the current ethnic composition here: I may amend this the next time I drive in from O'Hare on surface streets). Wards 32 and 33, configured over the years for the Rostenkowski and Mell families, and covering areas both recently Hispanicized and gentrified, were 81 and 84 percent for Daley. The interior northwest wards (30, 31, 36, 39, 40, 41, 45, 47, 50), still heavily white ethnic (Polish), were 80 to 87 percent for Daley. Interestingly, the lakefront wards (42, 43, 44, 46, 48, 49), much more white collar, culturally much more liberal, displayed similar support for Daley, 78 to 86 percent, with the single exception of Ward 49, at the northernmost point in Chicago, before you reach the blank land beyond. It was only 68 percent for Daley, and I am a little puzzled by this. This was the Hartigan ward, with historically a large Jewish population; it is just south of Evanston, which was once heavily Republican (and headquarters of the Women's Christian Temperance Union) but is now heavily left-wing Democratic (it's a university town: Northwestern). I have the sense there's a growing black community there, but I would appreciate being enlightened by those who know Chicago's day-to-day demographics better than I do.
But let's take this beyond Chicago. Illinois is now one of the most Democratic states in the country; indeed, if you look at the 2008 state-by-state pairings of SurveyUSA, a more reliably Democratic state than New York. But it was not always thus. Illinois voted for Charles Evans Hughes against Woodrow Wilson in 1916, for Gerald Ford against Jimmy Carter in 1976, for Richard Nixon against Hubert Humphrey in 1968, and (some Republicans would argue) against John Kennedy in 1960. Illinois voted a little more Republican than the nation for most of the 20th century; now in the 21st it is voting considerably more Democratic.
My theory is this. The most visible public figure in Illinois politics is not the governor of Illinois, certainly not the U.S. senators from Illinois (they are off in irrelevant Washington), but the mayor of Chicago. From 1955 to 1976 the mayor of Chicago was Richard J. Daley, a machine Democratic politician who was popular (most of the time) in the city, but anathema in the suburbs and in the northern parts, at least, of Downstate Illinois. The Chicago suburbs, in Cook County and the collar counties, were unusually Republican in this period: They voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964 when the suburbs of New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, and lots of other major northern cities voted for Lyndon Johnson. They voted lopsidedly, in the last year of the first Mayor Daley's life, for Gerald Ford and for former prosecutor James Thompson for governor of Illinois.
When, after the detritus of the first Mayor Daley's successors (Michael Bilandic, Jane Byrne), Harold Washington emerged as the leading figure in Illinois politics, and the white ethnics led by Eddie Vrdolyak and Edward Burke fought him in the council wars, the suburbs and at least the northern part of Downstate, were even more heavily Republican. Thompson was re-elected in 1978, 1982, and 1990; Republican Jim Edgar was elected to follow him in 1990 over Neil Hartigan (two bland white candidates, one of whom had Chicago politics weighing him down).
Things became different after Richard M. Daley was elected to a two-year term in 1989 after the death of Harold Washington. The new Mayor Daley was as popular in the suburbs as in the city--perhaps even more so. He became the face of the Democratic party in Illinois. Even though Republicans, in the Republican year of 1994, were able to re-elect Edgar and get majorities in the legislature, they have fared disastrously otherwise. The Daleys gae great encouragement and tacit support to Bill Clinton in the 1992 primaries, and were amply rewarded: Bill Daley became NAFTA honcho and then secretary of commerce; Richie Daley advanced his plans to expand O'Hare Airport. His father built O'Hare to its present dimensions; he seeks to expand it much more. They both recognized that Chicago established its great eminence in 1850-1950 as the railroad hub of the nation and have consistently sought to make it in 1950--2050 the great airport hub of the nation.
Given New York's dysfunctional airports, long misadministered by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the distance of city-mismanaged LAX from the rest of the country, they have had as their major competition only Atlanta and maybe Dallas--Fort Worth; and O'Hare--named after a machine-related World War II fighter pilot who was a genuine hero--is I think the only worldwide equal of Heathrow. Daley's in with the Clinton administration helped, as did his in with Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is from the collar counties and was so much a political ally of Daley's that when it came time to redistrict Illinois in 2001, the Democrats in the legislature, led by Michael Madigan and surely not out of consultation with Daley, sacrificed a Downstate incumbent and left the Republicans the majority of the Illinois delegation.
Asked if the sacrificed Democrat would like the plan, Madigan, in the monosyllabic don't-back-no-losers language of Illinois politics, replied, "No." Hastert is no longer speaker, but the No. 4 Democrat in the House leadership is Rahm Emanuel, who was elected in 2002 to Dan Rostenkowski's old House seat even though he is not a son-in-law of a ward committeeman but was a high and aggressive Clinton White House aide. And the No. 2 runner in Democratic presidential polls is Barack Obama, Illinois's junior senator thanks to the implosion of his Democratic primary opponents and the Republican nominated to oppose him. Obama is from Ward 5, which includes the University of Chicago, traditionally represented in the Board of Aldermen by reformers like Leon Despres, opposed by the Daleys. But Despres is long gone. Obama lost a 2000 primary against 1st District Rep. Bobby Rush, who had run against Daley in 1999. That left Obama with no problems with the Daleys; his lead political consultant, David Axelrod, has worked closely with them going back at least to the early 1990s. If Obama were to be president, great; if not, they have other friends in that great blank land beyond the 50 wards of Chicago.
If Richie Daley serves out the term he has been elected to, he will have been mayor longer than his father was. Which I think is a good thing. He has done very much to keep and develop Chicago as a creative, free-enterprise metropolis, a center of world air travel, a marvelous creation of human ingenuity and creativity. As a native of Detroit, I feel great envy. He has played the politics of the 50 wards brilliantly, and I am troubled little or not at all by allegations that some of his aides have been implicated in corruption.
Chicago has never been crystal pure. Nor has it ever been a model that the rest of America could mechanically follow: This city, which invented the futures markets and financed the expansion of America across the Great Plains and now across the world (look at the flight departure schedules the next time you're in O'Hare), is one of a kind. If you're a Republican and mourn the help that Richie Daley's standing has given the Democratic Party in the large and once key state of Illinois, you should console yourself with the thought that this is a price we pay for what on balance is good governance.
And you could console yourself, too, with this thought: that Richie Daley, whose son Joseph in his 20s enlisted in the military and is on active duty service now, privately in the voting booth in 2004 probably voted for George W. Bush--even if he won't tell us so and eveif his success in office made his state safe for a guy, John Kerry, whom he privately would not have a minute's time for, to win Illinois's electoral votes.
Bad Words on Blogs
If you've gotten the impression there is more foul language on the left blogosphere than on the right blogosphere, it turns out you're right, at least if this blogger's Google search is correct. By his count, George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television are used 18 times more often in the most popular left blogs than in the more popular right blogs. Holy--er, yikes! DailyKos has 146,000 pages on which the words appear and Huffington Post has 109,000 (although Arianna herself, at least in my hearing, uses such words very sparingly if at all). The biggest count on the right blogs: 9,730 on Ace of Spades (a blog I can't recall reading, though I may have encountered it through a link).
By Michael Barone