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Obamarama - Will 3rd Ward politics affect his presidential race?

Friday, Mar 23, 2007

My Sun-Times column this week is both national and local in focus, although it leans more local…

Fresh, independent-minded candidates, most helped by labor unions, forced 10 Machine aldermen into runoff elections this year. But now the “Empire” is striking back, and liberal icon Barack Obama is helping the Old Guard in at least one of those races.

Obama is set to endorse the always controversial 3rd Ward Ald. Dorothy Tillman in her runoff against hard-charging independent Pat Dowell. Obama isn’t alone. Almost every black political, religious and civil rights leader in the city is lending support to Tillman, who scored just 43 percent in the first round of voting, finishing a mere 400 votes ahead of Dowell.

About the only major political figure not backing Tillman right now is U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who just helped elect his wife, Sandi, to the City Council. Jackson said this week he plans to put at least 150 foot soldiers into the 3rd Ward come Election Day, but he tried to downplay the fact that this is the first time he and Obama have ever opposed each other in a local race.

And it ends this way…

Jackson says he understands why Sen. Obama would back Tillman. The alderman was one of Obama’s earliest supporters in his U.S. Senate bid. But others are wondering how Obama’s decision to back such a die-hard proponent of slavery reparations will play in Iowa and New Hampshire. They may have a point.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Bridget Dooley - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 9:52 am:

    You know, there’s something to be said for remembering your friends when they need you. But it’s a whole other ball game to publicly support an elected official who repeatedly victimizes her community.

    Obama made a big mistake here.

  2. - Bridget Dooley - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 9:56 am:

    Also, I wonder how labor will feel about Obama supporting one of their prime targets?

  3. - Levois - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 9:57 am:

    This was a great column. We see all the rivalries at play here. And even the basic makeup of the community past and present.

    We see that Beavers is trying to help out a fellow colleague. The Shaws come out the woodwork. Then the Jacksons and then Obama come to the fray.

    I think I’d be with Bridget here. But then we could see Sen. Obama’s popularity with blacks come to a head here. Would he lose support among blacks or not. I know that’s a stretch.

  4. - Pat Hickey - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 10:00 am:

    The only guy in Iowa who even knows Dorothy the Hat is Bollocks O’Halloran who opened a pulled pork shop in Mahaska after he fired from his City Job for reading the funnies while he was supposed to be manning the pumps at one of water stations when the Big Flood emptied the Loop.

    Bollocks was sweet on The Hat, but she never gave the poor boy a second thought - let alone look, because Bollocks is as ugly as a bald dog.

  5. - Bridget Dooley - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 10:02 am:

    If Tillman is reelected, this is a trainwreck waiting to happen for Obama! She surely Will do something terrible that will be exploited in the press and then he’ll be called to account for supporting her reelection!

    But I suspect that Barack knows that Tillman won’t be reelected, largely because of labor. There’s a bit of a user quality to that tactic that smells funny to me.

  6. - Bridget Dooley - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 10:09 am:

    Oh, I just thought of something. Even if Tillman is defeated, she’ll still be the committeeman for the ward. I wonder if that fact has any bearing on Barack’s decision to support her?

  7. - Bill - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 10:11 am:

    Hello Bridget,
    Are you supporting Dolar over Stone? I was pretty shocked at the CFL’s no emdorsement. As much as I dislike Tillman I can’t blame Barack for sticking with those who were with him in the beginning.At least he understands how the game should be played which is more than I can say about Rush or the Shaws. I think Dot will lose anyway.

  8. - Bill - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 10:13 am:

    Cogent and salient as always!

  9. - Rosh - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 10:17 am:

    I have little interest in this game of politicians straching each others’ backs. What is important is who is the better candidate, and who would do the best job as 3rd ward alderman? In this case it is pretty clear. Tillman is easily one of the worst alderman. Pat Dowell, despite strong support from the job-killing labor unions, is much smarter and much less of an ethnic nationalist.

  10. - Levois - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 10:55 am:


    Well Tillman will be the Democratic committeeman after she loses but what usually happens in that she’d serve her term and then someone else get elected committeeman. It doesn’t have the pull if you’re not holding an elective office, if that is the usual pattern in Chicago, then being a committeeman is not worth it. On the other hand though I wonder if the Democratic Organization of the 3rd ward has any pull enough for her to want to stick around as committeeman.

  11. - cermak_rd - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 11:14 am:

    Tillman was active during the Civil rights struggle. She may not be effective now, I don’t know, I don’t live in her ward, and she ought to learn proper gun handling, but she is a living connection to MLK.

  12. - fedup dem - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 12:23 pm:

    If Sen. Obama comes up short in the Presidential nomination sweepstakes, it will likely be due to the local political albatrosses hanging from his neck (Tillman being one of them).

  13. - VanillaMan - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 12:47 pm:

    First off, I love Dorothy Tillman and she has earned her days in the sun. She will always be that kooky hat lady to me as she was when I was a kid watching her performances. We owe our civil rights pioneers more than we know. She can go crazier and crazier, but I will always love her.

    That said, she isn’t political poison to Obama unless Obama runs for president - uh, OH!

    Campaigns are about narratives.

    One of the narratives being built by Obama’s opponents is the one which is “concerned” over his church’s stands on black empowerment, his first book’s writings on Obama’s search for self in his roots, and a concern that Obama is not a bridge between white/black, but a radical black politician instead. His endorsement of Dorothy Tillman feed into this ugly narrative nicely.

    Another narrative being built this week is about Obama’s uber-liberal political record. This week we have been seeing a regurgitation of this narrative many times. The narrative goes that Obama is left of Ted Kennedy. In the real world, this narrative will work against Obama.

    Obama knows this. But he needs to know when he feeds into his opponent’s narratives enough to affirm them. Claiming he is a closet radical and a flaming liberal are just two narratives he needs to dispell. Obama has crafted a lot of narratives that have worked for him to the point we see him in the polls today. So the guy knows how to tell a story. Now he needs to know how to avoid writing his opposition’s stories.

    More narratives are on the way. Eventually someone’s opposition will start creating a new narrative about Chicago’s corruption and Obama’s role in it. This has to happen, whether there is anything to it or not. The more Obama snuggles up to Daley, Blagojevich, Giannoulais, and Chicago Alderman, the harder it will be for him to scrape off the slime of corruption in Chicago.

    On and on it will go. The more negative narratives reaffirmed by Obama, the harder it will be for voters to accept him. Some narratives work, other fizzle, and some backfire. We will be seeing all kinds over the next two years.

    Obama is the Anti-Hillary. This nomination is Hillary’s to lose. Every mistake she makes helps Obama. Right now she would win the nomination. So her job is to hold on while throwing everything she can at Obama. She is definately the source of most of these narratives. It is really silly at this time to blame others for these anti-Obama angles because no one benefits except Clinton. Most of the time, the obvious beneficiaries of political happenings are the people who start them.

    So, you can bet the is a team of Obama opposition teams hired by Clinton to comb through ever piece of data that could be used to elect her. Considering her vast quantities of cash, she would be foolish to be sitting passively while Obama gains on her. After 30 years of successful campaigning, the Clintons know how to do a job on the opposition, don’t they?

  14. - Utility Infielder - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 1:06 pm:

    Using “The Empire Stikes Back” line is priceless.
    When we last left out hero, young Shywalker (Obama)was being lured to the dark side by Lord Vadar (Daley) using princess Leaha (Tillman) as bait.

  15. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 1:08 pm:

    Thanks, UI. And it was good meeting you the other day. I always enjoy meeting commenters. Sorry I didn’t have time to talk. I forgot I had to be at a meeting after two sips of beer.

  16. - John Q. - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 1:42 pm:

    Where’s Gator Bradley when you need him?

  17. - Bill Baar - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 1:52 pm:

    I’ve been chatting with lots of Obama supporters from out of state. This has absolutely no impact on their thoughts and I think they’ll stay that way regardless of anything Tillman would do once elected. They could care less about anything in Chicago or Illinois. They’re wowed by his oratory.

    I think the problems for Dems will be gracefully getting Obama to take the VP slot without it looking like a snub at their staunchest constituents.

    I think that was Obama’s original goal anyways, but he’s been so successful he’s going to convince himself he should be number 1 too, so doing this gracefully a real trick maybe.

    But I’m still betting it’s Gore-Obama for 08.

  18. - grand old partisan - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 2:16 pm:

    I’d like to know why the Senator even feels qualified to offer an endorsement in this race. After all, he told Aaron Chambers on February 10th that he “hasn’t been intimately involved in what’s been happening in state and local politics over the past couple years.”

  19. - Wumpus - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 2:27 pm:

    Minimal except how does Obama feel about reparations given the knowledge that his family owned slaves and his descendants in America wer enever slaves. As goofy as he was, Keyes raised an important question on this issue.

  20. - Some Guy - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 2:44 pm:

    There’s no way this endorsement impacts his national hopes. No one outside Illinois has ever heard of her and & even inside Illinois she’s hardly a household name. She’s most famous for allying with Harold Washington in Council Wars and, 1) that was 20 years ago, and 2) that’s not really a negative. Harold Washington’s the one they named the library after, not Fast Eddie.

    And there’s a very easy response for the Obama team: The senator doesn’t always agree with her, but she’s been one of Obama’s backers from the early days, over 20 years representing her ward, involved in the ‘66 freedom movement, in the ‘65 Selma movement (Was she on the Edmund Pettis Bridge). . . .

    If you think this will be some sort of danger spot for Obama you’re paying waaaaaay too much attention to Illinois and Chicago politics.

  21. - Amy - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 3:12 pm:

    somehow the phrase “all hat and no cattle” comes
    to mind……..

  22. - jaundiced eye - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 3:15 pm:

    Vanilla man, as usual, has some valid points worthy of re-reading by bloggers and visitors. It is a safe assumption that if HRC has 40 employees on her campaign payroll, 30 are doing opposition research (maybe 35 … or 39!).

  23. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 3:54 pm:

    I have a hard time seeing this being an issue outside the Chicago area. I’m in suburban Chicago and I barely care.

    She’s for reparations? What percent of her ward is for reparations?

    There are Right Wing politicians that take goofy stands in opposition to the sentiment in their districts, like getting U.S. of UN, and they never pay a price.

    So, why is it a big deal Tillman favors reparations? And isn’t any attempt to tar Obama with this brush just guilt by association?

  24. - Cassandra - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 4:02 pm:

    I’m not a fan of Obama’s (he’d likely raise my taxes) but I find it hard to believe that the average voter in anywhere USA is going to care about his support for an eccentric local politician, regardless of her views on reparations or anything else.

  25. - Beowulf - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 8:43 pm:

    Obamma is doing exactly what a politically savvy friend told me was going to happen. If you wait long enough, Obamma is going to hang himself. My friend said that Obamma was in reality (despite what his PR people are trying to spin) a cut & dried old time Democrat who will reward those who brought him to the dance at the taxpayer’s and voter’s expense.

    I wanted to believe he was wrong because I too was caught up in Obamma mania even though I am a Republican. As Rezko, Tilman, Todd Stroger, and a growing multitude of poor decisions on Barack’s part begin to stick their ugly heads up, I know now what my friend was trying to tell me. It is extremely disappointing for many of us. Obamma is turning out to be simply “more of the same” but in a different cellophane package.

  26. - Bullocks O'Halloran - Friday, Mar 23, 07 @ 10:00 pm:

    They can’t have it two ways.
    Either he is not black enough.
    Or he wants reparations and separatism.

    I would not Dorothy Tillman but this is not a big deal vis a vis the Presidential. Againg, Tillman is a racist corrupt buffoon—but it is also politics and people in NH and Iowa don’t care.

  27. - Bridget Dooley - Saturday, Mar 24, 07 @ 2:50 am:

    Bill, I was away for the majority of the day so I didn’t get a chance to respond. Yes, I support Dolar over Stone.

  28. - Boutte-no nickname needed - Saturday, Mar 24, 07 @ 3:01 am:

    It’s always interesting that those who are so adamently against Dorothy Tillman live the farthest from the 3rd Ward. Tillman has been a supportor of people otherwise not heard from all of her life. The hats she wears cover a lot wounds from the civil rights movement when marchers were beaten with Police batons. Most of the criticism she recieves today is after she is vocal against injustice.
    Her efforts to bring to light injustices from the past otherwise known as her reparations crusade has been replicated across the country. Obviously Rich doesn’t read many media outlets outside of his own, because Barack Obama stated years ago that he wanted to take the Reparations movement national. Obviously, this has not happened. But I can’t help but to feel that Rich’s statement is racebaiting an inciting itself.
    What is not written is that most of Tillman’s children who work for the Harold Washington Center are unpaid volunteers. The dream to build that center started in the late 1980’s. If it were not for Ald Tillman’s tireless commitment to develop the 3rd ward it would have languished like many other projects across the city.
    As for Jesse, Jr I’m sure there are many elderly people who marched and paid the physical and emotional price during the Civil Rights movement, who are today shedding a tear. These are the people who know Ald Tillman, respect her and will stand beside her to the end. These are also the same people who wrote the first checks for Jesse Jackson, Jr and today are embarrassed and emotionally torn by his misappropriate political greed.
    Also, Rich you are mistaken in Ald Tillman’s support base. Commissioner Beavers and the Shaw brothers have not openly campaigned for her in the 4rd Ward, neither have they written checks. So I assume this is another attempt to slander the good alderman. The 3rd ward has a lot of political history, so historically you may find a lot of variety in support.
    As you criticize Ald Tillman, I encourage you to drive King Dr from 35th to 55th to see for yourself what she has done. And then take a look at Pat Dowell’s D2s. It’s interesting that most of Dowell’s contributions come from real estate developers. Hmmm, I wonder what promises she made then and now.

  29. - Honest Abe - Sunday, Mar 25, 07 @ 10:20 am:

    This could prove to be harmful if the opposition researchers do their work. Dorothy Tillman is one of the most frightening people to hold aldermanic office in recent memory. Her appearance on the “Chicago Tonight” program where she championed slave reparations and repeatedly insulted the nominal conservative guest (Joe Morris) laid bare her virulent racism (reverse racism if you prefer that term). Host Phil Ponce had to repeatedly demand that Tillman cease her attacks upon the other guest. This was all televised. It was the ugliest exchange and most blatantly race charge event since the 1983 mayoral contest and the fault was exclusively Tillman’s own.

    Another Tillman travesty occurred when she demanded that only African Americans be employed as servers and caterers at her fundraising events at a major downtown Chicago hotel.

    Barack Obama may suffer some damage if the video footage resurfaces. He cannot maintain the appearance as a moderate if he is closely linked to the race baiting Tillman. He should have avoided the endorsement. Obama is not particularly well attuned to party matters in Chicago. When his State Senate seat was vacant upon his election to the US Senate, none of the committeemen were interested in Obama’s opinion as to who should succeed him in Springfield. Kwame Raoul, who moved from Evanston to accept a job at the City Colleges of Chicago, ended up with the post despite having not been supported by Obama. Reportedly, there was a quid pro quo of sorts as Raoul promised to raise campaign funds for the committeemen and to allow them to spend his reelection cash in their wards.

  30. - Epaminondas - Friday, May 18, 07 @ 10:29 pm:


  31. - Markos - Tuesday, May 22, 07 @ 11:10 pm:


  32. - Anastasios - Tuesday, Jun 5, 07 @ 3:35 pm:

    Sorry :(

  33. - Periklis - Tuesday, Jun 5, 07 @ 6:25 pm:


  34. - Arion - Wednesday, Jun 6, 07 @ 3:55 pm:


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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