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The Old Guard has got to go

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* We’ve talked about most of this already, but I thought I’d include it in my Sun-Times column

Carol Moseley Braun’s loss on Tuesday was “the embarrassment of a lifetime for black people,” said Rickey Hendon moments after he resigned from the Illinois Senate on Thursday.

Hendon was just being Hendon. Rhetorical flourishes are his specialty.

The fault lies not with “black people,” but with folks who worked to make Braun the “consensus” candidate. They figured that a woman in an all-male field would be a tremendous advantage. Add that to her proven vote-getting history in the black community and she was a mighty contender on paper.

But anybody who knew anything about her U.S. Senate career understood that Braun would be a disaster. She’s simply unmanageable. Her supporters were left disappointed and dejected within months of her departure for Washington, D.C. And in the end, her election proved to be a fluke that she could not repeat.

The worst mistake by the consensus crew, however, was looking backward for a standard bearer instead of promoting someone with fresh, new ideas. That’s probably because most of the people doing the choosing cut their political teeth decades ago and have been in power so long that they’ve lost touch with today.

And it’s not like they haven’t had any recent experience to guide them. Barack Obama’s sudden ascendancy to the U.S. Senate caught the Old Guard completely by surprise. His rise to the presidency did the same for entrenched African-American leaders in other states, who mostly backed Hillary Clinton.

Toni Preckwinkle was another prominent example. There she was in a Democratic primary race with two other African-American candidates and just one white candidate and she won the Cook County Board presidency with a truly extraordinary 50 percent of the vote because of the force of her ideas and the content of her character.

Instead, the consensus crowd chose a stale, 20th century rerun in a 21st century contest. I saw a factoid that blew my mind. Braun won just one precinct in all of Chicago. One. This election wasn’t about black people rejecting the concept of black political power. It was about black voters deciding that a candidate who happened to have their same skin color was wholly unqualified to be their mayor. And the blame for that one falls squarely on the consensus crew.

It didn’t help matters much, of course, that Obama more than subtly weighed in on Rahm Emanuel’s behalf. But if a stronger, more vital candidate had been fielded, Obama might have been forced to stay away. Instead, Obama and Emanuel saw their opportunities and they took ’em.

Slowly, but surely, young African Americans are moving up the political ladder. I’ve watched several grow into maturity through service in the Illinois General Assembly. But I’ve also seen their frustration at the unwillingness of the Old Guard to relinquish their grip on power.

There have been setbacks for this new generation. Former state Representatives David Miller and Robin Kelly won Democratic primaries for statewide office last year, then lost their general election contests. Miller made an unfortunate choice of running against the very well-known Judy Baar Topinka, and Kelly just never put together much of a campaign. But just as Obama learned from his loss to Bobby Rush, the new generation can learn from Miller and Kelly. Choose your contest wisely and then go absolutely all out to win.

I do not believe Braun’s loss is the end of black political power in Chicago. I think the proper lesson to learn here is that this could be and should be the last gasp of the Old Guard. They blew it as much as she did. It’s time for something new.

* Roundup…

* Unfiltered: Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s press conference

* AP: Chicago election shows racial politics changing

* Battle brewing between Ald. Burke and Emanuel?

* No Council Wars for Ald. Ed Burke and Mayor-Elect Emanuel: “Some things are said in the heat of battle,” Burke told us. He indicated that he would fight to retain his chairmanship, declaring. “Twenty six aldermen will decide whether I do or not.” In campaign disclosure reports filed last month, Burke revealed a multi-million dollar political war chest second only to Emanuel’s.

* Zorn: Mayor-elect’s first f-bomb a dud

* CS-T Editorial: Emanuel reaches out to real Chicagoans

* Schmich: Why Chicago’s election played well in the suburbs

* Some voted, some didn’t; some worried about it, some didn’t

* Brown: 47th Ward voters buck establishment

* Loop transforms into more residential area over last decade \

* Union leader: Snow OT not doled out fairly

* Sneed: South Side man arrested for threatening to kill Burke

* Daley security officer now protecting Rahm Emanuel

- Posted by Rich Miller        


38 Comments
  1. - shore - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 2:51 am:

    I’m impressed you’re up at 245 and would be more so if barton was doing the posting for you. (delegation)

    -One of your better columns because it’s both fresh (tough to find in a 24/7 era where there are 6,500,000 pundits who write about this stuff), prescient and touching on a bigger theme.

    however,
    -Preckwinkle turns 64 on st patricks day (6 years younger than the reverend jesse jackson), if she’s new school what does that make jesse jackson the congressional edition who is 46?

    -the asian community has to be noted as a rising force. They haven’t won a big big office yet, but you could do worse than hamilton chang, ameya, and the kid that ran for state treasurer. If you spend 5 minutes at top american universities you’ll see that this is the beginning of a trend and particularly in the gop where we lack good people and are sometimes accused of lacking diversity this would be a great group for us to start targeting.

    -the old guard is not completely gone. Durbin, Madigan and cullerton are still around which is too bad.

    -for those downstate, chicago tonight did a panel with 4 of the new aldermen including 2 soon to be former state reps. I know none of the men, but burns in particular looked like someone who was going to challenge the new mayor directly. it will be interesting if the chico backers and progressive people join forces to counter the new man.


  2. - Rob - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 4:14 am:

    There were three African Americans (by the way, what term would you use if you were in London or Beijing?) and there two Latino candidates (yes, I know Gery Chico is kind of / sort of Latino) and there was one Jewish guy from DC (at least there’s where his family lives).

    I’m not sure why there needs to be “black political power” anymore than “women power” or any other “power.”

    The key to getting smart people with fresh ideas has nothing to do with who the old guard chooses, but who WE choose. If we don’t start demanding candidates that are elevated based upon their ideas rather than their names (Madigan, Daley, Jackson, etc) and who they know, then we will keep getting lousy candidates and lousy leadership.

    Rahm Emanuel was the most powerful “name” in a very weak field. All those candidates that talked about running turned out to be political cowards. What were they afraid of? Rahm’s money?

    There’s lots of smart people far better than the six candidates combined, but we need to stop giving the “old guard” the credit they don’t deserve.


  3. - Wensicia - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 7:16 am:

    Excellent column. The older, white power brokers also need to move on, as Daley fianally figured out. Their time has also passed by.


  4. - PublicServant - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 7:33 am:

    It will be interesting to see whether Rahm can recruit 26 aldermen. If he can, Ed Burke might be the next member of the old guard forced to move on, or stay and become irrelevant.


  5. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 8:23 am:

    In a city with no “majority” group, coalition building is essential to gaining power. There is nothing “old guard” or “new guard” about this, it is primarily based on the facts on the ground. Notwithstanding “One Precinct” Braun’s public perception problems, her focusing on playing one group against another instead of coalition building was a particularly bad strategy. Especially since the 2010 Census tells us that the group she was relying on is leaving the city in droves. Rahm knew he had to get to 51% by being an all-city candidate, and exceeded expectations with a good strategy.


  6. - just sayin' - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 8:29 am:

    Should we even be giving legitimacy to the idea of a “black candidate” or “Hispanic canidate” or “Irish canidate” or whatever? Isn’t that in itself an outdated concept?

    I think black folks respect Clinton and Obama and once they said Emanuel was the guy, he was in. That said, I do agree Braun was a lousy candidate. Someone like Danny Davis definitely would have done better. Maybe even forced a runoff. But still likely would have been Emanuel v. Chico, with Chico eventually losing.


  7. - Dirt Digger - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 8:38 am:

    Well said.


  8. - Ghost - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 8:43 am:

    You mean like the legitimacy we give the “small business owner” canidate?

    The reference to race/national origin falls into the same catagory. It is an attemtp to establish that a canidate has certain experiences or perspectives a vote may be interested in. And as you will note, the voters overwhemingly wanted to know more about the canidate to garner their support.

    I am surprised that Sandi Jackson is not someone bing groomed by the power brokers. She is a much stronger candiate then her husband who seems to be dragging her down by having so much of the focus brought to him instead of her.


  9. - Redbright - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 8:45 am:

    JJJ is new school, the tainted version.

    Rich probably knows Will Burns – a very impressive fellow. (I interviewed him for endorsement by a conservation group.) There’s a new Alderman on the west side of Chicago named Jason Ervin. He’s a Will Burns type, albeit chubbier, more mellow (if that is possible) and even better prepared to be an alderman.

    Rickey H’s part-time taxpayer-funded job for 18 years gets him a $77,000 pension. (Rhetorically she asks) what is wrong with this picture?


  10. - amalia - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 8:47 am:

    Wensicia is right….old guard go bye bye everywhere. And, we have to look for signs of old guard in the new guard. Re Rahm, just because he seems like the new guard, maybe he’s not. And, the current Mayor was not with Burke either, so did that make him great? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, different religion, better dancer, but could be much the same. Just because he struts across the Bulls court does not make him different. and, weird thing, Rahm is several years older now than Daley was when he took office. hard to believe.

    missing Rahm’s Twitter fake persona. We will all have to turn the Tribune and Sun Times world on to fake Speaker Madigan, who is
    funny this am too.


  11. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 8:50 am:

    One precinct is still hard to believe.


  12. - ZC - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:07 am:

    Would the Rev. James Meeks be an “Old Guard” candidate or a “New Guard” candidate?


  13. - Redbright - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:09 am:

    Wordslinger: I interviewed CMB. All she talked about was her reputation that had been “smeared, then cleared is still smeared.” Her mostly-likely voter based heard not word from her about Chicago under a Mayor Braun.

    While the low voter turnout was disappointing, I do take heart that the vast majority of people who voted went for one of the serious candidates.


  14. - Redbright - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:11 am:

    ZC - Meeks is old guard but will never be a larger candidate given that he will never let us see his tax returns.


  15. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:11 am:

    Rev. Meeks would be a shooting guard candidate — a shooting off the mouth guard candidate.


  16. - Jake L - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:38 am:

    I always thought it was insulting and patronizing to blacks that they were supposed to vote for a black candidate and this election showed that they shouldn’t be condescended to like that. CMB is a hack and they know she is a hack. Just like the rest of us.


  17. - Because I say so - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:44 am:

    Great article Rich.

    =The key to getting smart people with fresh ideas has nothing to do with who the old guard chooses, but who WE choose.=

    Unfortunately, the power brokers, be they the old or new guard are the ones who decide who gets up to bat. I could give examples of highly qualified people with fresh new ideas that have tried to run for office only to be stopped by the people pulling the strings behind the scenes. Many of Chicago’s Ward organizations keep this a closed process to outsiders/non family members. You’ve got to get on the ballot before the people can decide.


  18. - hammer - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:48 am:

    Because I say so–

    You just hit the nail on the head. The “old guard” often has organization advantages that young candidates can’t circumvent, so the matter becomes whether to kiss the ring or move into the private sector.


  19. - Redbright - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:50 am:

    Because - Where in Chicago were outsiders prevented from getting on the ballot?


  20. - hammer - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:58 am:

    Ultimately the strength of a “new guard” is in it’s ability to wrest control from the “old guard” or it’s ability to be resourceful and find ways to build coalitions without old guard help. Ric Flair said “To be the man, you gotta beat the man. Whooooo!”


  21. - Langhorne - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 9:58 am:

    carol mosely braun is the female roland burris. and that is probably a little unfair to roland who actually credibly held a couple offices. but both overreached based on ego.


  22. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 10:05 am:

    At least Burke always remembers to throw the volunteer through the window from the outside.


  23. - Responsa - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 10:07 am:

    The “Old Guard” refers to state of mind more than to chronological age. I believe that to a large extent people need to know and respect the facts of history in order to make sense of the present. And I wish more folks did use history to inform. But, at the same time, still viewing the current world through the lens of 20th century (or earlier) stereotypes, and trying to apply 20th century solutions to current situations is foolhardy. This applies to racial, sexual, economic, and other issues.

    If Carol and the consensus crew have (unwittingly) helped more people to recognize this and understand this, then her candidacy served a valuable purpose.


  24. - just sayin' - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 10:15 am:

    “The reference to race/national origin falls into the same catagory.”

    I don’t know. Seems all very odd and circular to me. Lefties love to preach about how race shouldn’t matter and we should be a color blind society blah blah blah. So then we have an election like this one where folks of all races and creeds came out and get behind a Jewish guy in pretty big numbers, and some still can’t be happy.

    Oh no, we won’t have race/ethnic politics to talk about anymore! How dare those black folks leave the black reservation!


  25. - jerry 101 - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 10:16 am:

    it’s certainly not the end of black power in Chicago. Carol Moseley Braun was a disaster. When the field cleared, I was initially in her corner, but she was just…I don’t know…she seemed like she had a screw loose or something.

    That said, black power in Chicago is still quite alive and well. Toni Preckwinkle is in charge of Cook County, and that gives her power and influence in Chicago. She was a tremendously strong candidate, and could have won if she’d run for mayor (we’d probably be looking at a run-off if she’d run for mayor against Emanuel), but she chose her battle wisely, and won. There wouldn’t be any such guarantees in a run-off against Emanuel. Plus, how could she have known last year that Daley would suddenly call it quits?

    In addition, the whole idea of getting behind a “consensus” candidate in a wide open election like this one was a bad idea in the first place. Hendon, Meeks, Moseley-Braun, Davis - all of ‘em, and a few more to boot, should have run. Let the voters decide who the strongest, best candidate is. The more strong candidates that there are, the harder it is for one of ‘em to go over 50%. Who knows - if Meeks and Hendon and Davis had all run as well, then Emanuel probably wouldn’t have broken 50%, and one of them may be running against Emanuel in the run-off.


  26. - siriusly - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 10:24 am:

    Great column Rich. I had a member of the GA black caucus explain the whole “two caucuses” to me just like that. I clearly think that the new guard with new ideas could present some very good and electable candidates going forward. CMB sure isn’t one of them.

    Speaking of CMB - kudos to Senator Martin Sandoval on picking another winner! (Hillary Clinton, Cherlye Jackson . . .)


  27. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 10:25 am:

    Excellent analysis and I would add further that the younger set (regardless of race) is looking for economic security and best bets therein. Race may be important, but it is becoming less so as years pass. “How do I take care of me/family” will clearly trump “Who’s the best (insert race here) candidate”.


  28. - badedit - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 10:47 am:

    Interesting analysis. Always funny to hear people say race shouldn’t matter when there was only one white person on the ballot against three blacks and two Latinos. While pundits look for where blacks voted and where Latinos voted, note that Emanuel got almost ALL of the white votes (and he could have received more except that Chico was straddling the fence). Were we really that close to having a Latino mayor?


  29. - LevivotedforJudy - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 11:26 am:

    I remember a statement Jesse Jackson Jr. made a few years ago. To paraphrase, he apologized to the “older Black leadership” for not marching with Dr. King - he really didn’t know how to walk yet. That group still sort of uses that as a litmus test. This election showed those days are over. The new Black guard is exemplified through Will Burns, Stephanie Neeley and Kwame Raoul. I know he isn’t a Chicagoan, but James Clayborne is a current leader and a contemporary of President Obama. This may be have been that old Chicago Black guard’s last stand.


  30. - phocion - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 11:36 am:

    siriusly,
    You forgot to mention that Sandoval also endorsed Hynes over Quinn days before the primary.


  31. - Cook County Commoner - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 12:25 pm:

    Excellent article. Having been there when Ms. Braun was elected to the Senate and endured her embarrassing term, her selection as an African-American “consensus” candidate will remain a mystery. It was so blatantly incompetent, at least in my mind, that I immediately and still believe that there was some kind of sell out by the African American “consensus commission,” whoever they are.

    Being uninformed on South and West Side politics, why is there animosity between the African-American communities of the West and South sides? At least according to Laura Washington on a recent TV appearance, on Bruce Dumont I think.


  32. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 12:33 pm:

    ===why is there animosity between the African-American communities of the West and South sides===

    In many ways, it’s an old “class” thing. It’s also a function of immigration patters. They came from different places and at different times.

    I go to a South Side blues bar fairly often (Lee’s Unleaded at 74th and South Chicago Ave.), and quite a few of the musicians are from the West Side. Not sure what that means, other than South Side blues has been dying off for years, but is being kept alive by the “aliens” from the other part of town.


  33. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 12:36 pm:

    It’s also a tribal thing, like South Side Irish whites have vs. the North Side barbarians. Or Mexicans vs. Puerto Ricans, or South Side Mexicans vs. North Side Mexicans, or…


  34. - Mark S. Allen - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 1:07 pm:

    The classes CLASHED on all sides in the Black community including Black media who let their bias show as well when candidates they liked were not in the process and lessons have to be learned.

    At least I had the fortune of talking to thousands of voters and the fact that publishing their comments on the election have gone UN-REPORTED by Black media as well so we are ALL suffering from “I support unity ONLY if it goes my way.”

    Interesting though that some of my Hispanic friends openly campaigned for the first Female Hispanic to be City Clerk and didnt even know her name but was instructed to look for the Hispanic name and yet nobody dared call this “anti-Black or anti anything” just pro-Hispanic yet Braun being called a Black candidate was a curse is interesting.

    Braun never recovered from the “crack” statement and the impact it had on thousands of Chicago voters who had previously supported her from various drug rehab programs across the city. It was over once she lost her symbolism of her status as Senator and Ambassador.

    Finally, FAR TOO MANY people complained that they were not going to embarrass President Obama by having his personal choice for Mayor lose.


  35. - You Can't Stop What's Coming - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 1:48 pm:

    Great article.

    When I heard WHO among the black community was going to try and reach a ‘consensus’ candidate — I laughed to myself.

    When I hear it was Carol Mostly-Fraud I laughed out loud.

    Time for new leadership to come forward. And could somebody get Danny Davis a drool-cup?


  36. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 1:56 pm:

    How about Karen Yarbrough as new leader. Karen is progressive, hard worker and committed to service. A African American lady could be our first female Governor. Go Karen


  37. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 2:46 pm:

    Among some of the South Side “royalty,” West Siders are considered a little too country and a little too new.


  38. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 25, 11 @ 4:13 pm:

    Somehow, I missed the snide comments about the piece on the Burke death threat.

    People, take a breath. Also, I will be deleting your comments momentarily and banning the worst offenders.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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