Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Personal Aside: The New “Tribune”…a Re-Do of “USA Today”…Did the Daley Machine Spawn Barack?


The (Ugh) New “Tribune.”

It’s ghastly to take a look at the old “Tribune”…prior to last Monday…and see its clean lines, finely arranged white space with superb headlining and photo juxtaposition in relation to stories…and see the horrible hash now masquerading as the product. Designed apparently by a committee, it evinces total confusion over what it wants to be: a challenger to the blatantly sexual “Sun-Times” or a localized edition of “USA Today.” You search in vain to find the editorial pages. Almost everywhere they are in the back of the first section. Not here: they are tacked improbably to the Business section. With huge black and white photos there is only room for one…or at the most…two columns. As recorded here yesterday, the Pulitzer prize-winning Charles Krauthammer is dissed over to the “Trib’s” internet edition to make room for the latest critic of Sarah Palen.

Yesterday’s “Trib” or the sad representation of what used-to-be featured a huge photo of the grimacing tavern-owner from the Near North Side who has a nude representation of Palen over his bar. The decadent “Sun-Times” probably slobbers with envy that its wretched taste was topped by this intruder on its semi-porno trade.

Congratulations, Tribsters. You didn’t want to wait for the inevitable death due to growing urban illiteracy but decided to apply euthanasia itself. Is it possible that just like the fans who lobbied for return of the old Coca-Cola a return of the pristine, classy-appearing paper will occur? There is a chance if people will lobby the Tower.

Is Obama Machine-Made?

John McCain’s commercials say that Barack Obama is a product of the Daley Democratic machine. No! say the Obama people, Obama matriculated from Hyde Park which long as been non- or at least anti-machine. What’s the answer? It takes a bit of Chicago history into which I figure slightly.

In the days of yore when old man Daley ran things…and even long before…there was a so-called “independent liberal” bastion in Hyde Park typified by the radical but often doughty alderman who represented it in the city council—the venerable (now 100 years old) Leon Despres. At that time there was a vestige of the Republican party that was not co-opted in the city and Cook county. When the ``60s brought ferment over civil rights to which the senior Daley was very wary and opposition to strong-armed leadership in the anti-civil rights positioned regular Democratic party (where an influx of blacks was not encouraged but “safe ones” i.e. John Stroger were encouraged) a group of independent Democrats were convinced to become aligned with Cook county Republicans in a coalition. The Independent Voters of Illinois, an offshoot of Americans for Democratic Action, was the melding pot. The independent Democrats and Republicans agreed on only a few fundamentals including these:

The regular Democratic party was wasteful and corrupt…the regular Democratic party used patronage to corrupt the polls with city workers manning the precincts to elect supporters of the old Mayor Daley which was intolerable…and the same army of patronage workers used vote fraud—voter intimidation, actual crooked manipulation of voting machines, to gin up the totals to elect some of their people fraudulently. The IVI became the catalyst for change along with the honest fragment of the Cook county Republican party. There were lots of things the two DIDN’T agree on but the abovementioned was key. Accordingly two things happened. (1) The IVI and the Republicans cooperated on candidate selection in some cases. (2) the IVI and the Republicans resolved to cooperate on fighting vote fraud which was the tool of a despotic machine to solidify power.

To fight vote fraud, a number of us formed a new organization, Project LEAP (Legal Elections in All Precincts). The Republican chairman of Cook county would agree to the placement of people…not necessarily born in the cradle Republicans—in fact independent Democrats, “good government” people (i.e. League of Women Voters, nuns from then relatively abundant convents)—to serve as Republican judges of election. The late Mayor Daley was livid at what he believed was a despotic effort to ensure elections were conducted honestly. LEAP was a 501©-3 organization with no partisan agenda but the single goal of seeing the elections were run honestly. Prior to LEAP poll-watchers existed, but could be ejected by the judges of election with the support of Chicago patrolmen who usually slept the day through, cap and visor over their eyes as vote fraud proceeded merrily apace. The huge difference was that a Project LEAP judge had all the power of the others and could stop the process if he/she saw vote fraud in process.

I—Republican as I was--was elected chairman of Project LEAP in 1974 and presided over a board of independents, liberals, conservatives and nondescripts with the mandate to keep the vote clean. With the chairmanship came a board membership on the IVI where I became not only the sole conservative in the proceedings but an anomaly in almost every other respect. I raised a good deal of money for LEAP especially at a well-received fund-raising dinner in 1975 where we had speaking (you will not believe this), former U. S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (my friend) and former deputy U. S. Attorney General Bill Ruckelshaus (who resigned in protest over Watergate). The man who gave the invocation, believe it or not, was the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. The hall was crowded with liberals, conservatives and nondescripts who were determined to work in alliance to fight vote fraud.

I burden you with this history because at that time, Hyde Park was truly our stamping ground, an independent Democratic bastion and hostile country to the regular Cook county Democratic party. I knew many from Hyde Park at the time. We had many LEAP members from that area who were as sick of patronage abuse and voter intimidation as were our Republican members. Seemingly it was a golden time for true independence from the machine. I was also vice president of The Quaker Oats Company at the time and I well remember being summoned by the late…and REAL…Mayor Daley to explain myself and the purpose of LEAP to him (as if he didn’t know).

I remember he said: “Does yer boss know yer doing this?” A simple thrust to see if he could go about getting me fired. I said: yes and he approves (as Republican National Committeeman from Illinois).

The remainder of his lecture was inconsequential although I remember his saying to me when we parted: “Ya know der is no vote fraud in Chicaga.”

My words: “Mayor, while I don’t live in Chicago but next door in Park Ridge, I was born in Chicago and for the most part I think you’ve done a great job in saving—literally—saving this city from what is happening in Detroit and other places. In other words, were I a Chicagoan I would vote for you. And for the life of me I don’t know why you need vote fraud to get reelected. I am sure you don’t.”

With that he said simply: “I don’t an’ you shouldn’t be sayin’ dat ‘cause der is no vote fraud in Chicaga.”

End of conversation. I only met him one other time and that was when I was named an assistant secretary of commerce for minority business enterprise.

With his death in 1976, a year after our meeting, much changed. His successors—particularly Harold Washington—erased all the ideological lines of demarcation between the independents and regulars. The old-line regular Democratic party embraced the left-wing orientation of the national Democratic party. While old man Daley was silent but disapproving of abortion and the gay life, his son Richard M. opened the floodgates and became supportive of such cultural diversity. Soon there was no opposition to Hyde Park’s proclivities and the Democratic party became one. The old line of demarcation between independents and regulars evaporated. The Republican party, deprived of its independent lifeline, died, was fully co-opted. Vote fraud as a concern became a thing of the past because liberal independents and regulars were all one, swigging from the same cistern.

Project LEAP has long gone. There is no…absolutely no…coalition between Republicans and independent Democrats now because the regular Democratic party has absorbed in one gulp the independents since it buys into every aspect of the new liberalism.

By the time Barack Obama entered the Democratic party in Hyde Park there was absolutely no line of demarcation between the machine’s goals and the local committeeman’s aspirations. Hence it is fair and reasonable to say that the old Hyde Park of Len Despres had been fully absorbed…freely…into a county Democratic organization that saw no difficulty in assuming Obama’s Hyde Park radicalism as it saw no difficulty assuming Bernie Stone’s rather old-fashioned Democratic party values in West Rogers Park. In fact, Democrat (former Republican) Stone represents cheek-by-jowl with his fellow Democrat Joe Moore (another friend of mine) in the Rogers Park neighborhood. Stone, one year older than I, represents the hoary age-old tradition of the Democratic party (favorable toward patronage who can wink at memories of the old days) and Moore the younger, more progressive era. But both are Democrats.

So the idea that young Barack Obama burst onto the Hyde Park scene as one entirely apart from the regular Democratic party is a fiction. Obama has paid his tithe to the old Democratic party, going along with Todd Stroger rather than supporting Forrest Claypool and repeating in lip synch every jot and tittle of the Richard Daley machine. Thought you needed to know.

1 comment:

  1. Since I haven't read the young man's two autobiographies, there's something about Barack I don't know. Since he was raised in Hawaii, born of a Kansas woman, and spent some of his childhood in Indonesia, how did he end up in Chicago? Was it choice or happenstance?