Elections are a funny thing to predict. On one hand, there are organizations and causes devoted to attempting to predict elections. But the one thing that it takes to win regardless of policy is likability. If the candidate isn’t liked by the constituents, then there’s no point in running in the election. Many argue that this is why John F. Kennedy was elected. Not necessarily because he even wanted to be president, but because there was a likability about him. Maybe it was his family, or maybe it was the way he looked, but there was a “je ne sais quois” attitude about him that made him very likable.
I will admit that I was a bit surprised when I heard that Rahm Emanual has decided not to seek re-election as Chicago’s Mayor. Perhaps what is most surprising to me is that he’s not running again in the next election. I can certainly see why he might not be liked, so perhaps this is his way of conceding before the battle even starts.
Known as a fighter, Rahm has been in politics for 23 years, and if I’m being honest – that’s exactly what it takes. But his abrasiveness has made it so he doesn’t have a lot of local support. Emanuel was once the chief of staff for President Barack Obama and very close to the Clintons. He managed to win comfortably in 2011 but then struggled to beat an ill-prepared opponent in a runoff election in 2015. In both elections, more than half of his support came from wards dominated by black residents. (Chicago is heavily segregated and split roughly evenly between white, black and Latino blocks of voters.)
It’s thought that a lot of his African-American support is because of his association with Barack Obama. Now that we’re 8 years in, those ties seem to have lost their relevance. In addition, residents don’t seem to like the fact that Rahm seems beholden to rich donors and corporate interests. Voters respected Rahm as an effective champion of business, who did what he could to fix the city’s dismal finances. But they never really warmed to him. His approval ratings slipped below 25% in the past year, though they have since recovered somewhat thanks to a high-profile spat with Donald Trump, the president. He was blamed for failing to reform rotten public schools and for rising property taxes.
What does this mean for Chicago? It gives hope that perhaps some of his missteps will be corrected. Rahm had a horrible record when it came to gun violence. Gun violence, which, in particular, saw young, black men as the victims. He badly mishandled the aftermath of a police killing in 2014 in which a young man, Laquan MacDonald, was shot 16 times. When police belatedly released footage of the incident, it looked disturbingly like a summary execution, resulting in angry protests. Had the video been released before the 2015 election Rahm would almost certainly have lost.
That’s not to say that the next Mayor will be able to come in and fix the gun violence issues in Chicago. But it does signal hope in many ways. Everywhere throughout America, we need better leaders. We need politicians who represent the people and who are going to do what they need them to do. We don’t need people who will bow down to big business and corporate sponsors. Hopefully, this means a brighter future for Chicago.