Anticipating the Daley v. Jackson Battle of the Machines

Tonight I caught the mayoral debate on the ‘The Wire.‘ (Now reportedly headed for its fifth season; in-depth discussion of the new season here, here, and here.) The fictionalized stand-off between the battle-tested incumbent and the incumbent with nothing to lose has me anticipating the Daley-Jackson debates. What, about 4 months or so to go?

The fascinating aspect of the Daley political machine is that it is an anti-machine. Rather than relying solely on the traditional machine apparatus of Democratic committeeman and ward leaders, Daley, and his 10th Ward boys, have successfully constructed new apparatus (example 1A: the Hispanic Democratic Organization) to generate votes and get things done. Meanwhile, Jesse Jackson Jr. seems to be counting on a 21st century machine of his own: the Service Employees International Union.

John Kass, who has really come into his own lately, addressed Daley’s political acumen in his Thursday column. He addressed Daley’s adroit veto of Joe Moore’s, and the SEIU‘s, Big Box ordinance:

Who else but Daley, facing his toughest re-election fight from a credible black challenger, could play both the race card and the free-market card and get away with it?

He was Mayor Soul Man and Mayor Big Business on the same day… Yes, I’m a critic. For a while there it was lonely and cold, though lately the waters have warmed, with all the federal fish swimming in his pond.

So he has more critics these days. Yet my criticisms of the mayor have to do with inside deals and greedy cronies and corruption–not his mastery of politics…“He played us like a fish,” said another pro-labor white alderman who refused to flip on the veto vote. “First it was foie gras. Then this. He had it all planned. We look ridiculous.”

The aldermen cared about geese and banned foie gras. But their attempts to jack up the minimum wage threatened jobs in minority communities. Ald. Foie Gras himself, Joe Moore (49th), was the same fellow who pushed the big-box ordinance that was vetoed.

Aldermen allowed themselves to be cast as worried more about the feelings of silly geese than about the feelings of poor blacks and Latinos who need jobs and a decent place to shop. Daley hungrily capitalized on their mistake.

Kass’ analysis stands in contrast to the Mick Dumke’s Reader column last month on the passage of Moore’s Big Box ordinance. Kumke prematurely counted Daley out:

…with the spotlight on patronage, it’s no longer clear that the mayor will have an army to mobilize in February’s municipal elections. He also might not be able to make the same demands of council members or offer them the same protection. Aldermen seemed to be testing that theory when they banned foie gras and smoking in public buildings, ignoring Daley’s stated positions and yielding to heavy lobbying by advocates.

So, who was playing whom?

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