Oops – doing politics.
I’ve long been fascinated by Rahm Emanuel, in a similar way to how I find LBJ, Whitey & Billy Bulger, Genghis Khan and, well, Machiavelli fascinating. These men are all recognizably human, probably kind to their pets and considerate of their mothers, which makes their behaviors and what they say all the more outrageous and repulsive.
His lust for power is complete, in that, as the article we’ll be discussing below shows, there are no principles he would hold on to at the risk of losing an election. Reading between the lines, elections, insofar as they might keep the likes of Rahm out of power, are therefore in themselves nothing to be defended – not surprising, once you consider the man saying this is the umpteenth consecutive Democratic mayor of Chicago, where elections have not been allowed to turn out ‘wrong’ since the 1920s (1).
So here is the headline from today’s Chicago Tribune:
Hmmm. This is a ‘problem’ Rahm himself will never suffer from. From the article:
“Winning’s everything,” he said. “If you don’t win, you can’t make the public policy. I say that because it is hard for people in our party to accept that principle. Sometimes, you’ve just got to win, OK? Our party likes to be right, even if they lose.”
Here’s another interesting bit:
The mayor expanded on what he believes is the road map back to power for his party — putting moderate candidates such as veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people up in Republican districts, picking battles with Republicans, exploiting wedges within the GOP and fighting attempts to redistrict Congress on partisan grounds.
It does not seem to occur to Rahm, or, rather, if it were to occur to him he would see it as utterly irrelevant, that, generally, those “veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people” might not agree with his goals. That getting him and his elected might not be seen as all that. That his win-at-all-costs approach itself may be a turn-off. For example, read somewhere that 75% of the military voted for Trump, and that the much of the remainder voted Not Hillary. The reasons should be obvious. So, what he’s looking for is that veteran who can, at the same time, be seen as ‘one of us’ by other military while embracing the party of Benghazi, Military as Affirmative Action Laboratory, and constant insults and dismissal of military people. Soldiers do tend to cling to their guns, if not always their Bibles, after all.
But all this – what people believe and how they reasonably respond to being dismissed, insulted, and hung out to die – is just irrelevant to Rahm. Or rather, is just another political problem to be overcome by cunning and hard work. That the actual concerns and dreams of “veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people” might not correspond to what his party demonstrably stands for just isn’t important.
Winning is important.
People, especially the wrong people, are to be used as means to an end if possible, or crushed like bugs if not.
Now, Rahm can be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking this way. He and his did get Obama elected. Twice. Digression: Many years ago, watched a TV item about a comparatively harmless cult leader out in, I think, New Mexico. His small number of followers *LOVED* him. Fortunately, the cult leader didn’t seem to want to make them into slaves or have them kill themselves – as I said, relatively harmless.
The interviewer tried to talk to the leader, who was very open and gracious. He came across as friendly, sincere, honestly interested in answering the dude’s questions – and utterly, completely incoherent. He was using English words in complete sentences, but darned if I, or the interviewer, could make out what, if anything, he was saying.
But, to his followers, he was the font of wisdom. That they, the followers, could not articulate what he was saying any better than he could (any more than a generic message to be nice and be open) was a source of mild frustration and calls to just talk to him yourself, you’d then see.
I recall thinking: wow, these seemingly normal people see a prophet where I, and most everyone else, see a kindly, babbling crazy person. His followers just couldn’t see it. It greatly helped, I think, that what he said was a content-free vessel for the listener’s own hopes and dreams. The followers were free to imagine whatever they wished they’d heard.
In a similar way, the first time I saw Obama, before I’d formed an opinion of him, my initial impression (fleshed out in hindsight, of course) was: here is a pampered teacher’s pet, who has been told his whole life how smart he is, who has been walked through the halls of academia (along paths his mother and family had already trail blazed, it turns out) and handed degrees and awards, and has no idea that he, himself, hasn’t conquered the world by his own merits. Then, he opened his mouth and removed all doubt.
Hope and Change, it turns out, was not just a campaign slogan, but, as in the case above, was a container into which the listener is invited to put whatever he wishes he heard. I do not exaggerate: I had two friends who were both strong Obama supporters both times around, and one was mortally offended at the idea that Obama was a Socialist at heart; the other supported him because, obviously, Obama is a Socialist.
Thus, I was and am dumbstruck: we are looking at and listening to the same guy, right? And you see a brilliant scholar and leader who is or is not absolutely certainly a Socialist or isn’t, in whom all right thinking people must place all their trust? You don’t see a pampered, spoiled little boy whose life is completely achievement-free except for stuff handed him by other people? Whose actual words (especially off script) reveal him to be totally pedestrian? Have you never met people of intelligence and accomplishment? And you can’t see the difference?(2)
Anyway, Rahm got that guy elected. Twice. His team deflected all criticism by accusations of racism, leaving people like me, again, completely baffled – what? I’d be thrilled to have a black – or female, or polka-dot – president IF he seemed likely to do the job well. Obama turned out to be everything I thought he’d be: the Warren G. Harding of our generation.
And Rahm has now announced his hopes that the Democrats find more Hardings: people who look the part to act as figureheads while the operatives – you know, like Rahm – actually run things (3).
I guess we’d have to elect them to find out what’s in them.
- “Big Bill” Thompson won as a Republican in 1915 – 1923 and 1927 – 1931. His most striking achievement was being even more corrupt and brutal than the Democrats he was running against.
- That’s another problem with academia: they are the self-proclaimed smart people, urban, sophisticated. Except, with the wild expansion of post-high school education over the last 50-60 years, more and more academic positions have to be filled by average people. Those average people are then the gate-keepers, determining who the next round of academics will be. Thus, especially if one were to get a degree where objective technical competence is not measurable – sociology or English, say, as opposed to accounting or chemistry – an innocent young thing might graduate thinking he’d met all the really smart people. Then Obama doesn’t look half-bad – he sounds just like that smart sociology professor you had in sophomore year…
- Rahm went back to Chicago right around the time it became clear that Obama wasn’t going to let him run things – the story goes that the President refused to listen to Rahm’s advice on getting the ACA passed – so Rahm took his ball and went home. Rahm, BTW, is a brilliant man of achievement, in case you need to know what one looks like. He’s also a politically amoral power mad manipulator who finds socialism appealing – because it promises to concentrate power into the hands of people like him. It should go without saying that just finding that brilliant person of achievement is not enough.