Mayor Rahm Emanuel is on the ropes in a city where one party has monopolised power longer than the Communists did the Soviet Union. If the Illinois’s lawyer Abraham Lincoln’s party had any sense, it would seize this moment to take Chicago back for the first time since 1931. Republicans with memories of the party’s roots and ashamed of its demagogues should start the Reconquista now in Chicago. Chicago is fed up with 85 years of corrupt one-party rule, and it needs somewhere to turn.
When Lincoln lived in Illinois, his party stood for setting men free. Until 1964, when Republicans co-opted the segregationists of the former Confederacy, the party had a wing it called “progressive”. The progressives counted among their number William Seward and Charles Sumner, whose hatred of slavery extended to guaranteeing equality to freed slaves; and Bob La Follette, champion of working people. La Follette was the leading opponent of Democratic Party liberal hero Woodrow Wilson’s deception that lured the US into the First World War. The Democrat Wilson instituted racial segregation in the federal civil service, while his Republican opponent in the 1916 elections, Charles Evans Hughes, defended racial equality against the Princeton Dixiecrat. Republican Hughes rather than Tammany Democrats stood up to the New York state legislature when it expelled five elected Socialist members from its chambers, writing, “Democracy cannot be preserved if representation is denied.”
A young generation of Americans, accustomed to a Republican Party representing corporations, Bible-bashers and racists, can learn that Republicans before Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act were imposing integration on the South. Republican President Dwight D Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to permit black and white children to attend classes together. Republican Theodore Roosevelt enacted child labour laws, protection for industrial workers and enforced the Sherman Anti-Trust Act against corporate monopolies.
Those Republicans have disappeared, but sane members of the party can revive their legacy. Chicago could be the party’s and the nation’s redemption. Republicans should go back to their roots and present themselves as the party of the people, of the immigrant and the black Americans for whom it came into being in the first place. They could take on the Cook County Democratic Party machine that has protected murderers in uniform and concealed the legalised lynching of black citizens.
Chicago is the heart of America. If progressive Republicans take hold in Chicago and Illinois, as they did in 1856, it could bring the nation back to its bearings. The spectacle of moronic racists and plutocrat-pandering ideologues in the Republican presidential debates would be relegated, along with vaudeville and Barnum’s freak show, to the boneyard.
Barack Obama is a creature of the Democratic Party of Chicago. In the 21 years he played Chicago politics before running for the highest office, he refrained from criticism of corruption in the most corrupt political machine in the country and of torture by a police department that would shame the Saudi police. To the Daleys, who ran the mayor’s office for two generations, Obama was a dream. He filled the slot left by William Dawson, the black boss of the South Side who left the party of Lincoln for the party of lynching at the urging of Richard J Daley. The great Chicago journalist Mike Royko wrote: “The people who were trapped in the ghetto slums and the nightmarish public housing projects, the people who had the worst school system and were most often degraded by the Police Department, the people who received the fewest campaign promises and who were ignored as part of the campaign trail, had given him his third term. They had done it quietly, asking for nothing in return. Exactly what they got.”
Obama’s former henchman and now Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is a bully. The media caught him covering up for bullies who shoot black people with a fair assurance no one will prosecute them. Yet the people of Chicago can confront abuse in ways that the Palestinians, who have endured much suffering at the hands of terrorists like Emanuel’s Irgunist father, Benjamin Emanuel, cannot. The Illinois legislature is considering a bill to give citizens the right to recall mayors. Chicago may be able to recall Emanuel. It could then tell the Democrats to go to hell and take the Republican Party back from the morons who run it today. This would scare the Clintons, their banker bankrollers, the arms dealers who encourage war as a fiduciary obligation to managers and shareholders and the cops for whom shooting disenfranchised black people is much more attractive than arresting the oligarchs plundering the country. This may be much to hope for, but it is not a bad idea.
Bring back America. Bring back the Party of Lincoln. Recall Emanuel and let Richard J Daley seethe in his grave.