The Rahm in the Room

The Rahm in the Room

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The Mayor’s impact on Clinton and Obama’s Legacy

The New Year usually signals renewal. The approaching year seems full of the promise of being better than the last. This is the case for Chicago. Despite high tensions in the city, the last weeks of 2015 brought some of the city’s darkest secrets to the surface and the city ended the year with former police officer Jason Van Dyke being indicted on six counts of first-degree murder charges. It seems that 2016 could be a year for the city to engage in conversations about how they want to move forward. For the city’s Mayor, however, 2016 does not appear to hold much promise – Emanuel is under scrutiny for his role in the alleged cover up of Laquan MacDonald’s death. As the country watches Mayor Emanuel fall from grace a question is raised: could this fall dampen the promise for his friends in the Democratic Party as well?

This is no doubt an awkward moment in the Party. Rahm Emanuel, famous for his fundraising skills, has been a superstar in the party since the 90s. After serving as a fundraising savior and senior aide to Bill Clinton, Emanuel transitioned into politics himself and became a high-ranking Congressman and then followed fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama into the White House as his chief of staff. Emanuel has spent the last five years running the Windy City with precarious leadership skills to say the least. But until this moment, until Chicago and its skeleton became a fixture of the media, Emanuel was not a problem. Now, however, he is a huge problem for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

2016 marks the year when President Obama will try to solidify his legacy and Hillary Clinton might just be able to add the latest and greatest chapter to her own. Unfortunately, Rahm’s current blimp in his legacy might hurt both the present President and possible future President. Both Obama and Clinton have supported Emanuel throughout the years. When the run off election happened in April and it appeared Emanuel might lose, the Mayor’s friend made a personal appearance in Chicago and talked to his campaign volunteers. The President even recorded radio ads for Emanuel. One, Politico reports, lead off with the President telling his fellow Chicagoans that Rahm Emanuel was the best person for the job of Mayor. “If you want a mayor who does what’s right,” the ad tells listeners, “not just want’s popular, who fights night and day for the city we love, then I hope you’ll join me.” These words, and the lack thereof in the weeks after the media uncovered the MacDonald shooting, could hurt the President. Just last week the Mayor’s Office released thousands of emails that have sparked theories of cover ups and sabotage on the part of Emanuel and his administration.

Obama, as one historian has noted, largely left race behind both on the campaign trail and in his Presidency. When forced to speak on it (i.e. in light of police shootings or the Jeremiah Wright debacle) Obama has made profound statements, but his willingness to tackle these issues unprovoked has been painfully clear. Even now, despite the scandal erupting in Chicago, the President has remained silent and the distance between Chi-town and the District seems farther than ever. But this makes sense to some extent. There are limitations to what a President in office can, and cannot, say. Donald Trump, however, has proved that there are few, if any restrictions on what a candidate can say. So, why is Hillary Clinton so silent?

Rahm Emanuel has a chance of hurting Clinton’s already shaky record with black and hispanic voters. Instead of maintaining confidence in Emanuel and making fruitless calls for investigations into police behavior in Chicago, Clinton could and should use this moment to show that she has some understanding of the importance of Chicago. Corrupt local governments are not new, but they are just as damaging now as they were in the age of political machines because, in most cities, local government has control of over education, transportation, police, and zoning. Together these four components can have detrimental effects on the progress of lower income citizens and, in a city as segregated as Chicago, in the lives of minorities. Corruption or misconduct in anyone of these can throw off the balance in the rest. In short, in order for citizens to thrive the local government needs to be as moral as possible.

Although Emanuel’s fate has yet to be sealed, the writings on the wall are evident and the leading Democrats of the party who call Emanuel a friend need to think about the repercussions of their actions in these next few months. It is clear that there are limitations to what the President can say, but President Obama has had a track record for speaking his mind when necessary. And while it might be good for his friend Rahm Emanuel for him to remain silent, his legacy may suffer from it. But Hillary Clinton has even more at risk, because Hillary does not own the black vote and it is clear that it is an important voting bloc for her. Even if her silence looses her the black vote and she makes it to the White House, lack of support from the black community in a time when race is a major conversation does not look promising for anyone’s legacy.

Image: WikiCommons

About author

Caylyn Perry

Caylyn is a sophomore who spent her childhood on army bases and her high school years in Columbia, MD. During her freshman year of college, Caylyn discovered her love of urban politics and has become deeply invested in advocating the importance of urban issues within the domestic sphere. In addition to writing for VPR, she is a research assistant at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, works in the Divinity School's DAR department, and volunteers with Circle K. This past summer, Caylyn worked for a Federal Contractor in D.C., at the State Department, and interned for an Ambassador. When she's not doing the college thing, she enjoys hiking, running, and exploring Nashville's incredible food scene.

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