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The [Tuesday] Papers

"Chicago voters head to the polls Tuesday and will decide whether Mayor Rahm Emanuel collects a majority and quickly wins a second term or faces six more weeks of campaigning and a politically risky runoff election," the Tribune reports.

If it goes to a runoff, I wonder what the line in Vegas opens at.

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"Such an extended campaign has never occurred in a Chicago mayoral race since the law was changed ahead of the 1995 election. The city switched from its old setup, where candidates ran as Democrats and Republicans in the primary and then squared off in a general election, to the current nonpartisan system, where a majority of the vote in late February seals the deal."

About that:

"It all sounds so calm, so sensible, so un-Chicagoan. But don't be deceived. However virtuous the system may look now, it wasn't put in place because of saintly considerations. Rather, it was meant to ensure that an electoral outcome a lot of people weren't too happy with never happens again," according to Straight Dope, which has been fighting ignorance since 1973 (it's taking longer than they thought).

"The idea of a nonpartisan mayoral election with a runoff if no one got a majority was first bruited in 1986, during the run-up to the 1987 mayoral contest. The intent clearly was to avoid splitting the white vote again and letting Washington be re-elected. Richie Daley among quite a few others supported the plan, but an attempt to put it up for a city referendum failed.

A 1988 effort to push nonpartisan elections through the state legislature died, but the idea came up again in 1995, when Republicans took control of the General Assembly and the governor's office for the first time in 25 years. They used the opportunity to push through a long list of cherished measures that had gone nowhere while the Democrats were in control, one of which was nonpartisan mayoral elections in Chicago.

Public discussion of the change as it wended its way through the legislature was muted by local standards. Some black political activists hated it and threatened legal action; Daley remained neutral. Pretty much everyone else was in favor, and how could they not be? David Axelrod, who had worked for both Washington and Daley, told the Tribune, "It forces you to appeal to a broader constituency than to one ethnic or racial group."

Hard to argue with. Governor Jim Edgar signed the measure into law, and it's what we're using now. Is it fair? Yeah, it's fair. The fact remains that had nonpartisan elections been the rule in 1983, Harold Washington wouldn't have been elected, and breaks like the one that enabled him to become mayor are precisely what the system is intended to prevent.

So today should be called (Not) Harold Washington Election Day. Subtitle: How to keep black people out of the mayor's office.

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Chicago: Where even the election system itself is rigged and racist.

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"Cook County Clerk David Orr, who calls the switch to a nonpartisan mayoral election a 'blatant racist attempt to hurt the black vote,' sees a possible irony coming this year," Mark Brown writes for the Sun-Times.

"If Chicago still had a Democratic primary, Emanuel would be the likely winner in this current field and the April general election a foregone conclusion, says Orr, who is backing Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia. A runoff poses an entirely different threat to the mayor."

I'm not so sure about that. Under the previous system, the Fioretti and Chuy forces might have united to provide a single challenger, and Willie Wilson might not even be in the race so as not to act as a spoiler. Or they might have all backed a different single candidate. There's no way to know how things would have played out under a different dynamic.

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There are other ways of holding an election. Minneapolis, for example, moved to Ranked Choice Voting in its last mayoral race - and it's been seen as a tremendous success.

Betsy Hodges, the eventual winner, describes the impact on the race with great effect:

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Here's the transcript.

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My favorite part:

You know, making the phone calls and saying "Hi, I'm Betsy and here's why I'm great...I'm not the first person you think is great, well how about second? Can I be your second choice?" Now, asking to be someone's third choice......[pause, crowd laughter]..... is exactly like you think it is, the first five or six times. After that you realize, we're just having a conversation and this person is still on the line. This person is still on the phone. We are still talking about the future of Minneapolis and the values of the future of Minneapolis.

That is an incredibly valuable thing to be able to do when you are eager to represent the city of Minneapolis. And it's an incredibly valuable thing to do if you are a fan of small D democracy and deepening democracy. Because you get to have the conversations that you otherwise would really not be having because they wouldn't be worth your time as a candidate, and it wouldn't be worth the time of the voter to have that conversation because their mind would've been made up. It [ranked choice voting] offers options. It offers a wider array of options.

There are other systems too. Maybe the way we're voting today in Chicago is the best one. I doubt it, but who knows. The point is that we - the people - never discussed it. There was really very little debate (aside from the political, strategic implications). Given that this was a system foisted on us by Richard M. Daley and his pals, my inclination is to believe that it's not in our best interests. Because when has that ever been on their minds?

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Follow my real-time Election Day commentary on the world's wittiest Chicago-centric news and culture Twitter feed, @BeachwoodReport.

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Speed The Plow
How baseball is going to save you 10 minutes. In The White Sox Report.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Koffin Kats, Brooke Fraser, Rochelle Jordan, JMSN, Beth Hart, Into It Over It, Mikal Cronin, Swami John Reis & The Blind Shake, DATSIK, Charlie Parr, Greensky Bluegrass, Tink & Timbaland, CoCoComa, Dumpster Babies, The Runnies, Pitbull, Wayne Wonder, Andrew Belle, Fit For Rivals, Flyleaf, and Mr. Big.

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BeachBook
* The Media - And The President - Got The Pullman Story Totally Wrong.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: There is a quality issue in our media across the board that few recognize and fewer want to address. The truth is that the media gets the vast majority of stories it covers wrong, in one way or another. The media generally makes people stupider, not smarter.

* Ken Silverstein, formerly of First Look Media:

"When we were all at Racket, we joked that we should have the courage to write whatever we wanted and not worry about whether FL liked what we did or whether we offended potential future employers. And at bottom, that is the true formula to produce fearless, independent journalism. You will never produce fearless, independent journalism if you live in fear of angering your media boss and pull your punches to please him/her, or to please your sources or even your friends."

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

* Our New Politics Of Torture.

Perhaps the best piece I've ever read on the subject.

* Rauner Wants To Seize Utility Funds For The Poor To Help Balance Budget.

Because the deficit is the poor's fault; they insisted for years that they not freeze to death. Illinois can't afford that any longer.

* Consumers Lousy At Estimating Airfares, Study Shows.

And political candidates.

* McDonald's "McJordan" Special.

It was no McRib, let me assure you.

* Quad Cities Barber To Appear On TV Show.

Is there anyone left in America who hasn't been cast in one of these?

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TweetWood
A sampling.

Quite possibly the most emblematic tweet of the Emanuel administration ever.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Please make it stop.



Permalink

Posted on February 24, 2015


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Corporate Spies Like Us.
SPORTS - Why Was This Game Even Scheduled?

BOOKS - Postdictatorship Argentina.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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