Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
My latest post is online over at City Journal. It’s called “Rahm Emanuel’s Nightmare,” the headline in homage to a Greg Hinz post. Things have not been going smoothly for Rahm Emanuel of late, and it has wounded him politically for perhaps the first time since taking office. Since he still has a massive pile of campaign cash and will likely convince any credible challengers to stay out of the race, he’s still looking reasonably good at this point. But he’s clearly more vulnerable to losing his re-election bid than anyone would have thought possible not long ago. Here’s an excerpt:
But the most ominous sign for Emanuel came in a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed by elementary school principal Troy LaRaviere, in which he accused the mayor of suppressing principals’ independence and forcibly enlisting them as proponents of his education policies. According to LaRaviere, principals were instructed to have an “elevator speech” ready for the media, in which they would praise Emanuel’s proposal for longer school days. LaRaviere described how his fellow principals are concerned “about being harassed, fired or receiving a poor evaluation” and “paralyzed by fear of what might happen if they simply voiced the truth.” One even asked him, “Aren’t you afraid of losing your job?’” That LaRaviere apparently isn’t afraid may indicate a new willingness to speak out against an intimidating mayor.
Yet, Emanuel may be making a political misjudgment. He seems to believe that, like President Obama, he can tough it out through any storm or scandal. Local politics, however, is different from the national scene. In a country evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, the president has a core constituency that will back him no matter what. By contrast, Emanuel has no political base. His support was always wide but shallow, as the collapse in minority-voter approval shows. His ability to get reelected depends on his ability to perform and the aura of invincibility that surrounds him. If he can’t command fear and compliance, he can’t get things done.
The LaRaviere piece actually got reprinted online by the Washington Post.
The problem comes down to what I said long ago: Emanuel has no natural constituency apart from the big money elite, who are a small percentage of the voter base. This leaves him vulnerable if things start getting choppy. This should be interesting to watch going forward.