Chicago held hostage

The Washington Post features a story about Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago woes. The headline is “In Chicago, distrust toward mayor has turned ‘personal.’” I can’t think of any reason why it shouldn’t have.

There are two key passages in the Post’s story. Here’s the first, which appears early on:

On the streets of Chicago, the list of grievances is long — especially in the city’s black wards, where Emanuel won strong initial support from voters because of his service as chief of staff to the nation’s first African American president, and he managed to hold on to a majority there when he won reelection last year. But over the years, community activists say that Emanuel has done much to abuse their support.

They point to his feud with the teachers union and say he has plowed cash into big, splashy projects downtown at the expense of desperate needs in their neighborhoods.

Here’s the second, which comes near the end:

There is no legal mechanism to force [Emanuel’s] resignation. . .The more practical question, local leaders say, is how Emanuel will govern in the face of near-daily protests. At the policy level, he has promised reforms in the Chicago police, starting with a plan unveiled Wednesday to reduce police shootings by equipping every officer responding to calls with a less-lethal Taser.

And in recent weeks, Emanuel has reached out to black leaders. Two prominent ministers, the Revs. Marshall Hatch and Ira Acree, said they were called to a private Dec. 8 meeting in which Emanuel seemed to be trying to assess their level of support.

“We told him how diminished his own credibility was,” Acree recalled. “We said if you really want to build trust, you have to go beyond your scurrilous minions in Washington and listen to people who have different views.”

(Emphasis added)

Taken together, these passages suggest that the only way for Emanuel to regain the support he’ll need to govern is to back off of his reformist agenda — e.g., stabilizing finances and pensions, education reform, and economic development downtown — and kowtow to the ruinous demands of “black leaders.” In short, to make Chicago more like Detroit.

At a minimum, Emanuel will have to kowtow when it comes to policing, a process that has already started according to the Post. This raises the prospect that crime will increase due to less effective policing, as it seems to have done in Baltimore for example.

This would be a terrible outcome for a city where gun violence is already out of control. Indeed, Emanuel himself has blamed increased crime in Chicago on police officers becoming “fetal” out of concern they will get in trouble for actions during arrests — i.e., the Ferguson effect.

More broadly, we can expect to witness in Chicago the victory of what Walter Russell Mead calls “short-termism, ethnic demagoguery, and fiscal irresponsibility” over “the imperatives good governance and urban development.”

This is the hidden agenda of the Black Lives Matter movement, which now has Chicago right where it wants it. As Emanuel might say, never let a crisis go to waste.

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