Rahm Emanuel ducked out of City Hall alone on Tuesday afternoon, his usual security detail walking slightly ahead of him.
Across the street at Daley Plaza, 150 or so activists had gathered to celebrate his vanquishing at an event called "Celebrate the End of Rahm Emanuel’s Reign of Terror" on Facebook. He didn't appear to notice. Instead, he stopped to offer a friendly gesture to a random passerby while strolling hastily down LaSalle.
"Farewell, good luck," said the man at the other end of the mayor's index finger.
"You too, man. You too," Rahm replied before strolling to his car.
The calm, matter-of-fact way that Rahm's rule is coming to an ending is shocking—particularly so if you compare it to the mood of eight years ago. In 2010, Obama's former chief of staff returned to Chicago from the White House poised as a conquering hero ready to assume his rightful place on the throne.
But those paying close attention have noticed how the cracks in the foundation of Emanuel's personal kingdom have grown into chasms over the last few years. And more broadly, we're seeing symptoms of the creeping national decline of a kind of technocratic centrism practiced by the Clinton and Obama machine over the last 25 years. Rahm has served as neoliberalism's Machiavelli over that time, perfecting a cynical "Just win, baby" philosophy of politics that meant making the Democratic Party rain with Wall Street cash, whipping up fear about your opponent, and then campaigning (and governing) slightly to the left of him or her.
There's no one distinctly to the right of him in this crowded mayoral race (Garry McCarthy is probably a wash), which is why Rahm frequently jabs at Trump, the Democratic Party's favorite foil.
In his press conference on Tuesday morning, Emanuel wasn't explicit about why he was suddenly skipping a shot at a third term. As many in the commentariat have noted, the timing coincided with the start of the Jason Van Dyke trial this week. It's the latest high-profile chapter in a case that still looms large three years since news broke of a possible cover-up of the police officer's killing of 17-year old Laquan McDonald. Others cheekily joked that Rahm's departure showed the power of a dis track from Chance, who recently rapped: "And Rahm, you
No disrespect to Chicago's favorite son, but the reason for Rahm's retreat may be more far-reaching than a rap beef. It's the fact that the mayor's already thin base of support is vanishing.
Sure, a recent poll bankrolled by one of Emanuel's many high-powered capitalist friends claimed that the mayor had more than a puncher's chance of reelection. But multiple polls conducted earlier in the year for mayoral hopefuls Garry McCarthy and Lori Lightfoot weren't so rosy for Rahm. McCarthy's numbers had Emanuel's job performance rating at just 32 percent, and Lightfoot's showed that just 31 percent of 800 Chicago voters said they would vote to
Axelrod, something of a Rahm whisperer, says his old Clinton-administration buddy believed he could have won the election but may not have wanted four more years of fighting municipal battles and presiding over an increasingly polarized electorate. The cops and old-guard John Kass-style conservatives think he's too liberal. The socialism-friendly younger generation of progressives see him as Mayor 1%, and he's no stranger to protests himself.
What's a guy devoted to postpartisan Third Way-style triangulation to do?
These are just a few out of hundreds (if not more) of photos in my archives showing some of the fierce protests and relentless organizing that has happened to oust #RahmEmanuel over the years. Like @prisonculture says, sometimes we win. #ByeRahm #IBelieveThatWeWillWin pic.twitter.com/HLNNU18Sg8— Love+Struggle Photos (@sarahdashji) September 4, 2018