On May 16th Rahm Emanuel will become Mayor of the City of Chicago. He will use his experience and political savvy to guide Chicago in the post Richard M. Daley era. We don’t know how long it will be before another Daley rises up to become mayor. So while we wait, let us focus on Mr. Emanuel. After all, it is his time and his turn at the wheel. Given that, the Rahm that we have come to know and love/hate will be in the past. A new Rahm will arrive after his oath.
A catchy play on the Latin term tabula rasa, like Tabula Rahma or Emanuel Rasa, just cannot work. Tabula rasa, when translated into English, means a blank or erased slate. Will Rahm be a “blank slate” with a clear and free mind? I don’t believe so. His experience in Congress and the Obama administration have created a savvy politician who knows the art of the deal. He will need those skills to change Chicago for the better and create his own legacy. So how will there be a new Rahm on May 16th? There are three reasons for my belief.
Reason One – No Republicans. With no Republicans to interfere with Rahm’s agenda, he and the Democratic Party controlled city council will shoulder all of the blame for failure. Since they will also benefit from any successes, it is important that they create and maintain a unified front for the cameras. The “blame the opposition” tactic has been effectively removed from his political playbook.
Reason Two – No Blame for Mayor Daley. Mr. Emanuel cannot blame the previous mayor for the city’s problems. Well, he can but he won’t. The two are long-time friends and any criticism on Daley would ruin that friendship. Mayor Daley’s brother, William Daley, is also President Obama’s new chief of staff (Rahm’s old job). With such tight bonds, the “blame your predecessor” tactic has also been removed from the playbook.
Reason Three – Fiscal Conservatism. Mr. Emanuel will have to work on balancing the city’s budget. This will not be easy since issuing new debt and/or increasing taxes are basically off the table. This forces the new mayor to approach unions on reducing salaries and benefits. Rahm will also have to reduce the size of city government. With “tax and spend” removed from the political playbook, Mr. Emanuel will have to act like a conservative but look like a liberal.
These aren’t the only reasons why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel will modify his tactics but they are valid. Since he ran a campaign focused on change and improving the quality of life for Chicagoans, he will have to live up to that pledge or be a “one and done” mayor. If he is successful he could be mayor for life. If he is really successful he may be asked to take on the monumental task of getting the Cubs to the World Series. Hmmmm. Baby steps Mr. Emanuel. Your legacy starts with mayor.