Political history of Chicago

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19th century

In 1855, Chicago Mayor Levi Boone threw Chicago politics into the national spotlight with some dry proposals that would lead to the Lager Beer Riot by the wets.[1][full citation needed]

The 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago nominated home-state candidate Abraham Lincoln. During the 1880s and 1890s, Chicago also had an underground radical tradition with large and highly organized socialist, anarchist and labor organizations.[2] The Republicans had their own machine operations, typified by the "blonde boss" William Lorimer, who was unseated by the U.S. Senate in 1912 because of his corrupt election methods.[3]

20th century

The political environment in Chicago in the 1910s and 1920s let organized crime flourish to the point that many Chicago policemen earned more money from pay-offs than from the city. Before the 1930s, the Democratic Party in Chicago was divided along ethnic lines - the Irish, Polish, Italian, and other groups each controlled politics in their neighborhoods Under the leadership of Anton Cermak, the party consolidated its ethnic bases into one large organization. With the organization behind, Cermak was able to win election as mayor of Chicago in 1931, an office he held until his assassination in 1933. The modern era of politics was dominated by machine politics in many ways, and the Cook County Democratic Party became was honed by Richard J. Daley after his election in 1955. Richard M. Daley, his son, is a former mayor of Chicago and had served for 21 years as mayor and 38 as a public servant. Daley announced on September 7, 2010 that he would not be seeking re-election.[4] Daley was succeeded by former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

The New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960s gave the Democratic Party access to new funds and programs for housing, slum clearance, urban renewal, and education, through which to dispense patronage and maintain control of the city. [1]. Machine politics persisted in Chicago after the decline of similar machines in other large American cities.[5] During much of that time, the city administration found opposition mainly from a liberal "independent" faction of the Democratic Party. This included African Americans and Latinos. In the Lakeview/Uptown 46th Ward. The first Latino to announce an aldermanic bid against a Daley loyalist was Jose Cha Cha Jimenez, the Young Lords founder.[6]

A point of interest is the party leanings of the city. For much of the last century, Chicago has been considered one of the largest Democratic strongholds in the United States. For example, the citizens of Chicago have not elected a Republican mayor since 1927, when William Thompson was voted into office. Brian Doherty was the only Republican council member in recent decades.[citation needed]

The police corruption that came to the light from the Summerdale Scandals of 1960, where police officers kept stolen property or sold it and kept the cash, was another black eye on the local political scene of Chicago.[7] Eight officers from the Summerdale police district on Chicago's Northwest Side were accused of operating a large-scale burglary ring. News of the scandal was splashed across the city's newspapers and was the biggest police-related scandal the city had ever seen at the time. Mayor Daley appointed a committee to make recommendations for improvements to the police system.[citation needed]

The Daley faction, with financial help from Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., helped elect John F. Kennedy to the office of President of the United States in the 1960 presidential election.[8] The electoral votes from the state of Illinois, with nearly half its population located in Chicago-dominated Cook County, were a factor in the win for Kennedy over Richard Nixon.[citation needed]

Chicago politics have also hosted some very publicized campaigns and conventions. The Democratic Party decided on Harry S. Truman as the vice-presidential candidate at the 1944 Democratic National Convention. The 1968 Democratic National Convention was the scene of mass political rallies and discontent, leading to the famous trial of the Chicago Seven. Seven defendants — Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner—charged with conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges related to protests.[citation needed]

Home-town columnist Mike Royko wrote satirically that Chicago's motto (Urbs in Horto or "City in a Garden") should instead be Ubi est mea, or "Where's Mine?[9]


Chicago has a long history of political corruption,[10] and has been a de facto monolithic entity of the Democratic Party from the mid 20th century onward.[11][12] Research released by the University of Illinois at Chicago reports that Chicago and Cook County's judicial district recorded 45 public corruption convictions for 2013 and 1642 convictions since 1976 when the Department of Justice began compiling statistics. This prompted many media outlets to declare Chicago the "corruption capital of America".[13] Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman and current University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor, wrote the book “Corrupt Illinois: “patronage, cronyism and criminality” in Illinois which expands upon Chicago's corrupt political culture.[14][15]

"Chicago-style politics" as political meme

The phrase "Chicago-style politics" was used as a political meme in the rhetoric of conservative Republican politicians and commentators during the presidential campaigns and presidency of Barack Obama to attempt to associate him with aspects of the political history of Chicago, his home town.[16] The phrase "took on new resonance" in 2008 in the advertisements of the campaign of Republican presidential candidate John McCain,[17] which said Obama practiced Chicago-style politics.[18] Wider usage as a political meme began in October, 2009 when Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said during a weekly press briefing "Chicago-style politics is shutting the American people out and demonizing their opponents" in reference to Obama's health care reform effort.[17][19][20][21] Republican presidential primary candidate Mitt Romney introduced the phrase into the rhetoric of the 2012 presidential campaign[17][22][23][24] when he described a recess appointment by President Obama as "Chicago-style politics at its worst."[25][26] Romney supporters used "Chicago" as an epithet and referred disdainfully to "Chicago-style politics."[27] Former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie said the 2012 Obama campaign engaged in "classic Chicago-style politics,"[22][28][29] mentioning the meme at least three times in a conference call with reporters.[23]

"'Chicago-style politics' is mainly just a way for him [Romney] to call Obama corrupt without coming out and saying so", according to Jacob Weisberg of Slate.[17][30] "'Chicago-style politics'...seems to have become a generic insult for just about any politics one disagrees with", wrote Chicago-based political consultant and columnist Don Rose in Politico.[31] The Chicago Tribune characterized the refrain as an attempt to discredit Obama through "guilt by geography," saying "...Chicago has seen a goodly share of high- and low-profile officials and operatives shipped off to prison over the decades, and Republicans would like to prod voters into thinking that some of that dirt surely must have rubbed off on Obama."[22] Drake University professor of political science Dennis Goldford, an expert on presidential politics, said the meme was used by Republicans to imply that Obama was a product of an outdated large urban political organization based on unethical behavior and the use of force.[22] According to Chuck McCutcheon, David Mark, and Jeff Greenfield, writing in 2014 in Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes: Decoding the Jargon, Slang, and Bluster of American Political Speech, the attempt to portray Obama as "born of a corrupt Chicago political machine" had no factual basis.[17] James Warren wrote in The Atlantic magazine that "even if you buy into the Fox News caricature of slimy government and practitioners, Obama was never a product of the system."[24]

Further reading

  • Lindberg, Richard Carl. To Serve and Collect: Chicago Politics and Police Corruption from the Lager Beer Riot to the Summerdale Scandal : 1855-1960. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991. ISBN 0-275-93415-2
  • Cohen, Adam. and Elizabeth Taylor. American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley - His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. Boston: Back Bay Books, 2001. ISBN 0-316-83489-0
  • Green, Paul M.. The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8093-2612-4
  • Kimble Jr., Lionel. A New Deal for Bronzeville: Housing, Employment, and Civil Rights in Black Chicago, 1935-1955 (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015). xiv, 200 pp.
  • Sautter, R. Craig, Edward M. Burke. Inside the Wigwam: Chicago Presidential Conventions, 1860-1996. Chicago: Loyola Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8294-0911-4
  • Simpson, Vernon. Chicago's Politics & Society: a Selected Bibliography. DeKalb: Center for Government Studies, DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University, 1972.
  • Wendt, Lloyd, Herman Kogan, and Bette Jore. Big Bill of Chicago. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2005 ISBN 0-8101-2319-3
  • Wendt, Lloyd, and Herman Kogan. Lords of the Levee. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967.

See also


  1. Richard Carl Lindberg, To Serve and Collect: Chicago Politics and Police Corruption from the Lager Beer Riot to the Summerdale Scandal: 1855-1960 (1991) ch 1
  2. Schneirov, Richard (April 1, 1998). Labor and Urban Politics. University of Illinois Press. pp. 173–174. ISBN 0-252-06676-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Joel Arthur Tarr, A Study In Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago (1971)
  4. Sun times article covering Daley Jr. withdrawal from 2011.
  5. Montejano, David, ed. (January 1, 1998). Chicano Politics and Society in the Late Twentieth Century. University of Texas Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-292-75215-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Sun-Times series on the Hired Truck Program scandal.
  7. "Policing" UofC short history
  8. "The Night Richard J. Daley Bought NBC for JFK"
  9. The Radical Royko The Chicago Reader
  10. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-02-24/news/ct-met-aldermen-convicted-0224-20120224_1_bribes-tax-evasion-zoning-change
  11. http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Illinois-The-Most-Democratic-State-126772408.html
  12. http://www.npr.org/2015/06/13/414149719/chicago-democrats-make-appeal-to-republican-candidates
  13. http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Report-Names-Chicago-Corruption-Capital-of-America---Again-305343521.html
  14. http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/78ndq5ty9780252078552.html
  15. http://chicago.suntimes.com/opinion/7/71/383657/must-read-tells-corrupt-chicago-illinois
  16. MacAskill, Ewen (4 June 2010). "Republicans accuse White House of 'Chicago-style politics'". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 McCutcheon, Chuck; Mark, David; Greenfield, Jeff (2014). Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes: Decoding the Jargon, Slang, and Bluster of American Political Speech. p. 72. ISBN 978-1611687002.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Leibovich, Mark (September 27, 2008). "A Form of Political Flattery?". The New York Times. p. A14. Retrieved September 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Silva, Mark (23 October 2009). "Obama's Chicago-style politics:' Boehner". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on July 27, 2012. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Boehner Statement on the White House & Democrats "Chicago-Style Politics"". Speaker Boehner's Press Office. October 21, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Sweet, Lynn (January 20, 2010). "Those from City of Big Shoulders shrug at 'Chicago-style' insult - Slams of Windy City politics 'hype,' 'not fair'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 1, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Secter, Bob; Pearson, Rick (July 20, 2012). "GOP uses association with Chicago against Obama; 'Chicago-style politics' enters lexicon of presidential campaign". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 1, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. 23.0 23.1 Sweet, Lynn (July 17, 2012). "Romney's 'Chicago-style' attack". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 1, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 Warren, James (January 6, 2012). "'Chicago-Style Politics at Its Worst'? Fact-Checking Romney's Jab at Obama". Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 2014-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Cooper, Helene (January 6, 2012). "Obama Tactic: Jab Congress To Hurt Rivals". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved September 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Trumbull, Mark (January 5, 2012). "Romney, Santorum bash Obama recess appointment. Why that could backfire". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Leibovich, Mark (August 29, 2012). "Feel the Loathing on the Campaign Trail". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved September 5, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Baker, Peter; Shear, Michael D. (July 17, 2012). "Obama and Romney Step Up Accusations on Jobs". The New York Times. p. A16. Retrieved September 5, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Kendall, Brent; Devlin, Barrett (July 15, 2012). "Fight Over Romney's Bain Tenure Thunders On". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 5, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Weisberg, Jacob (23 July 2012). "Chicago Style". Slate.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Rose, Don (July 30, 2012). "In praise of 'Chicago politics'". Politico. Retrieved 2014-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links