Rahm Emmanuel, former White House Chief of Staff and Current mayor of Chicago Illinois 2009
Rahm Emmanuel, the political consigliore for Barack Obama’s first few years in the White House knows what he’s talking about. In politics, often the best time to make a move, a real grab for power or change is right when everything looks bleak, chaotic and disorganized. The worse the crisis, the bigger the risk. 9-11 happens? Push through two major wars America can’t afford! America facing absolute financial ruin? Elect a black man! Anthony Weiner gets caught cheating? Flip a half century long blue district to Red. The list goes on and on: Crisis then bold move. So, it’s fitting that Chicago Mayor Rahm is the man who gave us this quote given that another Chicago resident, Lenny McAllister, is about to make use of a major crisis, right in Chicago’s 2nd district.
Jesse Jackson Jr.’s career as a congressman from Illinois finally petered out a week after the 2012 elections when he abruptly resigned from his position siting his battle with bi-polar disorder. More importantly he was facing a raft of ethics charges which would’ve likely hounded his term and ended up forcing him to resign regardless. In the wake of his departure, everyone is coming out of the woodwork to fight for the seat given that it is seen as a safe long term ride to Washington for at least a decade. The Democratic side alone includes a lawyer who defended pedophile R. Kelly and former Governor Rob Blagojevich, the former seat holder who got busted for sleeping with a 16 year old, and a local pizza magnate. In other words typical Chicago. So why does Lenny McAllister, CNN analyst, former Chicago WVON radio host and at various times writer for the Chicago Defender, Loop21, The Root and Politic365 merit the quote above from the inimitable Rahm? Because he’s a 41 year old African American Republican running in a solid Democratic seat, in the home state of a Democratic president in a city run by that president’s former Chief of Staff.
As Clinton said at the Democratic convention “It takes alotta brass….” And McAllister clearly has been polishing his if he thinks he can take on the Chicago machine and half a dozen other obstacles in his quest to be the 2nd African American Republican in Congress this cycle. McAllister, who moved with his wife and son to Chicago just a few years ago, established himself in the community early on as what I’d like to call a “Reasonable Republican”. While in the Tea Party era of Allan West and Herman Cain the typical Republican distinguished themselves by how much they hated Barack Obama, McAllister went about doing prison ministry, mentoring local kids and doing panels with stalwart Democrats like Tavis Smiley and Al Sharpton. He got fired from his job as a host of a WVON radio program (the most popular black talk radio station in Chicago) for advocating a boycott of a black owned McDonald’s for firing an employee who had taken off a day of work after the death of his newborn. You have to be bringing something new to the table when both the NAACP and the local Tea Party are protesting for you to get your job back.
Objectively McAllister’s chances of victory are slim, the district is strongly Democratic and residents will likely want to keep it that way. However, this race will be an interesting lightening rod for the coming year as both the local Democrats and the National Republican party attempt to make this election simultaneously unimportant and the most important thing that ever happened in the entire political universe.
The local Democratic Party has set the general election for April 9th, to coincide with municipal elections which will help Democratic turnout. Despite the scandals and shame associated with Jesse Jr. the Dems want this race to be over quietly and quickly without a lot of fuss. On the other hand, if McAllister, who has political connections up to the top of the national party, can bring enough attention to local issues and politics he just might have a chance of pulling off an upset. The Republican Party has been whining since November that they need to open up their tent and promote more diverse candidates and policies, here’s their chance to do so and stick a fork in the legacy of the most powerful black political family in America. The question will be if the party is willing to put its money and resources behind a new voice to achieve victory.