Bill Daley, family dynasties and the ancient history of Chicago

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Mayoral candidate Bill Daley | Sun-Times file photo

The Feb. 26 mayoral election is fast approaching.  Everywhere I go, voters tell me they are dazed and confused by the 14-candidate field.

One refrain I hear: “Chicago doesn’t need another Daley.”

Yet, among the 14 candidates, William M. “Bill” Daley enjoys the strongest brand. Voters know what they are getting from Daley: History.


Bill Daley would be third in a storied line of Chicago mayors. His father, Daley No. 1, was Richard J. Daley. Famously dubbed The American Pharaoh, Richard J. was the political boss of bosses who wielded power absolutely, for 21 years.

Daley No. 2, Richard M. Daley, continued his father’s legacy as a builder and boss and outlasted his tenure, serving 22 years.

Bill Daley would be No. 3.

While Richard M. led the city, Bill Daley served as a close advisor. In his campaign, Daley 3 chooses to tout other history, especially his stints as U.S. Commerce Secretary under President Bill Clinton, and White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama.

Daley also showcases his business resume, including his time as president of SBC Communications Inc.; Midwest Chairman at JPMorgan; and managing partner at the Swiss hedge fund, Argentiere Capital AG. All were lucrative opportunities boosted by the Daley name, jobs that likely made him a multi-millionaire.

Daley 3 is the business community’s guy. For one, well, because, Bill Daley’s a guy. A white guy.

His fellow millionaires, from corporate chieftains to investment titans, are flooding his campaign war chest with donations. Daley already has raised $7.2 million.

Daley 3 is the candidate of the big boys who run and own Chicago. Those big boys are terrified of losing power to progressives and people of color in this majority minority city. Bill Daley has captured endorsements from the mouthpieces of the business and wealthy elites, Crain’s Chicago Business and the Chicago Tribune.

Where else would the big boys go?

Daley’s history resonates with voters looking for a mayor who will be focused on the downtown and prioritize a portfolio of national and international relationships. He is the refuge of voters who are sorry to see Rahm “Mayor One Percent” Emanuel leave the scene.

There’s other history. Take Richard M. Daley’s disastrous policy decisions, like the city’s costly parking meter deal. Bill Daley’s opponents claim he supported and facilitated the deal while an executive at J.P Morgan. His campaign denies the charge.

No worries. Daley’s tour as a White House chief of staff prepared him well for a “Rose Garden” strategy.

Cultivate the Daley name, via millions of dollars in slick TV and internet ads. Ditch as many community forums and public appearances as possible, especially those that would query Daley on social issues and the concerns of people of color. Don’t alarm older and white ethnic voters and Republicans, crucial elements of the base.

Instead, distract with high-profile endorsements, like nods from former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, and Howard Dean, former presidential candidate and National Democratic Committee chairman. Throw in former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for fun.

All “formers.” All ancient history.

It’s working. For weeks, Bill Daley has hovered near the top of every mayoral poll.

Political dynasties are embedded in the DNA of Chicago politics. Daley 3 would advance one of America’s best known dynasties. Voters love dynasties.

Do voters want to make that kind of history?

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