Rapprochement is one of those lovely French words I love. It’s “an establishment or resumption of harmonious relations,” the Oxford online dictionary says.
In Chicago politics, there are two ways to rapprochement. There’s the smart, classy way, and the knuckle-headed way.
Two ways, as illustrated last week by two prominent members of the U.S. Congress who prominently backed the wrong horse.
U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Bobby Rush endorsed and campaigned for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the recent mayoral runoff election. Their candidate lost to Lori Lightfoot in a landslide.
As Lightfoot’s inauguration approaches, it’s rapprochement time. Time to make amends, restore bonds and claim power.
On Monday, Schakowsky hosted Power Lunch, her annual don’t-miss political fundraiser. More than 3,000 of the North Shore representative’s supporters avidly packed two hotel ballrooms to hear the keynote speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the uber-powerful speaker of the U.S. House.
Who did Schakowsky invite to give greetings at the event? Lori Lightfoot, who received a standing ovation from the massive crowd.
It was Rush’s turn. The South Side congressman had viciously attacked Lightfoot during the runoff campaign. He argued, incorrectly, that the former Police Board president and chair of the Police Accountability Task Force would be a toady for a racist Chicago Police Department.
At a Preckwinkle campaign rally, Rush declared that “everyone who votes for Lori, the blood of the next young black man or black woman who is killed by the police is on your hands.”
On Wednesday, Rush attended a luncheon hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C. Lightfoot was the honored guest.
As Rush arrived, he told reporters he had not spoken to Lightfoot since the election.
“The campaign is over,” he was quoted as saying. “I wish the mayor well. I would be so overjoyed, very much overjoyed, if she became the best and most successful mayor that Chicago’s ever had. It would really make my heart glad.”
Reporters asked whether he would apologize to Lightfoot for his racially incendiary accusation.
“If she asks me to do it, then we’ll discuss it,” he said.
Lightfoot isn’t going to ask. She doesn’t have time for that.
Rush is an icon in black politics. In 1983, the Black Panther stalwart was elected 2nd Ward alderman. He was an invaluable ally of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor. Rush has been re-elected to Congress for decades with little serious opposition. One notable exception: In 2000, when a little-known state senator named Barack Obama took him on.
Rush beat him soundly.
Rush could be a potent ally for Lightfoot. He must be.
Lightfoot needs every iota of power, access and wisdom the veteran congressman can offer.
Rush needs “Landslide Lori,” who was elected Chicago’s first African-American woman and first LGBTQ mayor with nearly 74% of the vote.
Many of Rush’s constituents have even more dire needs. In this supposedly robust economy, African American families on Chicago’s South Side are buried in a landslide of violence, joblessness and poverty.
Lightfoot must govern citywide while also leaning in heavily to bring racial and gender equity to communities of color that have been left behind for decades. The communities Rush has represented for more than a quarter century.
Political rapprochement is not about apologies nor recriminations.
It should be about building power for good.
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