Politics and horse-race electoral campaigns, with their million-dollar hype and smear ads that sugarcoat, or elude or else spin the truth make my head swirl in dizzying dismay.
Sifting for the truth in politics, for me, is like eating buffalo fish. Aware of the myriad, near invisible bones embedded within the tasty, flaky meat, I decided long ago not to indulge rather than risk ending up lying on the floor choking from a bone stuck in my throat.
Except the stakes here lately, even for a suburban-dwelling Chicago native son like myself, are too high. As Chicago goes, so will we.
While I usually abstain as a writer from jumping into the fray of politics, I cannot resist sticking my fingers and fork into the bone-filled runoff race for mayor, even if the meat of the truth these days seems hard to get at. The truth about which candidate — Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — is best for this city.
The truth about whether Rahm’s millionaire buddies and his ties to big business trump his commitment to the Cold Coast — those poor communities that geographically lie only minutes beyond the city’s Gold Coast but socioeconomically light years away. The truth about the mayor’s decision to close 50 schools in poor, mostly black and brown neighborhoods.
The truth of how both candidates propose to handle a $20 billion pension crisis and lead the city through troubled fiscal waters. How they would deal with a migraine’s worth of issues, ranging from crime to continued failing schools and job creation, just to name a few. The truth about Garcia’s plan, which so far seems to be a wish list more than a blueprint.
Truth. The truth is I don’t hear either candidate talking substantively about how to cure the city’s ailing poor communities. Or about curbing murder in those neighborhoods and also shootings (typically four times the number of homicides annually) — beyond Garcia’s idea of adding 1,000 police officers to the streets, which is hardly the answer. Can somebody please say, “police state.”
Or maybe I missed specific plans about economic revitalization and community development in neighborhoods like North Lawndale (where I grew up), Pilsen, Englewood and Roseland. In a world of 30-second potshot TV spots and controlled candidate “debates” and forums, that’s entirely possible.
Beyond the apparent “anybody but Rahm” silent decry among some, or the “a vote for Garcia is a vote against Rahm” undercurrent flowing beneath the challenger’s campaign, there ought to be evidence at some point of a clear choice between the two candidates. As an incumbent with a record, Emanuel’s cards are at least on the table — love him or hate him.
His brashness has rubbed a few people’s skin like sandpaper. He’s made decisions that ruffled a few feathers, to say the least. School closings. Red-light cameras. And there is, of course, the criticism that Mayor Emanuel has rich friends who are said to benefit from city contracts.
But this much I can say on both candidates’ behalf. That while neither may have created the city’s looming financial mess and other issues, whoever is elected will certainly have to handle it.
So I guess it comes down to what it has always come down to for most average citizens in elections: Which candidate is more likely to represent “the people,” to act on behalf of the greater good? Who do you trust? Who can you trust?
That would be a tough one for me. But after sifting through these bones, I see only one with a plan. And honestly, even Ray Charles could’ve seen that.