He was the prime mover in the fight to enact the North American Free Trade Agreement, which shuttered whole industries and eliminated tens of thousands of jobs in cities such as Chicago.
He was the an architect of the scheme to provide China with permanent most-favored nation trading status, a shift that ushered in the era of outsourcing that continues to devastate urban neighborhoods.
He battled labor, environmental, economic justice and community groups on behalf of Wall Street, both as an investment banker and as political insider whose basic premise was that government should deliver for those in the suites rather than those on the streets of cities such as Chicago.
He counseled Bill Clinton to steer right on economic and social issues, serving as a key White House aide during the period that saw the former president sign the anti-gay and lesbian Defense of Marriage Act and a "welfare reform" law so draconian that responsible members of the former administration—such as Peter Edelman—quit rather than be associated with it. Both those laws battered urban communities while playing to the crude fears and fantasies of suburbanites and southern rightwingers.
He convinced President Obama to abandon the values he had learned as a community organizer in Chicago and to instead embraces the likes of Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and the corporate elites who seek a renewal for Wall Street while promising cities like Chicago a "jobless recovery."
Meet Rahm Emanuel, who on Monday began making campaign-style appearances in Chicago neighborhoods —as part of his effort to replace outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Emanuel’s return to the city was greeted by a Chicago Sun-Times article that raised serious questions about whether the former White House chief of staff met residency requirements.
But that didn’t stop Emanuel from using a video — recording in Washington, not Chicago — to talk about how he was "glad to be home" and campaigning for mayor.
On Monday, Emanuel launched what he dubbed the “Tell It Like It Is Tour,” declaring that he wants to hear from Chicagoan in “blunt Chicago terms, what you think about our city, and what the next mayor and you can make it better.”
Progressives are ready to take that challenge.
Even before Emanuel made it clear he was running for Daley’s job, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee began circulating a petition to “Hold Rahm Accountable."
Thousands of signers of the petition have already agreed that: “I will not support Rahm Emanuel in any future election for Congress, Mayor of Chicago, Governor, or other office. He sold us out on the public option and is a weak Democrat who caves instead of fighting conservatives and corporate power. We won’t forget the choices you’ve made, Rahm.”
Chicagoans ought not forget either.
It is tough to imagine a poitical player who has done the city more damage — or whose mayoralty would do more harm.