Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel at a press conference in December to voice support for stricter gun laws. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast.)
Back last year when I was columnizing for the Rolling Stone website, I started explaining to the rest of the country what Rahm Emanuel’s tenure as mayor of Chicago felt like on the ground here in my hometown—and not, say, from the rarified altitude of national mainstream publications who treated the half-baked, potentially self-dealing ideas he rammed through a Kremlin-like City Council as if emanations from some sort of public policy Nirvana; unquestioningly took the mayor at his word even in his most pie-in-the-sky, pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow pronouncements; and fawned over him as some sort of new-breed reformer because, well—he tells them he is some sort of new-breed reformer. I called that “Rahmpraganda.” Its most sublime practitioner proved to be Jonathan Alter, who gushed in The Atlantic: “Sitting in his cavernous office on the fifth floor of City Hall, Rahm lowers his outstretched empty palms, then raises them above his waist. ‘If you have your hands above the table you can’t deal from the bottom of the deck.’ ”
Now, it wasn’t hard for me to document the various ways Emanuel dealt from the bottom of the deck all the damned time: all I had to do was compile links of the local coverage. On how his administration all but bribed teachers to support his dubious education initiatives. Or rammed through shock-doctrine anti-protest maneuvers. Or embarrassingly manipulated statistics. Or hid his pay-for-access scheduling practices from public view. Or pleaded poverty in a laughably transparent way in order to cut services for things like libraries, while passing equivalent amounts from the city treasury to favored corporate interests. Or practiced simple old-school Chicago-style cronyism.