Joel B. Pollak writes: If you want to understand Barack Obama’s presidency, you have to dig into his political roots.
Most of all, you have to know the story of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor, whose election drew Obama to Chicago, and whose political battles Obama likely imagines he is re-living today.
Washington was elected in 1983, defeating the remnants of the Daley political machine, which was dominated by white ethnic blocs. Until Washington, blacks had to know their place in the Chicago Democratic Party. And the party bosses he had beaten were determined to claw back their power.
They formed a 29-vote faction in the 50-alderman city council–enough to block anything the mayor did, yet not enough to overturn his veto.
For three years, Washington and the aldermen faced off in what came to be known as “Council Wars.” The mayor could not appoint key officials or pass his agenda, and his opponents could not enact their own. Read the rest of this entry »