I find it truly remarkable that President Obama should be surprised at the circumstances he has faced during his term of office. It is a movie he has seen before.
On April 29, 1983, just a few years before a newly-minted
Harvard Law graduate graduate of Columbia University arrived in Chicago to take a job as a community organizer at a church-based not-for-profit, Harold Washington became mayor of Chicago, the first non-white to do so. He immediately faced strident, angry opposition from a faction of the Chicago City Council known as the “Vrdolyak 29”. The group was lead by Ed Vrdolyak, Ed Burke, and parks superintendent Ed Kelly and supported by mayor-to-be Richie Daley, Congressman Dan Rostenkowsky, and William Lipinsky (father of now-Congressman Dan Lipinsky).
Anything President Obama has endured from the Republican House majority pales in comparison with what Harold Washington experienced in what has been termed the Council Wars. It consisted not only of opposition but invective, racial slurs, and law suits.
Twenty-nine is a majority of the Chicago City Council but not enough to override a mayoral veto. Gridlock took hold.
I think it is a natural part of the DNA of any politician to think that the problems of his predecessors could never happen to him, that he is far better than that, but the parallels are just too close to ignore and I can only see a failure to learn from the experiences of others as a basic miscalculation.
Harold Washington died in office in 1987, was succeeded by Eugene Sawyer who served out the balance of Washington’s term and we haven’t had a black mayor since. Chicago’s changing demographics may make it difficult for any other black candidate although I think that Chicago Teacher’s Union president Karen Lewis has a good chance if she actually runs.