Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Preckwinkle is Obama Clone: Russ Stewart Analysis

By Russ Stewart

(Russ Stewart, a Chicago Attorney and political analyst for the NW Side Nadig Community newspapers, is a frequent guest on WLS radio's "Political Shootout.")

Platitudes do not necessarily presage performance. In 2008, Barack Obama ran as a “reformer” who would bring “change.” Instead, he has governed as a typical tax-and-spend liberal Democrat.

But the proper platitudes do, however, presage victory, especially in a Cook County Democratic primary where minorities and liberals predominate. As proven by Toni Preckwinkle’s sizeable Feb. 2 victory for Cook County Board president, such buzz-words as “independent,” “reformer,” and “competent” have great impact, particularly when the incumbent, Todd Stroger, is perceived as the incompetent tax-hiking non-reformer.

In analyzing the outcome, here’s a few appropriate journalistic platitudes:

* Everybody hates Todd. Stroger’s demise eclipses mere defeat or rejection, even surpasses embarrassment or humiliation, and approaches abasement and sheer mortification. The incumbent board president got 13.6 percent of the vote. That’s an astounding personal repudiation, based on voter anger and abject loathing.

Stroger won four of 50 Chicago wards, and got a mere 41.3 percent in his home 8th Ward. Overall, he took 17.1 percent of the Chicago vote, and just 8.6 percent of the suburban vote. As for his 78,532 voters, rumors abound that there are counselors available to provide trauma therapy, either for their remorse in backing him, or for their shock in being so stupid.

The Toddler’s misguided, misgoverned four-year reign is proof positive that there is no DNA gene for political astuteness. And further proof that, in 2010, tax-hikers are doomed.

* Preckwinkle is another Obama. Preckwinkle, a 19-year black Chicago alderman who rarely dissented from the council’s Daley majority, and has no governing experience, rode a tide of anti-tax, anti-Stroger sentiment, and won countywide with 50 percent. She amassed 281,905 votes, to Terry O’Brien’s 131,896 (23 percent), Dorothy Brown’s 83,150 (14.4 percent), and Stroger’s 78,532 (13.6 percent). Total turnout was 575,483

Derided by some as the “white liberal” candidate, and by others as the “Daley stealth” candidate, Preckwinkle, age 62, assembled an Obama-like coalition of blacks, Hispanics, and Lakefront and suburban white liberals, while running exceedingly well in white ethnic wards and townships.

According to official tallies, Preckwinkle won 34 of 50 wards, getting 47 percent of the Chicago ballots. She won 6 of 8 Hispanic-majority wards. She won 14 of 20 black-majority wards. She won all 6 Lakefront wards.

And she won 24 of 30 suburban townships, racking up 70 percent-plus in Barrington, Evanston, New Trier, Northfield and Oak Park townships. Preckwinkle also garnered over half the vote in white-majority Elk Grove, Hanover, Lyons, Maine, Niles, Palatine, Rich, River Forest, Riverside, Schaumburg and Wheeling townships.

In 2004, when Obama ran for the U.S. Senate, he got 301,199 votes (66.5 percent) in Chicago, and 163,718 (60.8 percent) in the suburbs. Obama ran exceedingly well in white liberal areas, and got 25-35 percent of the vote in white ethnic wards. The 2010 difference: Obama got near-unanimous black support, and Preckwinkle only 40 percent.

* Liberals love Toni. In Chicago’s Lakefront wards, which cast 43,187 votes, Preckwinkle got 29,944 votes (69.3 percent), to O’Brien’s 7,052 (16.3 percent) and Stroger’s 2,391 (5.5 percent). Preckwinkle also had huge margins in suburban liberal enclaves Evanston (77.9 percent) and Oak Park (73.8 percent).

* More blacks voted for the electable black than for the racially pandering black.
Stroger ran on the premise that the one-cent sales tax hike was “needed” to provide health services to minorities. That was a racist appeal. But many black voters intuitively understood that, with three blacks running, O’Brien would win if they did not coalesce behind a single opponent. In effect, a vote for Stroger or Brown, the Clerk of the Court, was a vote for O’Brien.

In the 20 black wards, turnout was 142,493. Preckwinkle got 57,892 votes (40.6 percent), carrying 12 of 14 South Side wards. Stroger got 43,430 votes (30.4 percent), winning the 8th, 21st, 24th and 34th wards. Brown got 33,645 votes (23.6 percent), winning the 29th and 37th wards.

In the suburbs, Preckwinkle won the black-majority townships of Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Proviso and Rich, getting 53.4 percent of the total suburban vote, to Stroger’s 8.6 percent and Brown’s 11.7 percent.

Representing the south Lakefront Hyde Park area, where Obama resides, Preckwinkle is an intellectual, not a streetwise black activist. But her goal was to get 40 percent of the black vote, and at least half of that number came from black voters who wanted to keep a black in the board presidency.

* The Daley/Madigan/Burke/Lipinski/Hynes Machine did not fare thee well.
Or did it? O’Brien, the elected 14-year president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, is a longtime Daley ally with ties to the South Side. But he ran an insipid campaign, failing to establish himself as the principal alternative to Stroger. He promised to rescind the hated sales tax hike, but not cut additional taxes or spending.

To win, O’Brien needed to be a demagogue. He needed to make a vote for him a vote against Stroger. He needed to make promises that appealed to white middle-class voters. He didn’t. And getting an anemic 23 percent of the countywide vote means his future political prospects are nil.

O’Brien did, however, carry ten city wards and six townships. He won the mayor’s 11th Ward (51.2 percent), Ed Burke’s 14th Ward (53.5 percent), Mike Madigan’s 13th Ward (42.1 percent), Bill Lipinski’s 23rd Ward (54.4 percent), and Tom Hynes’ 19th Ward (46.3 percent). But even in those wards, Preckwinkle ran well, getting 36.3 percent in the 11th, 27 in the 14th, 36.1 in the 13th, 36.4 in the 19th, and 31.8 in the 23rd Ward.

Pre-primary rumors abounded that Mayor Daley really wanted a black board president going into the 2011 mayoral election, so as to minimize black discontent. If so, he got his wish. If Daley wanted O’Brien to win, he would have gotten 70 percent in those wards.

* Adios, idiota. As in the 2008 Obama-McCain election, Chicago area Hispanics showed no hesitation in supporting a black (Preckwinkle) over Stroger. In the eight Hispanic-majority wards, which cast 30,826 votes, Preckwinkle got 13,795 votes (44.7 percent), to O’Brien’s 9,127 (29.6 percent) and Stroger’s 2,207 (7.1 percent). However, O’Brien won suburban Cicero (45.7 percent) and Stickney (56.7 percent) townships.

As with white ethnics, Hispanics clearly wanted to be rid of Stroger, and Preckwinkle was the best instrument.

* Whites will vote for the least objectionable black, especially if it means ousting the most objectionable black. On Chicago’s Northwest Side, where O’Brien, as the sole white candidate, was presumed to have appeal, only three wards carried for him: The 45th Ward, where O’Brien got 47.8 percent (3,827 votes), to Preckwinkle’s 43.5 percent; the 36th Ward, where O’Brien got 45.9 percent (3,341 votes), to Preckwinkle’s 38.6 percent; and the 41st Ward, where O’Brien got 51.9 percent (5,030 votes), to Preckwinkle’s 41.6 percent. Preckwinkle won the 32nd Ward (66.3 percent), 33rd Ward (55.5 percent), 38th Ward (49.4 percent), 39th Ward (49.8 percent), 40th Ward (56.9 percent), 47th Ward (67.5 percent), and 50th Ward (51.3 percent).

Why did Preckwinkle do so well? Four reasons: First, Stroger was deemed an abomination. He had to go. Second, O’Brien failed to click as a candidate. Third, Preckwinkle, by campaign’s end, loomed as the frontrunner. For voters determined to oust Stroger, a Preckwinkle vote did the deed, while an O’Brien vote was a waste.

And fourth, as demonstrated in the 2004 U.S. Senate primary (won by Obama) and the 2008 presidential primary (also won by Obama), there are substantial numbers of independents and liberals in the area who will vote for a non-white, non-conservative candidate.

“She (Preckwinkle) has never voted independently of (Mayor) Daley, has never implemented any reforms, and has not actually changed anything,” said Roger Keats, the former state senator who is the Republican candidate for board president. “I am change. She is business-as-usual.”

Another platitude: You can’t beat somebody – however vacuous – with nobody. Preckwinkle is the midget-killer, the woman who purged Todd Stroger. To many, she’s the good Samaritan. Keats is unknown, and it will cost him $2 million to run a viable campaign.

A final platitude: Perception defines reality. Preckwinkle is perceived by a plethora of adjectives: independent, competent, and a reformer. Like Obama, her platitudes may not presage her performance. But they are enough to enable her to win in November.


  1. More of the same big government liberals, it seem the good people of Illinois will never learn.

  2. I am afraid you are right. I have a sneaking suspicion that, despite the Blago scandals and state and local governments on the brink of bankruptcy, that the same old big government crowd will still prevail in IL in November. Given the ineptitude of Illinois Republicans, that is not entirely a far-fetched notion.


Comments invited, however anonymous commentors had better deal directly with the issues raised and avoid ad hominem drivel. As for Teachers' Union seminar writers -- forget about it.