It seems you can’t go a day – no, make that an hour – without hearing or reading something about Barack Obama being a practitioner of Chicago-style politics. Yeah, that big city machine type of politics that it can be argued is corrupt. I’m not going to bother arguing whether or not the President is a product of the machine, because, very frankly, I couldn’t care less. Rather, the substance of the critique I want to lay is semantic. At its most basic, politics is about the control of goods and resources by a public institution in order to drive certain policy goals. There are different manners of doing this with varying degrees of effectiveness and coercion. Big city politics – ie, Chicago, – is usually conceived of there being a political boss who commands, not unlike a military commander, his minions to do the bidding of the people who put him there. Ok, fair enough.
But what about GW Bush and Mitt Romney-style politics? Instead of having a single party boss, their style of politics involves the constant flow of money from well-heeled contributors, who expect goods in return. The Kochs, with their gutting of the rights of public sector unions in various states across the country through pliant and willing legislatures, the Trumps, the Adelsons of the world. All just dumping cash money into campaigns so that they can convince people and politicians to do as they please, employing means with varying degrees of truth and basis in fact. So, Mr. Rove, Mr. Romney, Mr. Limbaugh, please tell me how Chicago style politics is worse than the patronage system of big money that you advocate? Because I see no difference – just your use of “Chicago-style politics” to infuse fear into an already damaged national conversation.