Since the hearings on Rahm Emanuel’s residency (and therefore eligibility to run for mayor) wrapped up, two famous quotations keep running through my head.
The first is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s admonition that, “If you shoot at a king, you must kill him.”
The other, attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
Though no one should be ready to anoint him King Rahm, I wonder whether Emanuel’s candidacy might be strengthened by the controversy over whether he gave up his status as a Chicagoan by taking the Chief of Staff’s job in the Obama White House.
Granted, this is all publicity about whether Emanuel’s a carpetbagger, swooping in from Washington, trying to elbow aside folks who’ve toiled in the vineyard of local politics for years. And, of course, if Emanuel’s tossed off the ballot in the end, this controversy was no boon to him.
But, if he stays on the ballot, I think he wins for two reasons.
One, it’s dominated coverage of the campaign. On Monday and Tuesday, the only articles in the Trib about the mayoral contest focused on the Rahmapalooza taking place at the Board of Elections. The columnists were all over it, too, with both John Kass and Mark Brown writing a pair of columns about the proceedings and the controversy over “What’s in the crawl space?” in the Emanuel basement.
There are 9 1/2 weeks until the election, and the latest Tribune poll would indicate that the “Anybody but Rahm” candidate has yet to emerge from the pack:
- Rahm Emanuel 32%
- Undecided 30%
- Danny Davis 9%
- Gery Chico 9%
- James Meeks 7%
- Carol Moseley-Braun 6%
- Miguel del Valle 3%
The more time focused on Emanuel’s residency, the less time the also-rans have to impress that 30% of voters who don’t yet have a preference. It’ll be hard to break away from the pack, under those circumstances.
The second reason Emanuel may benefit from this week’s proceedings is that most observers said he held up to 11 1/2 hours of questioning on Tuesday pretty well.
His campaign has been trying to soften his image as a profane, hard-as-nails politico— “Rahmbo”. His smiling, almost jocular demeanor as a witness— Kass described him as “ostentatiously patient”— was a better image rehabilitator than any ad showing him smiling and shaking hands on an L platform.
It appears likely that the Board of Elections will hand Emanuel a victory next week, and declare him enough of a resident to qualify for the ballot. The board’s chair has been quoted as saying, “If you are a registered voter and continue to vote from your residence, you establish what we consider the intent to be a resident of the city of Chicago.” A Board spokesman has said even executives who get sent overseas but vote absentee in Chicago, as Emanuel has, are considered residents.
The courts may decide that’s too loose a standard, and toss Emanuel off the ballot. Until that happens, though, all the fuss over Rahm’s residency may just be good news for him.
What do you think?