WBEZ | Democratic Party http://www.wbez.org/tags/democratic-party Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en No conspiracy required: The true origins of Chicago's February elections http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585 <p><p>With Chicago&rsquo;s municipal election less than a week away, we couldn&rsquo;t help but notice a bevy of questions related to the fact that the races for mayor and city aldermen are settled in late February. In short, a lot of folks suspect that the timing, with the chance of sub-zero temps and snow, amounts to a conspiracy &mdash; one that undercuts the whole democratic thrust of the election itself.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean, nasty cold weather would seem to suppress voter turnout,&rdquo; says Curious Citizen Dave Seglin.</p><p>Another question-asker, Jesse Ackles, adds: &ldquo;My cynical take on it is that it really seems to favor incumbents.&rdquo;</p><p>The most concise formulation of the question comes from Eric Sherman, a local campaign worker who&rsquo;s been canvassing for votes in this nasty cold weather. Here it is:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why are the Chicago Municipal Elections held in February? What&rsquo;s the REAL reason?</em></p><p>For the record, Eric&rsquo;s not entirely sure the timing is a ploy meant to mess with the administration of democracy, but his formulation (&ldquo;the REAL reason&rdquo;) resonated with a lot of commenters on Twitter and Facebook.</p><p>Regardless, we&rsquo;re going to clear things up, for sure. But a warning to conspiracy theorists: You&rsquo;re not gonna like this. It turns out, there&rsquo;s good evidence that the timing of the February elections was intended to broaden voter participation, not narrow it. Don&rsquo;t blame us. Just read ahead and then blame the historical record.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">On the paper trail</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s clarify what we&rsquo;re talking about when we say &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s February elections.&rdquo; Most towns in Illinois hold party primaries on the last Tuesday of February, while the municipal or so-called &ldquo;consolidated elections&rdquo; happen on the first Tuesday in April.</p><p>Chicago, though, is different. The city holds no primaries for alderman or mayor. Since 199, mayoral candidates have been elected on a nonpartisan basis. Run-offs are held between the top two vote getters if there is no clear majority. Those occur in April.</p><p>Ok, on to the origin story.</p><p>The obvious call to make first is to the Chicago Board of Elections. Jim Allen, a spokesman, says Chicago has held its election around this time of year as long ago as 1837.</p><p>&ldquo;The first mayoral election where Ogden beat Kenzie was in May, and ever since then as far as I can tell we&rsquo;ve been swearing in our mayors in May.&rdquo;</p><p>Of course, this was back when mayors only served one-year terms and City Hall was a saloon. But even Allen, who&rsquo;s been doing this for awhile, is a little stumped about the origins of the current date.</p><p>&ldquo;The part that&rsquo;s going to be hard is finding this bridge between May and when it got pushed back to February,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Is it a political reason that it&rsquo;s incumbent protection, by keeping the voters at home and turnout low? Who knows. That&rsquo;s for a political scientist to noodle over.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Primary election reform </span></p><p>Our next stop: Chicago&rsquo;s Municipal Reference Collection, which resides on the 5th floor of the Harold Washington Library. There, librarian Lyle Benedict begins with relevant passages in the<a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=001000050K2A-1.1" target="_blank"> Illinois compiled statutes</a>.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s elections, like every Illinois municipality, are set by state law. Except for a few years after the Civil War, these elections were held in April, as set forth in the Cities and Villages Act of 1872.</p><p>For most of the 19th century these were elections in name only; candidates that appeared on the ballot were chosen ahead of time by party bosses at state conventions.</p><p>All of this changed during the Progressive Era, when reformers pushed to institute open primaries, which would let average party members participate.</p><p>The change was hailed as a huge step forward.</p><p>On March 7, 1898, the<em> Chicago Tribune</em> wrote about a gathering of 800 young African-Americans at Bethel Church. The esteemed lawyer Edward E. Wilson was quoted addressing the crowd:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The days of corrupt politics in Chicago are numbered. A few more wise laws such as the new primary law will sound the death knell of the corrupt politician, the ballot-box stuffer, and ward heeler, and honest men will control the elections, and when that time comes honest men will cease to be ashamed to play their part in politics.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1898/03/07/page/7/article/honest-primaries-discussed" width="300"></iframe></p><p>According to Benedict and legislative records, there was another change in the works: These primaries were set for February &mdash; more than a month before the April elections. In 1905, Benedict says, Chicago held its first February primary elections.</p><p>&ldquo;Looks like the Republicans were February 14, the Democrats were February 24 and the Socialists were March 4,&rdquo; Benedict notes, pointing to old election rolls.</p><p>These open primaries empowered average voters (at least eligible<em> male</em> voters), but reformers felt it didn&rsquo;t go far enough. Over the next decade they advocated for direct primaries, which would consolidate all of the state&rsquo;s primaries &mdash; regardless of party &mdash; on a single day.</p><p>This was a contentious issue, as entrenched party interests sought to preserve the status quo. A <em>Chicago Tribune</em> article from Oct 15, 1907, was headlined: &ldquo;New Primary Act May Cause Spasm: Measure to be Introduced Today at Springfield Is So Direct That It Staggers Politicians.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1907/10/15/page/1/article/new-primary-act-may-cause-spasm" width="300"></iframe></p><p>Reformers eventually won out, however, and the day lawmakers selected was the last Tuesday in February. That date has stuck ever since.</p><p>At the time this was a radical change, according to Maureen Flanagan, a historian at the Illinois Institute of Technology.</p><p>&ldquo;The parties can&rsquo;t just hunker down and control everything,&rdquo; she says, adding that since the general elections were in April, moving the consolidated primaries back to February gave voters a lot more say.</p><p>&ldquo;So if you&rsquo;ve got, say, 6 weeks, [candidates] have a chance to get out and give speeches, do interviews, and it does in fact make it possible for people to know who the candidates are,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>And, Flanagan says, people felt they now had a voice in deciding who would run the city, which led to an increase in voter turnout.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Timing is everything</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/snow%20gearing%20up.jpg" style="float: right; height: 467px; width: 350px;" title="A trio of campaign volunteers for Alderman Proco Joe Moreno bundle up against the cold as they prepare to hit ward precincts with flyers and door-hangers. (WBEZ/Derek John)" />Okay, at this point, we can just say it: The conspiracy theories are dead wrong about why Chicago elections are in February. The timing wasn&rsquo;t originally created to suppress voter turnout &mdash; quite the opposite.</p><p>The next question is: Why do so few people remember it that way?</p><p>Well, one reason is that &mdash; starting in the 1930s &mdash; the Democrats have dominated municipal elections. Then, there&rsquo;s the Democratic Machine, which has been implicated in notorious election shenanigans: Sitting politicians doled out jobs for votes, ballots sometimes were &ldquo;lost&rdquo; during key contests, and nepotism often prevailed in the selection of candidates. Little wonder that citizens find the very timing of elections suspect.</p><p>Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at UIC, was one of the few independents who was elected to the City Council back in 1971. He says for local ward races, especially, the Machine was hard to beat.</p><p>&ldquo;Aldermanic elections are frequently thrown to the Machine for many reasons: patronage, jobs, favors, corrupt contracts. But the winter weather does not help,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>And yet Simpson provides at least one example of when February&rsquo;s blustery weather worked against the Democratic Machine.</p><p>This was during the 1979 Democratic mayoral primary. The incumbent, Michael Bilandic, faced Jane Byrne. As the two went head to head in January, blizzard after blizzard deposited enough snow to practically shut down the city. By the end of one gigantic snowstorm, Simpson says, Chicagoans could look out their windows and see 5 or 6 feet of snow staring back at them.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;d be skiing to the grocery store because you couldn&rsquo;t get there any other way,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The &lsquo;L&rsquo;s weren&rsquo;t running, so they cut the &lsquo;L&rsquo; stops in the black community, which enraged the black community.&rdquo;</p><p>These political problems piled up &mdash; nearly as high as the snow &mdash; until just a few weeks later, when Bilandic went down to a shocking defeat.</p><p>While Simpson acknowledges other factors, he says the timing of the election was huge.</p><p>&ldquo;If it had been held in April, Jane Byrne probably wouldn&rsquo;t have been elected.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Today&rsquo;s election reforms</span></p><p>While it&rsquo;s still hard to campaign during the winter, in some ways it&rsquo;s never been easier to vote in Chicago.</p><p>Echoing the Progressive reforms from a century ago, new rules have extended the early voting period and allowed more people to use mail-in ballots. Starting in 2016, every polling station in the city will have same-day registration.</p><p>One last thing to note. Chicago&rsquo;s average voter turnout for municipal elections hovers around 40 percent. Compare that to turnout in San Antonio, Texas. According to <a href="http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/blog/fairvote-report-low-turnout-plagues-u-s-mayoral-elections-but-san-francisco-is-highest/#.UqoBkvRDtrE" target="_blank">figures collected by the voter advocacy group Fair Vote </a>, turnout in that city&rsquo;s last few mayoral elections averaged below 10 percent.</p><p>Translation? Chicago&rsquo;s turnout is higher than nearly every other big city &mdash; even those in warmer climates, where braving the outdoors in February isn&rsquo;t so intimidating.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker2.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Question-asker Eric Sherman standing in front of a map of Chicago’s 1st ward. (Derek John/WBEZ)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Who asked our question?</span></p><p>We received several versions of this question about the timing of Chicago elections, but the one we got from Eric Sherman accompanied a great backstory. He&rsquo;s a local political activist and self-proclaimed political science nerd. He&rsquo;s currently working on Alderman (1st) Proco Joe Moreno&rsquo;s reelection campaign, which means he&rsquo;s often going door-to-door in this brutal weather.</p><p>&ldquo;People are nice about it and sometimes they&rsquo;ll let you in,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;If you can get into an apartment complex, that&rsquo;s great. That&rsquo;s a good 15 to 20 minutes where you&rsquo;re inside a building.&rdquo;</p><p>When we tell Eric how the February election date was originally a reform that encouraged greater voter participation, he gets ecstatic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s another example of the contradictory nature of Chicago politics,&quot; he says. &quot;People get really negative and really pessimistic, and they assume the whole system is rigged. As someone who&rsquo;s involved in local &nbsp;politics, it&rsquo;s not rigged. If it was, we wouldn&rsquo;t be out there knocking on doors and getting supporters.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Derek L. John is WBEZ&#39;s Community Bureaus Editor. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/derekljohn" target="_blank">@derekljohn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 18:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585 Anton Cermak: Chicago's first 'Boss' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/anton-cermak-chicagos-first-boss-105346 <p><p>It&rsquo;s the first episode of Kelsey Grammer&rsquo;s <em>Boss</em>. On the roof of Chicago City Hall, fictional mayor Tom Kane is talking about one of his real-life predecessors.</p><p>&ldquo;When Cermak was mayor, he used to come up here all the time. He was a Bohemian, an immigrant. He utterly lacked charisma, but he formed the first truly dominant political force this country had ever seen, because he understood something basic about people&mdash;they want to be led.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2-18--Cermak LofC.jpg" style="width: 255px; height: 348px; float: right;" title="Anton Cermak (Library of Congress)" />&ldquo;They want their disputes settled, they want their treaties negotiated, their jobs dispensed, their mutinies punished&mdash;and they want their loyalties rewarded. To those who lead them to all they want, they give power.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Anton Cermak did those things. And, of course, he took a bullet for FDR.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Born in what&rsquo;s now the Czech Republic in 1874, Cermak grew up in the coal town of Braidwood, Illinois. He had about two years of formal education, and went down into the mines at 12. A few years later, when the mines began to play out, the family moved to Chicago.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Cermaks settled among the other Czechs in South Lawndale. Soon&nbsp;noted for his skill with his fists and his high capacity for alcohol, Anton became leader of a local &ldquo;saloon gang.&rdquo; He started the first of many businesses, selling kindling wood from a horse-drawn cart.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">He also went into Democratic politics. Over the course of thirty years&nbsp;Cermak worked his way from the ground up--assistant precinct captain, precinct captain, ward committeeman, state rep, alderman, municipal court bailiff, alderman again. His businesses prospered. He became rich.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">And as Prohibition descended on the land, Cermak became head of the United Societies for Local Self-Government. This was a lobbying group of great influence&mdash;an NRA for booze instead of guns.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2-18--Cermak Home.JPG" style="width: 290px; height: 217px; float: left;" title="Cermak Home--2348 S. Millard Ave." /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Cermak was elected President of the Cook County Board in 1922. He&nbsp;had become&nbsp;a&nbsp;political force&nbsp;to be reckoned with. He wanted to be Mayor of Chicago, but he hadn&rsquo;t yet consolidated his power. Meanwhile, he arranged to have the new Cook County Courthouse&nbsp;located in his South Lawndale neighborhood, at 26<sup>th</sup> and California.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In 1920 Cermak built a splendid brick residence at 2348 South Millard Avenue. He lived there less than ten years. After his wife died in 1928, he found it more convenient to stay&nbsp;at the Congress Hotel&nbsp;downtown, to be closer to his work.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Cermak became chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party in 1928. This is often described as a revolt against Irish domination of the party&mdash;an explanation <em>Boss</em> repeats. It&rsquo;s not that simple, but this isn&rsquo;t the place to argue the matter.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2-18--Cermak funeral at Stadium.jpg" style="width: 290px; height: 193px; float: right;" title="Cermak funeral at Chicago Stadium (Chicago Daily News)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Anyway, Cermak was finally ready to run for mayor in 1931. The Depression was getting worse, and the city was tired of Big Bill Thompson. Cermak won easily.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Less than two years later, he was dead.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">That&#39;s right. Despite his looming presence in the history of Chicago politics, Cermak didn&rsquo;t get a chance to do much as mayor. At this writing Rahm Emmanuel has held the office about as long as Cermak did.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">So&nbsp;many people wanted to pay their respects to the martyr mayor that Cermak&rsquo;s funeral was held in the Chicago Stadium. An estimated 150,000 were on hand to witness his entombment at Bohemian National Cemetery. A few days later the city council changed 22<sup>nd</sup> Street to Cermak Road.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In 1962 political scientist Alex Gottfried wrote <em>Boss Cermak of Chicago</em>. Although some of Gottfried&rsquo;s interpretations are controversial, it&rsquo;s still the best study of Cermak&rsquo;s rise to power.</div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 18 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/anton-cermak-chicagos-first-boss-105346 Dems fail to endorse a candidate in crowded race for Congressman Jackson's seat http://www.wbez.org/news/dems-fail-endorse-candidate-crowded-race-congressman-jacksons-seat-104404 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/IL2 slating zuccarelli tim bradford WBEZ Alex Keefe.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The <a href="http://pinterest.com/wbez/who-is-and-isn-t-running-for-congress/" target="_blank">crowded field</a> of candidates running to replace <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/rep-jesse-jackson-jr-resigns-congress-103969">Jesse Jackson Jr.</a> in Congress isn&#39;t getting any smaller.</p><p>Democratic Party bosses from Chicago&#39;s South Side and south suburbs failed to rally behind a single candidate at a slating session Saturday, despite hearing hours of political pitches from 16 candidates.</p><p>After about 90 minutes of private deliberations, the Democratic Committeemen emerged to announce they couldn&#39;t find enough common ground to endorse a single candidate, meaning the Feb. 26 primary for the 2<sup>nd</sup> Congressional District seat would be open.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s gonna be a tough race,&rdquo; said Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli, who chaired the slating committee. &ldquo;But we&rsquo;ve had tougher races in the past and we&rsquo;ve been able to survive. So we&rsquo;ve got confidence that the voters of the district are gonna make the right decision.&rdquo;</p><p>Zuccarelli, who controlled about two-thirds of the weighted vote needed to get the party&rsquo;s nod, still couldn&rsquo;t convince other Chicago and suburban committeemen to back his chosen candidate, veteran State Sen. Donne Trotter.</p><p>Indeed, party bosses heaped the most praise upon Trotter during his turn at the lectern, despite his <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-state-lawmaker-arrested-pistol-ohare-104217">arrest at O&rsquo;Hare International Airport last week</a> after being caught with a handgun at a security checkpoint. Committeemen allowed Trotter to speak and answer questions for about 38 minutes &ndash; longer than any other candidate &ndash; but no one asked about his felony gun charge.</p><p>At one point, even Trotter seemed to acknowledge he was being softballed: &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t disagree with you saying I&rsquo;m great,&rdquo; he said, drawing laughter from the committeemen.</p><p>Under the arcane rules of Illinois Democratic Party slating, not all committeemen are created equal. Party bosses&rsquo; votes are weighted differently, based on the Democratic turnout in their district in the last primary.</p><p>The party&rsquo;s failure to anoint a single chosen candidate means congressional hopefuls will jockey to distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowded field.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know that anything went wrong,&rdquo; Zuccarelli said. &ldquo;I think there were so many good candidates that it was difficult for everybody to decide who they wanted to vote for. There were several candidates that got lots of votes.&rdquo;</p><p>But he refused to release the vote totals.</p><p>Notably absent from Saturday&rsquo;s slating session was Jackson&rsquo;s wife, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ald-sandi-jackson-i-am-not-resigning-104331">Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson</a>, who had said earlier this week that she planned to attend. She apparently handed her more than 7,700 votes over to Zuccarelli, giving him 27,879 votes to award.</p><p>Alderman Jackson&rsquo;s spot remained empty during the four hours of testimony from candidates, save for the purses that two committeewomen set on the chair that had been reserved for her.</p><p>The hopefuls who sought the backing of the powerful Democratic operation Saturday ranged from long-time pols to political long-shots, including pastors, a dentist and an ex-NFL player who was just elected to the Illinois State Senate.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m running as a protest run, since we got 2,000 people running for this office, anyway,&rdquo; said Will Crosby, self-described voting rights activist.</p><p>Other candidates who sought the party&rsquo;s endorsement included Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale; former State Rep. Robin Kelly, who also served as chief of staff to an Illinois treasurer; State Sen. Toi Hutchinson; former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson; Rev. Anthony Williams; and State Sen.-elect Napoleon Harris, the former NFL player.</p><p>Democrats are strongly favored to win the heavily Democratic, predominately black 2<sup>nd</sup> Congressional District on the April 9 general election. A couple of Republicans have announced their candidacies, but the head of the state GOP says the party will not be picking favorites for the primary.</p></p> Sat, 15 Dec 2012 18:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/dems-fail-endorse-candidate-crowded-race-congressman-jacksons-seat-104404 Can one speech make a man President? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/can-one-speech-make-man-president-102066 <p><p>On July 9, 1896 a 36-year-old newspaper editor gave a speech before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The next day he became the party&rsquo;s candidate for President of the United States.</p><p>The economy was in bad shape in 1896. The country was arguing about how to solve the problem. Put simply, it was about Gold vs. Silver.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-05--Tribune%209-11-1896.jpg" title="Chicago Tribune: July 11, 1896" /></div><p>The Gold group wanted each dollar in paper money backed by a dollar&rsquo;s worth of gold. They thought America needed a stable currency to bring back prosperity.</p><p>The Silver group wanted paper money backed by both silver and gold. That would put more money in circulation, and lead to inflation. But in the short term, the economy might rebound.</p><p>The Republicans nominated Governor William McKinley of Ohio for president. He was a Gold man. When the Democrats gathered in Chicago for their convention, none of their possible candidates seemed very exciting.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-05--McKinley%20%28LofC%29.jpg" title="Republican nominee William McKinley (Library of Congress)" /></div><p>They met at the original Chicago Coliseum, at 63rd and Stony Island. On the second day, July 9th, various delegates gave speeches about the party platform. William Jennings Bryan was one of the Silver speakers. He had served in Congress, and was now editor of the <em>Omaha World-Herald.</em></p><p>Bryan was young, handsome, and dynamic. He had a deep, booming voice that carried to all corners of the hall&ndash;which was important, since microphones hadn&rsquo;t been invented yet. And he knew how to give a speech.</p><p>Maybe it wasn&rsquo;t what he said, but how he said it. His Silver arguments were nothing new. Yet two minutes into his oration, the delegates were interrupting him with applause. As he went on, the applause came more often, and grew louder.</p><p>Then Bryan concluded, with imagery from the Bible&ndash;&rdquo;You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this Crown of Thorns! You shall not crucify mankind upon a Cross of Gold!&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-05--Bryan%20%28LofC%29.jpg" title="Bryan campaigning, 1896 (Library of Congress)" /></div><p>The convention had become a revival meeting, and the delegates went wild. They stood on chairs, shouting themselves hoarse. They threw hats, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, and anything else handy, into the air. The party had found the man to lead it into battle.</p><p>One speech had done it.</p><p>Bryan was barely a year older than the age requirement for president. He was the youngest person ever nominated by a major party&ndash;and still is. He waged a vigorous campaign through all parts of the country.</p><p>In the end, the voters chose colorless competence over charisma. McKinley was elected.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 05 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/can-one-speech-make-man-president-102066 At the '32 DNC, FDR and a 'New Deal' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/32-dnc-fdr-and-new-deal-102004 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-04--Stadium.jpg" title="Chicago Stadium (Chicago Daily News)" /></div><p>In 1932 the Great Depression was in its third year. Banks were closing and unemployment stood at about 25 percent. Many Americans felt hopeless.</p><p>This was an election year. With no improvement in sight, President Herbert Hoover and the Republicans were on the way out. The next president would probably be a Democrat.</p><p>The Democratic Convention met at the new Chicago Stadium that June. On the third ballot, the delegates nominated Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York as their presidential candidate. They then appointed a committee to go to New York, and notify Roosevelt at a later date.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-04--courtesy FDR Presidential Library.jpg" style="height: 293px; width: 200px; float: left; " title="Nominee Roosevelt on his way to Chicago (Courtesy Roosevelt Presidential Library)" />That&rsquo;s the way it had always been done. But now there was radio. Everybody knew whom the Democrats had picked, as soon as it happened. Roosevelt sent word to the delegates to forget about the committee, and stay put. <em>He</em> would come to Chicago.</p><p>And to get there in a hurry, he would travel by airplane!</p><p>That&rsquo;s wasn&rsquo;t easy to do. Since Roosevelt couldn&rsquo;t walk, he had to be transported everywhere in a wheelchair. The flight itself took several hours, battling storm and heavy headwinds.</p><p>But on the evening of June 2, the candidate was at the Chicago Stadium. He didn&rsquo;t look like someone who was in constant pain from his disability. He didn&rsquo;t look like someone who had just endured a bumpy, marathon flight in a 1932-model plane. He was smiling.</p><p>Roosevelt radiated confidence. Speaking to the Convention and to the unseen radio audience, he said that the times called for bold action. That&rsquo;s why he had abandoned the ridiculous idea that he should wait around, pretending to be ignorant, until he was formally notified. Of course he knew that the delegates had chosen him.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-04--Hoover with FDR, 1933 (architect of the Capitol).jpg" style="height: 250px; width: 200px; float: right; " title="Inauguration Day 1933--Hoover and Roosevelt (Architect of the U.S. Capitol photo)" />Now it was time to get busy, win the election, and get the country moving again. &ldquo;Millions of our citizens cherish the hope that their old standards of living and of thought have not gone forever.&rdquo; he concluded. &ldquo;I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.&rdquo;</p><p>Roosevelt had captured the mood of a nation ready to break with failed policies. That fall he beat Hoover in a landslide. The new president&rsquo;s program came to be known by the phrase he used in his acceptance speech &ndash; the New Deal.</p><p>Today scholars debate whether Roosevelt&rsquo;s policies helped the country recover from the Depression. But he sure restored America&rsquo;s belief in itself.</p></p> Tue, 04 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/32-dnc-fdr-and-new-deal-102004 Cook County Democratic Party slates ticket http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-democratic-party-slates-ticket-92916 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-06/Dem Slate.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Candidates for next year's Cook County elections made their pitches Thursday for why they deserve the support of the Democratic Party.</p><p>The three minute speeches candidates gave may or may not have actually mattered in the final vote. Many Democratic committee members had proxies show up in their stead, and others had already decided who they'd vote for in slating the ticket.</p><p>The Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County is a hot position in next year’s election, and incumbent Dorothy Brown is the Democratic Party’s choice. She faced Ricardo Munoz for the Party’s backing.</p><p>He used much of his time Thursday pitching the committee, trying to convince them that Brown wasn’t fit for the job. Chief among his complaints was her office's lack of e-filing capabilities for lawyers.</p><p>“Dorothy Brown’s inefficiency is as outdated as her computer technology,” Munoz said.</p><p>But Munoz’s many complaints weren’t enough to win over the Democratic Party, and neither was his being backed by Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle.</p><p>But other candidates' pitches did end in success.&nbsp; Karen Yarborough is the committee's choice for Recorder of Deeds, and State's Attorney Anita Alvarez ran unopposed.</p><p>Other offices up for grabs are three jobs with the the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The committee chose to slate incumbent Deborah Shore, chemist Kari Steele and lawyer Patrick Thompson.</p><p>Thompson grew up in a well-known Chicago political family: the Daleys. He said growing up with so many public servants inspired him to seek the office.</p><p>For the Cook County Board of Review, the committee chose Larry Rogers, Michael Carbonargi and Casey Griffin.</p><p>As for the candidates that didn't win the Democratic Party's backing, some will still run, but most are expected to drop out.</p></p> Fri, 07 Oct 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-democratic-party-slates-ticket-92916 William E. Dever: The mayor who cleaned up Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-03/william-e-dever-mayor-who-cleaned-chicago-92024 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-03/william dever_Chicago daily news.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ken Burns has a new film about Prohibition. One of the forgotten players in that comedy-drama was a Chicago mayor. His name was William E. Dever.</p><p>Dever was born outside Boston in 1862. He came to Chicago at 25, worked as a tanner on Goose Island, and studied law at night. In 1890 he became a lawyer in the teaming West Town neighborhood.</p><p>Soon Dever was active in the clean-government wing of the Democratic party. He was elected 17th Ward alderman, and became one of the most visible and effective members of the City Council--even then, newspapers were touting him as a possible mayor. In 1910 he was elected to the Municipal Court.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-03/william dever_Chicago daily news.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 325px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="(Chicago Daily News)">Being a judge was a nice job, but it was a political dead end. The public forgot about Dever. Then, in 1923, Democratic leaders were looking for a squeaky-clean candidate to run for mayor against scandal-ridden Big Bill Thompson. They chose Judge Dever.</p><p>Thompson saw the way the wind was blowing and decided to retire. Dever won an easy victory. He took office saying he "wanted to be associated with something big in the history of Chicago."</p><p>He immediately launched a massive public works program. He built bridges, widened streets, straightened the Chicago River, opened Municipal airport, and replaced the decrepit South Water Market with double-decked Wacker Drive. The parks were spruced up and his school board constructed a record number of schools.</p><p>And most of these projects came in on-time, and within budget. Not once was there even the hint of scandal.</p><p>Dever's problem was the Prohibition law. The bootleggers were operating openly. Though Dever felt Prohibition was a silly law, the ex-judge thought it had to be enforced. He ordered a massive crackdown, the so-called "Beer War."</p><p>Within months the bootleggers were routed. News of the remarkable happenings in Chicago spread throughout the nation, and journalists descended on the city. Dever became the second-most-photographed person in America, trailing only President Coolidge. Many people began to speak of Chicago's mayor as the next President of the United States.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-15/10-03--Dever Book.jpg" style="width: 266px; height: 416px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="For further reading">But the bootleggers had not been conquered. They had simply moved their operations into the suburbs, out of Dever's reach. And within the city itself, the mayor's cleanup eventually brought on more violence.</p><p>Think of it this way. Dever was drying up the city. Business was down, so the bootleggers had to market their products more aggressively, to keep ahead of competitors and preserve their own profits. The result was a major gang war.</p><p>So the people of Chicago had gotten grand public works, efficient city government--and violence in the streets. And they were starting to get thirsty. As Dever's popularity rose nationally, it declined at home.</p><p>Big Bill Thompson was watching events closely. Seeing that Dever was vulnerable, he jumped into the 1927 mayoral race, declaring he would make Chicago "a wide-open town." Big Bill crushed Dever by a margin of 83,000 votes.</p><p>The nation was stunned. How could America's best mayor be beaten by a crooked buffoon? Humorist Will Rogers thought he had the answer. "They was trying to beat Bill [Thompson] with the Better Element vote," Rogers said. "Trouble is, in Chicago there <em>ain't</em> much Better Element."</p><p>William E. Dever died in 1929. Today he is remembered with a public school and a water intake crib three miles out in the lake. Perhaps most significantly, he is also remembered as the last Democratic candidate for Mayor of Chicago to lose.</p></p> Mon, 03 Oct 2011 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-03/william-e-dever-mayor-who-cleaned-chicago-92024 Japan's government selects sixth prime minister in five years http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-29/japans-government-selects-sixth-prime-minister-five-years-91199 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-29/AP110829010310.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483673-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/MON 1of3.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>In Japan, the governing Democratic Party (DPJ) chose Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda as its leader, making him the country's sixth prime minister in five years. We’ll discuss what this means for Japan's future with Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/steve-clemons/"><em>The Atlantic</em></a> website and director of the <a href="http://www.jpri.org/">Japan Policy Research Institute</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 29 Aug 2011 19:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-29/japans-government-selects-sixth-prime-minister-five-years-91199 Chicago Democrats clash over Illinois House seat http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-democrats-clash-over-illinois-house-seat-87408 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-03/MendozaCityHallcrop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A top Chicago official is criticizing the way her party is filling her former Illinois House seat.<br> <br> Susana Mendoza resigned as District 1 representative last month to become city clerk. To replace her, the district’s Democratic ward committeemen chose Chicago police Sgt. Dena Carli.<br> <br> Party insiders say the plan is for Carli to exit the seat this summer, once a long-term replacement establishes residency in the district, which spans parts of several Southwest Side neighborhoods, including Little Village, Brighton Park and Gage Park.<br> <br> The sources say Carli’s replacement will be Silvana Tabares, a former editor of the bilingual weekly newspaper Extra. Tabares graduated last year from the leadership academy of the United Neighborhood Organization, a clout-heavy Latino group.<br> <br> UNO chief Juan Rangel says he doesn’t know anything about the plan but praises Tabares. “She would be, by far, the best candidate to fill the seat,” Rangel says.<br> <br> Mendoza doesn’t think so. She pushed for her replacement to be Evelyn Rodríguez, an aide to U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Illinois.<br> <br> “Neither Carli nor Tabares is qualified,” Mendoza says. “The citizens and the residents of the First District were completely shortchanged in this process.”<br> <br> The Illinois constitution requires state lawmakers to live in their district for two years before their election or appointment.<br> <br> Tabares, listed at 4335 S. Spaulding Ave., says she’s lived in the district for “about two years” but claims she can’t remember the month she moved in.<br> <br> Tabares says she’s eager to serve in the seat but says she knows nothing about the plan for her to take it. She referred WBEZ questions about the plan to two of the committeemen: Chicago Ald. Ed Burke, Ward 14, and State Sen. Tony Muñoz, District 1.<br> <br> Burke and Muñoz didn’t return the station’s calls about the seat. Neither did Carli.</p></p> Fri, 03 Jun 2011 21:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-democrats-clash-over-illinois-house-seat-87408 Best Game in Town #18: Politics Year in Review http://www.wbez.org/blog/best-game-town/best-game-town-18-politics-year-review <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//AP100320043985.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-29/AP100320043985.jpg" title="" alt="" style="width: 465px; height: 327px;" /></p><p>This week on WBEZ's political podcast The Best Game in Town, we recap the biggest stories of the year and get the dish on the top political players of 2010 (hint: one of them is pictured above). Joining us for the conversation are Northwestern professor Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Democratic public affairs strategist Dave Lundy, and Republican public affairs strategist Scott McPherson.</p></p> Fri, 31 Dec 2010 21:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/best-game-town/best-game-town-18-politics-year-review