*By winning Tuesday’s race for mayor in Chicago, President Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel delivered a major blow to the prestige of Black political leadership in the Windy City.
Emanuel captured 55 percent of the vote trouncing the candidate of the Black political establishment former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun who managed to eke out only 9 percent support among the city’s voters.
What made the results so humiliating was that Black leaders from Civil Rights Movement icon Rev. Jesse Jackson to Senator James Meeks had rallied around Braun convincing other African American candidates not to run in order to prevent the splitting of the Black vote. Yet, Braun came in fourth in the race. Not only did Emmanuel win but the two Hispanic candidates in the race polled more ballots than Braun.
This took place in a city where there are approximately 600,000 African American voters, 500,000 whites and 300,000 Latinos. Braun picked up a little more than 50,000 votes. Thus, not only were African American leaders unable to convince Blacks to vote for Braun; they were unable to convince them to vote at all. Early estimates show that only 40 percent of eligible votes bothered going to the polls: the lowest percentage in the history of Chicago races for mayor.
What is next for Black political leadership in Chicago? Are Black voters tired of turning out for African American politicians who fail to deliver on campaign promises? Did Emmanuel win because of his close association with President Obama? Those are just some of the questions facing Chicago this week. But two political facts are clear: Black leaders cannot rely on past achievements or expect Black voters to turn out in massive numbers just because the leadership says so.
Pictured above: Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and Former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun.