Conservatives for Daley
Posted by Eliot Weinstein on September 12, 2005
I have great respect for Richard M. Daley, the Mayor of Chicago, unless and until he is directly linked to criminal activity. In contrast, I don’t like Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL, and House Minority Whip). His voting record is extremely partisan, even for a party leader. Durbin’s predecessor, the late Senator Paul Simon (not to be confused with the musician Paul Simon), had pronounced libertarian leanings and immense political courage to back up the often-strident leftist positions he took. While Durbin never misses an opportunity to oppose “Republican” ideas such as tax reform, Simon made an effort to learn about and even intelligently debate flat taxes and value-added taxes. Durbin just takes the party line and shoots down ideas like these; unlike Simon, it’s actually his job to intimidate Democratic senators who are willing to cross party lines for the benefit of the American people. I won’t discuss Durbin’s comments on the Senate floor comparing US soldiers to some of the Twentieth Century’s most heinous mass-murderers, and his subsequent apology, except to raise two small points: 1) As my friend Max brought to my attention, Daley had a large role in persuading Durbin to apologize. 2) No one knows better than Daley that Illinois is scandal-ridden enough and doesn’t need to be the center of nationally rancorous issues such as Durbin’s comments.
Speaking of Illinois attracting the national spotlight, I think that Republicans, conservatives, and cynics need to show more fairness to (and more support for) Mayor Daley. To paraphrase Chicago Sun-Times columnist and self-described moderate Democrat Neil Steinberg, if Durbin represents the frenzied, extremist, unelectable Democratic Party of today (the Dean Democrats, if you will), Daley is a relic from an older era when the Democrats were the genuine majority party (the JFK Democrats). As bribery and nepotism charges mount against Daley’s friends and associates and Daley himself is questioned by the FBI, it is important for Daley’s nominal enemies (The Illinois GOP is still in shambles after the Alan Keyes disaster) and perennial critics to show him the fairness that they would want from Democrats, even if the Democrats are unlikely to return the favor. Unlike the License-for-Bribes Scandal, which brought down Illinois’ last Republican governor, George Ryan, no one has died as a result of Daley’s alleged corruption. I applaud the efforts of the Chicago Sun-Times to investigate the Hired Truck Scandal (the bit of corruption being linked to the Mayor’s Office, or at least the latest one), and I am disappointed that the wider-read Chicago Tribune is (in my opinion) downplaying the story. If the Tribune devoted half as much coverage to Daley’s activities as it does to the corporate fraud scandal surrounding Lord Conrad Black (the ex-CEO of the company that owns the Sun-Times) Chicago and its voters would be better off.
Nevertheless, there is a difference between conducting a frank discussion of the problems at the Chicago Mayor’s Office and convicting Daley before all the evidence is in, as some Sun-Times columnists and anyone remotely connected to the Illinois GOP are wont to do. Daley has done much good for the city of Chicago. His “transformation” of the Chicago Public School System, while somewhat over-hyped, has made huge progress (as evidenced by notable test score increases). He has kept many of his campaign promises, and more impressively, he has done so without alienating those outside his core of supporters. Daley is a compromiser—he truly believes in alleviating poverty, but he knows that economic growth and development, along with better public schools, are the most reliable ways to do so. Daley is more arguably one of the most business- and investment-friendly politicians in the state, and he has greater respect for the free market than Durbin, Illinois Governor Rod “Let’s Illegally Re-import Drugs from Canada Even Though Canadians Want Us to Stop” Blagojevich, or even US House Speaker (and Pork Master) J. Dennis Hastert. While pro-business groups, as well as libertarians of both the civil and economic varieties, are still angry over Daley’s quasi-legal demolition of Meigs Field, this was an isolated incident and not, as the Tribune claimed, evidence of “Daley’s increasingly authoritarian style.” It is true that Daley has much left to accomplish before he can be deemed a truly “successful” mayor, but he is honestly trying, which puts him ahead of most politicians.
I Googled “conservatives for Daley” and “Republicans for Daley”, but I could not find any such group. It probably doesn’t exist, but maybe its time that one did. Conservatives, whether they put their trust in free-market economics or the power of religious values, should make public shows of support for the Mayor of Chicago, at least until Daley is conclusively linked to wrongdoing. After all, while we should have a government of laws and not of men, there is no reason for us to descend from a government of laws (or men) to a government of speculation, suspicion, and fear.
UPDATE (and clarification): I do not consider myself a conservative, at least not in the sense that the term is used today. However, you can judge my sympathies for yourself by reading the entries in the Politics category and the Politics section of About Me. I find Daley to be a good mayor, and I was wondering why conservatives and Republicans aren’t more supportive of him, especially considering the alternatives for the role of Illinois “senior statesman” are Durbin, George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich, and Dennis Hastert.
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