That wailing you hear involving Rahm Emanuel, President-elect Joe Biden and the left clinging to its ideological purity tests sounds like something out of a horror movie.
But as Rahm seeks political resurrection at Biden’s hands, here’s the thing:
Chicago has seen Rahm’s movie before.
Chicago remembers him as the mayor who sat on that Laquan McDonald police shooting video until after his reelection was safe.
And I remember him running for reelection while his administration suppressed that video, as Rahm played his Barack Obama card as the former president’s chief of staff.
Rahm stood on the South Side with adoring Black ministers gathered around him who promised to get out the vote for their mayor who’d been graced by Obama.
A minister said their “knowledge and wisdom of God” led them to endorse him for reelection.
Rahm closed his eyes. His face turned toward heaven as the Holy Political Spirit came upon him, even as he sat on that video of the Black teenager being shot 16 times by a white cop.
There is no forgetting that.
But others try willfully to forget, as Rahm uses his Washington media contacts, hoping that if he keeps clamoring from the political grave that he dug for himself back then, perhaps Biden will take pity.
Biden is putting the Obama band back together and the Beltway establishment media love him for it, the way kids love ponies.
Biden has already miraculously breathed new life into John Kerry — he of the long face and the Iranian nuclear deal disaster — by making him a climate “czar.”
So why not Rahm?
All Rahm wants is something, anything, to show he’s a player and not just some TV pundit. He loves TV. And CNN loved him right back as early as 2014, trying to elevate him with a ridiculous six-part prime-time infomercial called “Chicagoland” on how tough he was.
But after the McDonald video was released in late 2015, Rahm was done. He couldn’t seek reelection again. He later took off for a bike ride around Lake Michigan, and Chicago didn’t much notice. The city didn’t even wave goodbye.
Now Rahm is doing what Rahm does best: pulling the strings of the Democratic media complex on the Beltway. He’d like secretary of transportation, but he’ll take anything.
A guy finagling his way back into the spotlight isn’t all that remarkable. Establishment Democrats are exactly like establishment Republicans, which is why in Washington they’ve made a formidable Combine that eventually cuts down any anti-establishment weeds in its way.
But what of the growing anger of the hard left that elected Biden on the hopes of a Green New Deal and real socialist change?
They see corporate America moving back into the Biden administration — Lyft, Amazon and JP Morgan among others — as the Combine sharpens its blades.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the popular socialist Democrat of New York, expressed a childlike sense of betrayal when that Rahm balloon began to float.
“What is so hard to understand about this? Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald. Covering up a murder is disqualifying for public leadership,” she tweeted recently.
“This is not about the ‘visibility’ of a post. It is shameful and concerning that he is even being considered.”
Secretary of transportation is a default job for Chicago types. Billy Daley, who flipped chief of staff jobs with Rahm in a deal approved by Obama, once sought it too.
And now with Washington eager to spend and spend on an infrastructure bill, Rahm could be effective. He could also make the guys who pour concrete and asphalt happy. And that expanded influence might help Rahm leverage support for a challenger to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot down the road.
Lightfoot must know this. She loathes him. And he doesn’t like her much either.
Yet when asked about Rahm’s possible resurrection at Biden’s hands, she said, “I don’t have any opinion about that.”
Silence always tells a story. She needs Biden’s help for federal cash to keep CTA buses and rapid transit rolling through diminished ridership due to the pandemic.
The Rahmsaga has been obscured in recent days with President Donald Trump and his legal team fighting to overturn the November election results. They throw wild rhetoric about alleged vote fraud — but precious little evidence — and it seems rather manic, like throwing spaghetti against a wall hoping some sticks.
And Rahm waits for his chance, amid the predictable and widening rift between establishment Democrats and the hard left that now wags the Democratic dog.
The left isn’t happy. Its purity tests are being ignored by pragmatic heretics. Rahm’s ambitions are being entertained. And the Washington establishment is determined to carve them out, just as it carved away conservatives in the years before Trump.
The old-time Democrats like Biden understood. They weren’t about virtue signaling. They were about deals and contracts. But the new left has sold the idea of purity to its faithful, a religious zealotry reinforced by its loyal pundits, and now the time for a reckoning is at hand.
The most recent example of the left’s determination to seek purity was its purge of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California as the Democrats’ ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
Her sin? She gave Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham a hug after the confirmation hearings for now-Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Rahm Emanuel has his own sins, and Chicago counts them by its scars.
He was out.
And now he wants back in.
Listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin — at www.wgnradio.com/category/wgn-plus/thechicagoway.
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