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Marin: Chicago style can spark either shame or pride

Carol Marin

Carol Marin

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Updated: October 6, 2012 1:57PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While Romney Republicans in Tampa hammered away at Barack Obama’s politics as “Chicago-style” — code for Capone and cigar chomping ward bosses — Democrats at this convention couldn’t wait to paint their own portrait of Chicago.

And style.

First lady Michelle Obama excelled on both counts. Her elegance and substance shone a light on Chicago Tuesday night that GOP disparagement couldn’t dim. And as a woman of color before a rainbow of delegates, she stood in stark contrast to the overwhelmingly white Republican gathering a week earlier.

Gov. Pat Quinn was also on the podium. Love him or hate him, take him or leave him, Quinn has spent all of his political life way on the outsider edge of his party a squeaky wheel of populism, maddening a multitude of his fellow Democratic politicians.

That is not to say that this entire state isn’t afflicted by pay-to-play to this very day. It is.

Rep. Mike Quigley, a super delegate here, represents the same 5th Congressional District on the North Side of Chicago that Democrats Dan Rostenkowski and Rod Blagojevich once did. The former went to federal prison. The latter is there now. So is former Republican Gov. George Ryan.

“In Illinois and in Chicago, corruption has worn both parties hats,” said Quigley.

But the other, better, side of our politics walked on stage with two titanium prosthetic legs and one still-shattered arm.

Tammy Duckworth, former assistant secretary of Veteran’s Affairs has never been a political hack or ghost payroller. She is a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot who served in the military and defended her country in Iraq. And is now running for Congress in the 8th Congressional District against incumbent Joe Walsh.

You can decide to vote for Walsh, not Duckworth.

But you can’t say Duckworth hasn’t brought honor to public service or to politics no matter how divided our politics may be.

If any of the prominent Chicago speakers at the Democratic convention could be viewed as a lightning rod or a thorn deep in the side of the GOP, it was Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

And yes, he is a master par excellence of the fine art of Chicago politics. He was the beneficiary of an army of political patronage workers in his first congressional bid. And the recipient of a Clinton administration patronage job on the board of Freddie Mac, a board that somehow didn’t spot the contours of the impending mortgage meltdown.

But Rahm Emanuel in his relentless efforts as mayor to restore Chicago to a sound financial footing has demonstrated on a number of fronts that he is greater than the sum of his political parts.

So why do Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie keep on harping about Chicago-style ward politics?

“Because there’s such a proud tradition of honest politics in New Jersey?” wondered Quigley dryly.


But “Chicago-style?”

The GOP should use the term to order its pizza.

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