Rachel Shteir reports:
It doesn’t matter how big a war chest Rahm Emanuel can accumulate, to whom he sends dead fish wrapped in newspaper, or how many folksy features the New York Times runs to give his campaign legs. “Rahmbo” will never be mayor of Chicago.
I am hardly the only one to be un-wowed by the former Congressman’s announcement that he was leaving his position as White House chief of staff to campaign for mayor of the Second City. But the early blogosphere reaction got everything wrong: Chicago’s Jewish voters may shun Emanuel because his politics are either too conservative or not conservative enough (in other words, Jews are either disappointed with Obama or critical of his position on Israel), one ventured. An equally boilerplate line of thinking speculated if Emanuel does not win it is because he is “too Washington” and “not Chicago” enough, as one timorous blog ventured after his resignation from the White House.
This is all ridiculous. Emanuel doesn’t stand a chance here because, as one longtime Chicagoan put it to me recently, he is “too Jewish” in a city that has never had a Jewish mayor and a state that has never had a Jewish attorney general, state senator, or U.S. senator, despite having the fifth-largest Jewish population of any U.S. city, according to the World Jewish Congress.
“He has a potty mouth,” another bystander put it, basically repeating the sentiment.
I grew up on the East Coast, but I’ve lived in Chicago for 10 years—as long as I lived in New York as an adult—and by now I am all too acquainted with this sort of thinking. Emanuel’s brash public persona, which in New York and Washington is synonymous with the allegedly Jewish qualities of ambition, striving, and aggression—all desirable qualities, or at least ones that get you talked about on Sunday morning news shows—does not play in the power corridors here.
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