Almost exactly three years ago, in February 2011, the former White House Chief of Staff to President Obama, Rahm Emanuel was elected to become the Mayor of Chicago. When he was elected he had broad support from all spectrums of the Chicago community, from the mostly white business class, from unionized workers, from the Latino segment of the population and from African American voters as well.
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The strong endorsement he received from President Obama at the time certainly helped Emanuel with the African American community, and he won the race with an overall majority of 55% of the vote despite there being several competing candidates.
By and large he has been an effective Mayor since, though he has inevitably not been able to maintain the support of everybody along the way. Fiscal realities have hurt him with the unions, concerned over pension cut-backs that may lie ahead, and the African American community has felt the impact of cut backs in schools and programs in their own neighbourhoods.
On the other hand homicides are down, overall crime is down, business is booming and there are grounds for cautious optimism about Chciago’s re-emergence as a world-class city again.
So now we come into 2014, with exactly twelve months to go before the next mayoral election. Accordingly it is no surprise that Emanuel is becoming more responsive to the media and clearly aims to continue to mould his image in favour of his election to a second term.
Emanuel’s current goal with the media is two fold; first to continue to win over the international media in order to promote the city to an international audience and continue to bring business to the city thereby. Then second, with his own domestic audience, his goal is a completely different one, to continue conversations with the myriad of essentially local constituencies that make up the fabric of the city, and who are his voters.
Accordingly, in a major recent interview with the Financial Times of London Rahm Emanuel stressed the needs of the city of Chicago in terms of how to reinforce its image as a great international city, in the light of prudent fiscal and social policies he has been pursuing.
In another interview at roughly the same time however, with the Chicago Tribune, most of the interview seemed to be about the city’s local sporting programmes and stadiums, so unless you actually live in the city when you read it you likely will not understand any of it at all – as this writer certainly did not.
Finally, Rahm Emanuel is getting some very cheap media credits by challenging new Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon on Twitter to join him and take the “Polar Plunge” with him on March 2nd, to raise money for Special Olympics athletes.
Every year, in March, more than 2, 00 people jump into the then totally frigid Lake Michigan and completely immerse themselves, in order to raise money for the Special Olympics. Last summer, Emanuel promised to join in and do it himself too if kids in his summer reading programmes read more than 2 million books – they actually read 2.1 million so he is now firmly on the hook for next month’s plunge.
If Jimmy Fallon joins him in taking the Polar Plunge the money they raise for charity will go up quite a bit one thinks; so will Emanuel’s re-election chances too perhaps or it certainly won’t hurt. So far Fallon has said only that he is “consulting his schedule.”
Rahm Emanuel says he is happy being Chicago’s first Jewish Mayor. If he continues to do a good job it would certainly not be impossible for him to harbour broader ambitions in national politics again, back in Washington, in the future as well.
About Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel, age 54, was born and grew up in Chicago. His father Benjamin is a Jerusalem born pediatrician, and his mother Marsha is the daughter of a Chicago union organizer who at one time worked in the civil rights movement.
Rahm and his two brothers, Ezekiel who later became an Oncologist, and Ari who went on to run an agency business in Hollywood, all went to local Chicago schools. After initially studying dance, Rahm Emanuel graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981 with a BA in Liberal Arts and later received his MA from Northwestern University in 1985.
During the 1991 Gulf War Rahm was a civilian volunteer assisting the IDF in Israel helping to repair trucks in one of Israel’s northern bases.
Emanuel began his career in Democratic politics, and became director of the finance committee for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. In 1993, he joined the new administration and served as the Assistant to the President for Political Affairs and as the Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy before resigning in 1998 to go into business.
After five years successfully spent making some useful money in the lucrative financial world of investment banking in Chicago, in 2002 Emanuel returned to politics. He ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives, won and held the seat from 2003 until President Barack Obama appointed him to serve as his White House Chief of Staff at the start of his first term.
Accordingly Emanuel resigned from the House at the beginning of 2009 to accept the new job. In October 2010 however, Emanuel then resigned as Chief of Staff to return to Chicago, again, in order to prepare to run as a candidate for Mayor of Chicago, which he won in February 2011.
Emanuel and his wife, Amy Merritt Rule, have a son and two daughters and the family lives in the Ravenswood neighbourhood on the north side of Chicago. There they are members of the Chicago synagogue Anshe Sholom B’Nai Israel.