Shock: Rahm Emanuel not running for reelection as Chicago mayor

We’re all thinking the same thing. If there’s room for Michael Avenatti and Marianne Williamson in the 2020 Democratic clown car, there must be room for Rahm. And he knows it.

But no, that’s not it. C’mon. Rahm’s a centrist Democrat, out of tune with the Berniefied vanguard of the party. And he’s hopelessly compromised by police scandals and appalling violent crime rates, the subject of various protests lately aimed at getting him to resign. He’s not quitting because he’s on to bigger and better things, he’s quitting because he has a primary coming up that he’s increasingly worried he won’t win. Better to leave “voluntarily” than to be tossed out ignominiously on one’s ear.

And yet Chicago seems shocked regardless. Having spent the better part of the last 63 years as the Daley family’s fiefdom, the city isn’t used to seeing a mayor with powerful friends quit after two terms.

Emanuel’s decision marks a dramatic political reversal, as for the better part of the last year he had said he would run for a third term. The mayor, long a prolific fundraiser, had already reeled in more than $10 million toward a bid for a third term.

But he also has been saddled with unpopularity, particularly among African-American voters, for his handling of the Laquan McDonald police shooting controversy, which led to a federal civil rights investigation of the police department, accusations of a City Hall cover-up and weeks of street protests that called for Emanuel’s resignation…

Police issues aside, Emanuel also had drawn the ire of some voters for record property taxes he instituted to shore up the city’s woefully underfunded police employee pensions and for closing 50 schools in 2013, a move he said was necessary because of significant under enrollment in schools on the city’s South and West Sides. The Emanuel administration’s ongoing struggle to tamp down recent spikes in gun violence – including a recent weekend in which 64 were shot, 12 of them fatally – also drew regular criticisms that he hadn’t done enough to provide more job and economic opportunities on the South and West Sides.

Thus ends the Rahm Emanuel era in American politics. Or does it? His pals Bill and Barack were out awfully quickly this afternoon with statements of support, a signal to members of the national party that Rahm isn’t damaged goods in their eyes. Obama’s take:

“Whatever he chooses to do next.” Hmmmm. Emanuel’s only 58, a spring chicken by political standards, and he’s a wealthy man from his brief stint as an investment banker after leaving the Clinton White House. He doesn’t need to return to the private sector. Statewide office in Illinois would be tricky, though, given that Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth are members of his own party and don’t appear to be going anywhere and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is about to face reelection this fall. Even if Rahm’s Chicago record hasn’t made him damaged goods for state office, he’ll be waiting awhile for his next chance.

What about another House run, though? Rahm must be licking his chops, looking at Democratic prospects in 2018 and beyond. They’re favored to retake the majority this fall and the 2020 and 2022 Senate maps are favorable to his party. It’s not that unlikely that the Dems will have total control of government in 2021 or at least control of both houses of Congress, presenting lots of opportunities for meaningful legislation. (Rahm knows something about blue waves: He was head of the DCCC when the party swept the 2006 midterms.) Maybe he’ll jump back into politics in 2020 by challenging one of Illinois’s Republican congressmen. But … which one? His old seat in IL-5 is occupied by Democrat Mike Quigley. There are three Republicans who occupy seats in purplish districts — Mike Bost, Rodney Davis, and Randy Hultgren — but all of those districts lean red. Rahm would somehow need to upset a GOP incumbent in unfriendly territory despite near-universal name recognition as a Clinton/Obama crony and failed mayor of Chicago. Even a man with his fundraising network would find that challenging.

Presumably, then, his plan is to go to work for the national party ahead of 2020 and hope that the Democratic nominee unseats Trump. If one does, and if he/she is a bit more moderate than the Berniebro candidates, he might be rewarded with an administration job. He’s a former chief of staff and congressman; he knows everyone and understands how Washington works better than most. He’d be an asset to a new president. Either way, he’ll land somewhere in government unless everything remains under GOP control.