It has been 100 days since Barack Obama was inaugurated and I have watched over the past few days ad nauseam reflections on what the Obama Presidency Means. I have not heard the obvious- America is becoming more like Cook County.
While to many in the South and West the idea of Chicago Politics seems alien and filled with strange names and ideas the basics of Chicago politics now define America. In Chicagoland as 0ur region is called there are Democrats and Republicans but they seem to agree on most issues.
- Government exists to provide services.
- Politics is a place where government, business elites and Labor cut up a pie.
- The job of public servants is to make sure that the garbage is picked up and the streets are clean and things run well.
- Graft is tolerated as long as these things get done.
In the end what matters in Chicago are public spaces and this seems to matter to Barack Obama.
Since Ronald Reagan was elected public spaces have been derided as wasteful. The Conservative movement has been about the private. Government should leaves me alone. I should be able to make as much money as possible. My neighborhood is gated and the parks and pools are private and public spaces are neglected. Our ideal has been Scottsdale or Plano Texas not Chicago or New York.
I will never forget when I lived in Dallas and I went to the main library. It was filled with homeless men and was shabby and dirty. Compare that to the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago- which is a palace- and you can see the difference between a Cook County vision and the Conservative vision of America. Sure the Cook County vision is not always graft free but there are great services. In Conservative America you get no services in fact you get what you pay for.
This sense of the public being important is why President Obama is supporting Green Energy, High Speed Rail and national health care. He cares more about public spaces. Many on the right especially in the South will find these ideas very alien. I will never forget again when I lived in Dallas all my colleagues who would go to Chicago for vacations in the summer. They would laud the parks and the culture but they did not want to pay for them in Dallas. In the end will America want to pay for what President Obama is proposing? It will mean less gated communities and less granite countertops but more public wealth.
It is true that entrepenurial America has given us Microsoft, Apple, Wall Street Titans and alike but has that really bettered the lives of the average American? In Chicago- my hometown- a Middle Class person can live, buy a house, go to a nice library, go to great parks and museums all for a moderate price. It is true our taxes are higher and our corruption and graft more evident but would I trade my lifestyle in Chicago for a much cheaper but more culturally meagre life in Texas?
I made a choice to return here.
So as President Obama brings some good Cook County to America. We can hope he can teach Washington DC to do better. If D.C.'s streets are clear of snow two hours after a storm we will know that Chicago style has come to America.