Sunday, March 15, 2015

South Side Vignette

It was difficult for me working against fourth ward Alderman Timmy Evans.  I liked his people.  They were better than some, try as they might to distinguish themselves.  I was carpet bagging, coming into their precinct/ward from my own ward, the fifth. There are fifty wards in Chicago. You would think that with fifty aldermen it wouldn’t be such a big deal, yet the aldermanic elections are the most hard fought.  Mom had called me out at the last minute to poll watch for a new candidate, Toni Preckwinkle.  I had to go to my job, so I was more like the old regular democratic workers who showed up in the morning and the night, to check in and get the count.  Timmy’s people just wanted their three extra votes.  The way it works is that they report their expected vote count. Then Timmy, or whoever, says,
-That’s great, can you get me three more.
This is somewhat insulting.  Either you were holding back on your reported count or you have some magic way of convincing people to change their beliefs and vote for your candidate.  A good precinct captain knows how the vote is going to go; they know who votes in their precinct, how they voted in the past and how they are likely to vote in the future.  That’s what a precinct captain does. 
Three more means steal three votes.  This federal crime was routinely committed. The judges didn’t want any fuss so they gave me the option. I guess Tim just wanted the practice; we weren’t going to win this one, so I blessed the three bad ballots, got the count and dropped it off at the Preckwinkle headquarters. 
Toni kept running, election after election, until finally Alan Dobry, the fifth ward democratic committeeman, went to the mat for her and sent Timmy off to his judgeship.  One of Timmy’s idiots printed up some fliers picking on Toni’s husband and Dobry gathered them up and redistributed them where they would do some good.  Since Dobry hadn’t printed them, he broke no laws. Nonetheless, brave Alan received considerable criticism from those who are not good enough to even breathe his air.  I think of this whenever I receive solicitations for WTTW. I’m sure my sweet old mother was smiling down on Alan from on high.
In an earlier election, after the first one I was in, but before the one she won, Toni had called on mom when one of her new people was experiencing some difficulty working his precinct. The fourth ward wasn’t near as nice as it is today.  He wasn’t sure how to cope and asked for help so Toni sent her best. Mom showed him how to whoop and holler, to let people know you are coming, and stand back from the door after you knocked.  I’m not good at canvassing myself, too big I guess.  I ask them how they are voting but they just take my literature and smile. What you want voters to do is be comfortable and tell you what they think. Like many things, mom had an easier time teaching this to others than to her sons.
Mom pulled out her old jokes, when people asked for money she’d laugh and say,
-Well, we don’t have that much, but they do. Don’t vote for free. You know they are giving it out.
I guess it worked; Timmy’s people got some heat from people expecting payment, because eventually Gentleman Tim came by and asked how much it would take for her to go home.  Recognizing that a bribe is an implicit threat, mom took the money.
She was very impressed with the new Preckwinkle precinct captain.
-He’s going to be somebody, she told me.
-What’s his name?
-Barack Obama.
-Not with that name, I said.
I think it is worthwhile, now that the elections are over and hopefully no harm can be done, to show that the neighborhood did try to raise the president correctly. Unlike most candidates, Obama has actually been in the trenches and done the work.

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