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States. Today, although increased black representation in local politics and other
institutions has eased some racial tensions, the city remains far more geograph-
ically segregated than most of its urban peers.
While Chicago was becoming a center of industry, transportation, and finance,
and a beacon of labor reform, it was also becoming a powerhouse in national
politics—again by virtue of its location. Between 1860 and 1968, Chicago was
the site of 14 Republican and 10 Democratic presidential nominating conven-
tions. (Some even point to the conventions as the source of Chicago's “Windy
City” nickname, laying the blame on a politician who was full of hot air.) The
first of the conventions gave the country one of its most admired leaders, Abra-
ham Lincoln, while the 1968 convention was witness to the so-called Days of
Rage, a police riot against demonstrators who had camped out in Grant Park to
protest the Vietnam War. As TV cameras rolled, the demonstrators chanted,
“The whole world is watching.”
And it was; many politicos blame Mayor Richard J. Daley for Hubert
Humphrey's defeat in the general election. (Maybe it was a wash; some also say
that Daley stole the 1960 election for Kennedy.)
A few words about (the original) Mayor Daley: He did not invent the politi-
cal machine, but he certainly perfected it. As Theodore White writes in Amer-
ica in Search of Itself, “Daley ran the machine with a tribal justice akin to the
forest Gauls.” Daley understood that as long as the leaders of every ethnic and
special-interest group had their share of the spoils—the African Americans con-
trolled the South Side, for example, and the Polish Americans kept their neigh-
borhoods segregated—he could retain ultimate power. His reach extended well
beyond Chicago's borders; he controlled members of Congress in Washington,
and every 4 years he delivered a solid Democratic vote in the November elec-
tions. Since his death in 1976, the machine has never been the same. One elec-
tion produced the city's first female mayor, Jane Byrne; another resulted in the
city's first African-American mayor, Harold Washington. Neither was a novice
at politics, but neither could hold the delicate balance of (often conflicting)
groups that kept Daley in power for 20 years.
Today, Daley's son, Richard M., may have inherited his father's former office,
but the estate did not include the Cook County machine. Mayor Richard M.
Daley has abandoned his late father's power base of solid white working-class
Bridgeport for the newly developed (some would say yuppie) Central Station
neighborhood just south of the Loop. The middle-aged baby boomer appears to
be finding himself, but many in the city still enjoy calling him—with more than
a hint of condescension—“Richie.”
The city has ongoing problems. With roughly 2.8 million people total,
Chicago's black and white populations are almost equal in size—a rarity among
today's urban areas—but the city's residential districts continue to be some of
the most segregated in the country. Families are also trying to cope with the
school system, which has been undergoing a major restructuring but whose out-
look is still dismal. In 1995 the federal government seized control of the city's
public housing, pledging to replace the dangerous high-rises with smaller com-
plexes in mixed-income neighborhoods. It is a long-term goal, but authorities
have been gradually tearing down the notorious apartment buildings of Cabrini
Green, where then-mayor Jane Byrne moved briefly to show her support for the
crime-victimized residents.
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