Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both elected to the U.S. Senate with overwhelming support from Black voters, plan to vote yes to confirm former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as Ambassador to Japan.
President Joe Biden announced Emanuel’s nomination August 20. Black voters across the country led Biden to defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
The three high-profile elected officials whose political careers were boosted by Black voters all support a disgraced politician who insulted the very people who helped put them in office.
The same day of Biden’s announcement, both Durbin and Duckworth, who share a longtime mentor-mentee relationship, announced their support of the controversial former mayor in separate statements to the press, the Crusader has learned.
Durbin’s aides released the statement in a response to an email to the Crusader.
Duckworth’s team did not respond by Tuesday, September 7, but the Crusader uncovered her statement on her website. It’s dated August 20, 2021, the same date as her mentor’s, Senator Durbin.
The Crusader requested an interview with Durbin, who had not responded by press time for the Crusader’s print edition Wednesday, September 8.
Emanuel’s nomination has sparked a heated online campaign, RootsAction #RejectRahm #NoToRahm.
The campaign, which consists of 20 organizations, mostly national, while including several Chicago-based groups, has launched a grassroots campaign to ensure that every senator will hear from their constituents urging a no vote on Emanuel’s nomination.
In June, 28 victims and relatives of victims of police violence in Chicago released a joint statement, along with a poignant video, denouncing Emanuel and decrying the prospect that he might be rewarded with an Ambassador post.
“This is a travesty,” Representative Mondaire Jones ,D-N.Y., tweeted.“Senators of good conscience must not vote to confirm him.” Another African-American representative, Cori Bush, D-Mo., said that Emanuel “must be disqualified from ever holding an appointed position in any administration. Call your Senator and urge them to vote NO.”
The response from Representative Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was pointed: “If you believe Black lives indeed matter, then the Senate must reject his appointment immediately.”
Tlaib accompanied her tweet with a link to an article that The Nation published in the fall of 2018, when Emanuel was nearing the end of his eight years as Chicago’s mayor, with this sum-up: “The outgoing mayor’s legacy will be defined by austerity, privatization, displacement, gun violence, and police brutality.”
The situation also puts Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black vice-president in a tough spot as president of the Senate, who must cast the final vote in the event Emanuel’s confirmation ends in a tie.
Durbin and Duckworth remain in support of the former Chicago mayor who insulted the Black community after he was accused of campaigning for re-election in the Black community while suppressing a video showing Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times.
A Crusader investigation revealed Emanuel gave hefty political contributions to eight Black aldermen who later approved a controversial $5million settlement to McDonald’s family.
Duckworth, who swept Chicago’s 18 Black wards to defeat Andrea Zopp in the 2016 Democratic Primary, is up for reelection next year. Her Democratic Primary is in June, 2022.
Durbin, with endorsements from many Black leaders including outgoing Secretary of State Jesse White, was re-elected for a fifth term by Chicago’s 18 Black wards in 2019 over challenger and Black business man Willie Wilson.
In her support of Emanuel’s Ambassador nomination, Duckworth said in a statement, “Rahm Emanuel spent his life in public service, and I think his years of experience make him well suited to represent the United States of America in this important role. I look forward to his confirmation and his efforts to continue strengthening our longstanding relationship with the Japanese people.”
In his statement supporting Emanuel, Durbin said, “Rahm Emanuel has a lifetime of public service preparing him to speak for America. Japan is an important strategic partner in Asia, particularly in light of our continued challenges from China. I will do all I can to help Rahm become America’s voice in Japan.”
In nominating Emanuel, President Biden said as former mayor of Chicago and White House Chief of Staff to President Obama, Emanuel has had a “distinguished career in public service.”Biden also said Emanuel “revitalized the city and helped solidify its status as a global hub of culture and commerce.”
Locally, however, at the end of his second term many Blacks in Chicago felt betrayed by Emanuel, who closed a record 50 CPS schools, many of them on the South and West sides. Emanuel also stood by the Chicago Police Department as complaints of police misconduct and racial profiling of Black residents mounted, and in 2012 Emanuel closed six mental health clinics that never reopened.
Black residents took note as Emanuel spruced up Navy Pier and The Riverwalk, while Black neighborhoods on the South and West sides declined as disinvestment increased.
When Target announced the closing of its stores in Chatham and Morgan Park, many Blacks questioned why Emanuel did not fight for those neighborhoods as strongly as he had welcomed the plan to open a Target store on the North Side.
In 2017, a scathing U.S. Justice Department report found that the police department exhibited a “pattern and practice” of police officers racially profiling Black residents and violating their civil rights. Emanuel promised outgoing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that he would enter into a consent decree with court oversight of the CPD. When he back-pedaled on that promise, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued and forced Emanuel to honor his promise.
Emanuel never came forward to respond to accusations that he tried to cover up the Laquan McDonald scandal. Even so, Blacks in 2015 led him to defeat Chuy Garcia in the city’s first-ever mayoral runoff. But his silence on the case infuriated Blacks, who led numerous protests demanding his resignation when the video of McDonald’s murder was released in 2015.
The next year, in an article of the online Politico magazine, Durbin defended Emanuel.He said Emanuelis “doing better than most outsiders would believe” and that people protesting outside the mayor’s house were the same people who supported his political opponents, such as 2015 Primary foe Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. One day before the start of Officer Van Dyke’s murder trial in 2018, Emanuel announced his decision not to run for a third term. To save his political career after the McDonald scandal, Emanuel tried to curry favor with the Black community by putting more Blacks in department head positions, but they were later viewed as figureheads or puppets, controlled by Emanuel.
In his last year in office, Emanuel released a statement on April 9, 2018, congratulating Duckworth on the birth of her child. He said “Congratulations Tammy Duckworth on the birth of your beautiful daughter! Senator Duckworth has served this state and country as a Lieutenant Colonel, a U.S. Representative and a Senator—but there is no higher rank than a parent. Illinois is lucky to have a Senator who fights for our families, and Amy and I are thrilled to congratulate the Duckworth family on this blessed occasion.”
Since her Senate campaign in 2016, Duckworth has faced criticism as an out-of-touch elected official who rarely visits Chicago’s Black neighborhoods. She visited Taiwan this year and made a special appearance in last month’s Bud Billiken Parade, considered a campaign opportunity for candidates seeking office.
The Crusader confirmed an incident at WVON last January, where Duckworth canceled an interview with radio host Perri Small’s show. Her office promised to reschedule but never did.
In 2020, Duckworth demanded the Crusader print a retraction story where one Black Vietnam veteran said he was turned away by her office during a phone conversation about the conditions of their veteran center. Duckworth denied this ever happened but declined to give details of that phone conversation when the Crusader asked, citing private policies.
In January, President Biden tapped Duckworth to serve as vice president of the Democratic National Committee. In 2020, Duckworth was considered a candidate to serve as Biden’s vice president before losing out to eventual winner Kamala Harris. She was also viewed as a candidate to serve in some role in Biden’s cabinet. Duckworth remains a loyal supporter of Biden with her appointment as vice president of the DNC.
In their same-day support of Emanuel’s nomination, Duckworth’s and Durbin’s friendship go as far back to when President George W. Bush was in office. Durbin reportedly reached out to Duckworth as he was searching for someone to attend the president’s State of the Union address. Durbin would later become Duckworth’s mentor, advising her on political matters as she served two terms in Illinois’ 8th Congressional District.
The two, who would agree on most policies, surprised many last year when they differed in their support of Congressman Robin Kelly and Alderman Michelle Harris, who were vying to replace Michael Madigan as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. Durbin backed eventual winner Kelly, while Duckworth supported Harris.
Reverend Gregory Livingston, a pastor considered an “advocate for the public good” who has served several congregations and organizations across the city, said Emanuel should never hold public office again.
“I think Rahm Emanuel as mayor disqualified himself from taking public office in the future,” Livingston said.