As Kamala Harris makes history, concerns swirl that disgraced Chicago mayor may join Biden’s Cabinet
Crusader Staff Report
More than a year after leaving Chicago as an embattled mayor who hurt the Black community with his policies and leaders, Rahm Emanuel is stirring concerns that he may become part of President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet.
The concerns simmer as Blacks in Chicago and across the country celebrate Biden’s victory and the historic achievement of Kamala Harris as the first woman to be elected as U.S. vice president.
As a Howard University graduate, Harris’ ascension to the highest level of government has boosted pride and renewed interest in HBCU schools, and the Black Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, whose headquarters is in Chicago on Stony Island in Woodlawn.
Amid the celebrations is the looming possibility of Emanuel being tapped to serve as either Biden’s Housing or Transportation Secretary.
On November 7, the prominent online news outlet Politico named Emanuel as a contender to serve as Biden’s Secretary of Transportation and his brother, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel to serve on the president-elect’s coronavirus task force. He is also a contender for the role of U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
During the campaign Emanuel served as Biden’s unofficial political advisor.
On her daily radio show on WVON, host Perri Small expressed anger and frustration at the possibility of Emanuel serving in Biden’s Cabinet, saying it would be bad for the president-elect and Chicago. One WVON listener called the possibility “ridiculous.”
Emanuel in 2009 was President Barack Obama’s White House Chief of Staff for nearly two years after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives for Illinois’ 5th District. In 1993, Emanuel served as senior advisor to President Bill Clinton for five years.
During his term as mayor, Emanuel closed 50 schools that resulted in hundreds of layoffs. It was the largest closure in Chicago Public School history that came a year after a bitter, week-long teachers’ strike from the Chicago Teachers Union. Emanuel also drew fire for closing six mental health clinics.
Under Emanuel’s administration, many public housing developments were never replaced as the city’s homeless population grew. As Black neighborhoods struggled on the South and West Sides, Emanuel transformed the downtown area into a tourism mecca with a new Ferris wheel at Navy Pier and a beefed-up Riverwalk along the Chicago River.
Emanuel shunned the Black press but pursued interviews when his relationship with the Black community soured. Days before leaving office, Emanuel led the city to approve two TIF districts that together will generate $2.7 billion for the Lincoln Yards and The 78 development projects.
A Crusader investigation revealed that Emanuel gave 44 campaign donations to 27 aldermen before the council gave the final approval.
At City Hall, Emanuel developed a reputation as an image-obsessed, media-driven, control freak whose allies included many Black aldermen.
Emanuel’s biggest stain was the Laquan McDonald case. The teenager in 2014 was killed, after being shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke.
Emanuel was accused of keeping the video of the brutal shooting under wraps while he campaigned for the Black vote against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the city’s first-ever mayoral run-off. When the video was released in November, 2015, protests erupted throughout the city. Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
The shooting prompted an extensive investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, which forced the police department to promise to enter a consent decree after it found that a pattern existed of civil rights abuses of Blacks and other minority residents.
Under Emanuel, distrust in police deepened as racial profiling escalated in the Black community. When Emanuel back pedaled on his promise, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit.
On September 4, 2018, one day before the start of Van Dyke’s murder trial, Emanuel announced that he would not seek a third term as mayor.
Weeks later, Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder but was sentenced to just under seven years in jail.
A Crusader investigation revealed that days before the city approved a $5 million settlement with the family of McDonald, Emanuel made campaign donations to eight Black aldermen weeks before. Some of the Black aldermen approved of the settlement twice, while serving on the Chicago Finance Committee, where they learned of the video of the shooting but said nothing nor asked to see it.
Emanuel never addressed accusations over his role in the alleged cover up of the McDonald video. His silence about the case infuriated Blacks and when he left office, many who voted for him felt used, disrespected and betrayed.
Congresswoman Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) in the New York Times said Monday that “Someone like Rahm Emanuel would be a pretty divisive pick. And it would signal, I think, a hostile approach to the grassroots and the progressive wing of the party.”
Ocasio-Cortez cited Emanuel’s record on racial justice and his opposition to teachers’ unions while serving as mayor of Chicago.
“I think that’s what people are keeping an eye out for: Is this administration going to be actively hostile and try to put in appointments that are going to just squash progressives and organizing?,” she said.
Biden has not decided on Emanuel or expressed his opinions on the former mayor.
Tapping Emanuel to join his cabinet would be a risky move for Biden with racial justice taking center stage after the string of police shootings following the murder of George Floyd in May.
Black voters saved Biden’s White House ambitions in February, turning out in droves to support his failing campaign during the Democratic Primary.
This week, NBC reported that Blacks saved Biden again on Election Day.
The network reported that once the vote counts from large Black cities Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Atlanta started to near completion, Trump’s lead in the respective states disappeared.
However, Biden has vowed to create a diverse Cabinet that reflects America today. This week, he tapped Dr. Marcella Nunez -Smith to serve as co-chair on his newly formed COVID-19 advisory board.
Nunez-Smith is an Associate Professor at the Yale Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Deputy Director for Health Equity Research and Workforce Development for the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, Core Faculty in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, and Research Faculty at Yale’s Global Health Leadership Institute. She earned a BA from Swarthmore College, an MD from Jefferson Medical College, and an MHS from Yale.
There are reports that Ariel Investments executive Mellody Hobson from Chicago is a contender to become Biden’s Secretary of Commerce or Secretary of Treasury.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and California Congresswoman Karen Bass are in the running to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Susan Rice, who served as Secretary of State under George W. Bush is a contender for the same role under Biden.
Questions remain what role prominent South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn will have under Biden’s administration. So far, nothing has been said, months after Clyburn gave a key endorsement that helped bring thousands of Black voters to polls to put Biden over the top.
During his victory speech November 7, Biden did not mention Clyburn’s name, but he did acknowledge the impact of Black voter support throughout his campaign for the White House.
“When this campaign was at its lowest end, the African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back and I’ll have yours,” he said.
With racial tensions and political divisions rampant across the nation, Biden said, “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify, who doesn’t see red states or blue states but only the United States.”
Biden continues to move forward in transitioning to his role as president-elect.
President Donald Trump still has not conceded since news outlets called the race November 7. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly support Trump’s defiance and U.S. Attorney General William Barr has authorized federal prosecutors to investigate voter fraud claims despite the lack of evidence.
With 74 million ballots, Biden captured more votes that any presidential candidate in U.S. history. He flipped Georgia and Pennsylvania, defeating Trump with 290 electoral votes. Trump has vowed to fight the results in court, but legal analysts say his chances of winning are very slim. States face a deadline to certify results and the deadline for the Electoral College to cast its final votes is December 14.
In the race to control the U.S. Senate, the Republicans gained another point Tuesday when Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham conceded to incumbent Senator Thom Tillis. That gave the Republicans a 49-48, advantage. The control of the Senate will be determined by two Senate runoff races in Georgia on January 5.