If a man ever reflected a city, it was Richard J. Daley of Chicago. In some ways he was this town at its best — strong, hard-driving, working feverishly, pushing, building, driven by ambitions so big they seemed Texas-boastful… Daley was a product of the neighborhoods and he reflected it in many good ways — loyalty to the family, neighbors, old buddies, the corner grocer… But there are other sides to Chicago neighborhoods — suspicion of outsiders, intolerance toward the unconventional, bigotry and bullying. That was Daley, too. As he proved over and over again, he didn’t trust outsiders, whether they were long-hairs against the war, black preachers against segregation, reformers against his Machine, or community groups against his policies. This was his neighborhood-ward-city-county, and nobody would come in and make noise.
Mike Royko on the death of Richard J. Daley
Growing up in Central Illinois I was none too fond of Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago. An old-time machine politician, he was elected Mayor of the Windy City in 1955, two years before my birth. I regarded him as a crook and a vote stealer and I loved Mike Royko’s columns in the Chicago Tribune regularly lambasting him. I was therefore somewhat shocked after he died on December 20, 1976, as I was finishing the first semester of my sophomore year at the U of I, to read Royko’s tribute to Daley. As the above excerpt indicates, it was not a blind tribute, but it captured the man and his time:
Sometimes the very same Daley performance would be seen as both outrageous and heroic. It depended on whom you asked for an opinion.
For example, when he stood on the Democratic National Convention floor in 1968 and mouthed furious crudities at smooth Abe Ribicoff, tens of millions of TV viewers were shocked.
But it didn’t offend most Chicagoans. That’s part of the Chicago style—belly to belly, scowl to scowl, and may the toughest or loudest man win.
Daley was not an articulate man, Saul Bellow notwithstanding. Maybe it’s because so many of us aren’t that far removed from parents and grandparents who knew only bits and pieces of the language.
So when Daley slid sideways into a sentence, or didn’t exit from the same paragraph he entered, it amused us. But it didn’t sound that different than the way most of us talk.
Besides, he got his point across, one way or another, and usually in Chicago style…
With Daley’s passing, the old time urban political machines of the Democrat party were also passing into history. They have been replaced by identity politics, leftism and the rise of politicians who usually have not an ounce of authenticity to them.
In retrospect I think that was what Royko was mourning. The rough hewn Daley, with his tangled syntax and often refreshing bluntness, was being replaced by glib, cookie-cutter politicians, with no particular love for either the voters who elect them, or the places they purport to represent. I still wish that Daley I had seen the inside of a prison, but I reluctantly have to admit, 42 years later, that Royko was right.