A Sunday Chicago Tribune story about Stanton De Priest the first black congressman in Chicago and only black member of Congress in the early 1930’s has a tidbit worth sharing:
Note that shortly after 1900, Chicago Precinct Captains were elected.
Thus, politic power flowed from the bottom up.
That’s the way political structures still work in the rest of Illinois.
Now Precinct Captains in Cook County are appointed by Ward and Township Committeemen.
What difference does it make?
I contend that electing the building block of political parties allows for a much smoother transition of political power as demographics shift.
If a minority is destined to be out of power until it can overcome the patronage power of a Ward Committeeman, the result will be disillusionment with the political process.
Consider how Jewish Ward Committeemen retained power long after their core constituents had migrated to Skokie and other suburbs.
Consider how Ed Burke and Mike Madigan are still Ware Committeemen, although their constituents are mainly Latino.
I’m not a student of Chicago history, but I believe the inability of blacks to take control of ward organizations after members of their race dominated local areas led to much of the racial tensions of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
To a meeting of the NAACP, he said,
“I want to thank the Democrats of the south for one thing.
“They were so barbaric they drove my parents to the north.
“If it hadn’t been for that I wouldn’t be in congress today.
“I’ve been Jim Crowed, segregated, persecuted, and I think I know how best the Negro can put a stop to being imposed on: it is through the ballot, through organization, through fighting eternally for his rights.”