The crab-barrel theory | Bleader

The crab-barrel theory

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It was about 21 years ago--man, where does the time go?--when Mayor Harold Washington called me into his office for an interview. The mayor had a little time on his hands, and we were in the midst of a long discussion about Chicago politics when he said something I've remembered ever since: "Black politicians are like crabs in a crab barrel. If they see one of their own climbing up, they reach back to pull him back in the barrel."

I was thinking about Washington's observation when I read in the paper that state senator James Meeks had all but endorsed Mayor Daley over his two black challengers, William "Dock" Walls and Cook County circuit court clerk Dorothy Brown. When asked if he was going to support Brown, Meeks replied, "I probably won't be endorsing anybody who's going to lose."

This comes on the heels of Seventh Ward aldermanic candidate Sandi Jackson, wife of Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., suggesting that she and her husband might back Daley. It also comes after Congressman Bobby Rush announced he felt Daley "deserves another term" because he's been "a great mayor."

Of course, it's a free country--we're all free to endorse anybody we want. And I surely don't think that black politicians should only endorse other black politicians. But neither Meeks, Jackson, nor Rush backed Daley in 2003. So I'm wondering: what's changed in the last four years to make them support him now?

The Sorich trial convictions? The hired truck scandal? The demolition of Meigs Field? Soaring property taxes? The Duff affirmative-action scam? The fact that only 9 percent of the city's contractors are black? The continued breakdown of the Red Line? New revelations about Daley's apparent indifference, as state's attorney, to allegations regarding the torture of black crime suspects by Jon Burge?

Or are they like those crabs?

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