The discreet fucking charm of Mayor Rahm | Bleader

The discreet fucking charm of Mayor Rahm

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Earlier this month, when I first saw Mayor Rahm's "Mister Rogers" ad, the one in which he wears a sweater and humbly admits that he can sometimes rub people the wrong way, I laughed. Then I felt a bit sad that Rahm's campaign had spent so much money to make him appear at least as likable as Chuy Garcia and his big, cheerful mustache and ended up with something that at any other time might have been mistaken for performance art. (I mean, screw issues, right?)

And then I thought back to a time, not so long ago, when people—and not just me!—actually loved and embraced Rahm for who he was.

Back in the fall of 2009, the early days of the first Obama administration, I spent a weekend covering Bishie Con, a convention in Saint Louis devoted to slash fiction and its manga sibling, yaoi. It was a rather traumatic 48 hours, mostly because the con was populated almost exclusively by teenage girls, who liked to show their love and appreciation for the work, and for one another, by screaming. Late on the second afternoon, in the early throes of a migraine and in search of some peace and quiet, I ducked into the library, where I met a very young woman named Sarah who told me about her passion for White House slash fiction, particularly stories featuring Rahm himself, then chief of staff.

"When I found out about how he sends dead fish to people he hates and cheesecake to people he likes, I totally fell in love," she told me. "I've been writing lots of fan fic with a vampire Rahm. A popular pairing is Rahm/Obama, but there's also Rahm/[press secretary] Robert Gibbs and Rahm/Joe Biden. That one takes place on a train, because Biden likes trains."

At the time, I dismissed this as one more crazy discovery in a weekend full of crazy discoveries. (The good ones were some surprisingly well-written Wooster/Jeeves slash and Hetalia: World Powers, which tells the story of 20th-century politics through the medium of romance between pretty boys in military uniforms and would actually be a good teaching tool in high schools. The bad ones I have tried very hard to forget.) Though I had to admit, there was a bit of charm in the dispensation of justice via gifts of dead fish and Eli's. It was very direct.

And then it became a book.
  • And then it became a book.
Then about a year later, during Rahm's first mayoral campaign, I started reading the Mayor Emanuel Twitter feed, and I totally got what Sarah was saying. (Except the vampire part.) For weeks, I gloried in the profanity-laden adventures of the mayoral candidate and his loyal sidekicks, Quaxelrod the duck, Hambone the dog, and Carl the Intern. It was brilliant and surreal, and it fully embraced Rahm's abrasiveness and, like the dead fish story, somehow rendered it charming.

By the time Mayor Emanuel crowdsurfed his way to the podium to deliver his victory speech ("I've slept in an igloo and I've slept in a crawlspace and I've slept under a bridge. But as long as I was asleep in Chicago, I didn't care. I've held the motherfucking pulsating heart of Chicago in my hands, and I know that it beats true. Through everything—through assholes, through cockholes—I've had two things: The people of Chicago, and my fucking friends") and then faded into the ether, I was in love.

It's true I was not living in Chicago at the time, so I wasn't really following the campaign very closely, but if I could have voted for Rahm, based on that Twitter feed, I would have.

Of course it was revealed later that the feed was actually the work of Dan Sinker, who was at the time a journalism prof at Columbia College and before that the founding editor of Punk Planet and who had absolutely nothing to do with the official Emanuel campaign. And I don't think anybody bothered to do a study on whether the Twitter feed had any influence on real-world voters. (Considering the low voter turnout that year, it probably didn't.)

But still. There must be some significance in the fact that Rahm is more likable in fan fiction and political satire than in a choreographed campaign ad. Rahm says in the Mister Rogers ad, "They say that your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness." Well, maybe Rahm's greatest weakness (well, one of them anyway), his reputation for being an asshole, could also be his greatest strength.

Think about it, Rahm, in the unlikely event that you're reading this. You've still got a few weeks. Bring on the dead fish and the F-bombs. And also the cheesecake, and a duck and a dog. (People love animals.) And there's your modern dance background! Surely people would thrill to see you do a few leaps across the stage. At this point, things can't possibly get any worse. Really listen to your inner Mister Rogers, who would tell you, "Rahm, there's no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are." (And then work with you a bit on expressing feelings.)

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