Duncan, Lightfoot and Preckwinkle: The Liturgy of Chicago Mayoral Politics

By John Kass

Did you miss the big Chicago mayoral campaign coming out party for Arne Duncan the other day?

Oh, you did?

It was all over local TV news. https://wgntv.com/news/chicago-news/peace-march-led-by-st-sabina-pleads-for-action-on-violence/

But you have an excuse for missing it, because it wasn’t billed as a political event.

Instead, it was billed as an anti-violence march starring Duncan, basketball buddy of Barack Obama. Much of media went along, offering it up as a non-political issue and if it nudged voters a bit, who’d complain?

Yet here you are at johnkassnews.com. So, I’m going to assume that you, like me, don’t like being herded by the people behind the curtain.

Duncan is a former U.S. Secretary of Education under former President Barack Obama, and like I said, Obama’s basketball buddy. Duncan, the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools under Mayor Richard Daley, sent his own children to exclusive private schools.

He’s part of that Democrat insider progressive/corporate clique that now runs Chicago. He’s been repeatedly mentioned as a mayoral candidate. And there he was the other night at that stop-violence march with several TV cameras in tow.

You get it now?

Mayor Lori Lightfoot didn’t miss it. She most certainly got it. And so did all of political Chicago.

The other politicians smell weakness upon her because they know where she’s most vulnerable, and they know what the people of Chicago care about most:

Increasing violent crime in American cities especially in Chicago and other towns. Many from Chicago have already voted with their feet.  But many can’t leave. They’re stuck.

Those who remain don’t want to become another statistic at the hands of some violent repeat offender who’s been let off on easy bail policy, or one who is out roaming free on electronic home monitoring, when he should be at home awaiting trial on yet another charge of violent crime.

All that is courtesy of liberal Democrats and their new catch-and-release prosecutors and judges, not only here, but across the U.S.

And voters don’t like being called racists by woke media pundits who are themselves wedded to low bail and electronic home monitoring.

Woke pundits are fine with catch-and-release prosecutions, as long as the violent don’t end up living on their blocks, capping off a few rounds in the vicinity of their own kids.

As Chicago’s homicide rates continue to rise, as we stay numb and conveniently forget the parade of the dead, we might give a thought to Max Solomon Lewis. He was the young University of Chicago undergraduate struck by a bullet while riding the CTA Green line. But he’s not alone.

Lewis was pronounced dead on July 4, one of the most violent weekends in Chicago’s history, with more than 100 people shot—including kids—and at least 19 dead.

Lightfoot is in the middle of all of this.

 And so, Arne Duncan went on his anti-violence march with TV news cameras in tow.

Duncan’s host was the activist priest Rev. Michael Pfleger. Standing alongside Duncan was John Rogers Jr. a big bucks money guy, an Obama guy, who has Duncan on his board of directors.

All that was missing was Obama and Rahm Emanuel pushing Arne in front of the cameras, like anxious moms at some pre-school career day event.

Everybody who understands politics can see what’s going on.

So, does this mean that Arne Duncan is the anointed one?


Not quite yet. There is still time for people to walk away if he implodes, too. And he just might implode over an old Tweet of his touching on wild rumors about the mayor’s personal issues.


But with Lightfoot defying the laws of physics—exploding while simultaneously shrinking the mayor’s office out of sight –many are thinking that she needs to go.

And others consider taking her on.

These include Black leftists like the CTU’s Stacy Davis Gates and moderates such as 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer; and Latino conservatives, moderates like Ald. Ray Lopez, 15th, and perhaps U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia from the hard left.

While you’re at it you might throw in a few whites from all political persuasions and all the various hues of pinkness, for old time’s sake.

“There has always been the rumor out there that Arne was going to run for mayor,” Ald. Lopez, himself a potential candidate, told me in an interview the other day.

“Is he really going to do it? Who knows? I have my doubts. He’d have to give up his lucrative place in the not-for-profit world.

“But he’s clearly of the establishment, and the establishment is obviously frightened about losing complete control of Chicago,” Lopez said.

Duncan represents the Obama/corporate Chicago establishment that still think they can manipulate radical militants to maintain themselves in power and luxury.

For what is that sumptuously planned Obama Temple of Love and Fealty—to be built on priceless Jackson Park public land—if not a declaration of the establishment’s institutionalized staying power?

As for Duncan, nothing is set in stone. This wasn’t a mayoral campaign announcement. It was just the  opening move.

Yet if you stood off at an angle and squinted, you may have seen a faint glow of fingerprints from Rahm, Obama and Obama/Daley mouthpiece David Axelrod all over it.

Why? Because there was an ostentatious silkiness to the Duncan party. It was obvious, and way too smooth.

It reminded a friend of mine—who makes his living by understanding such things–of the old Obama-Daley-Emanuel bait-and-switch that seamlessly made Rahm the mayor.

“Didn’t it remind you of how (then Obama chief-of-staff) Rahm Emanuel came out on the Charlie Rose show, saying he’d like to be mayor someday, and just like that Rich Daley slipped away and Rahm was made mayor?”

Yeah. I remember.

Unfortunately, Daley didn’t slip all the way to Abu Dhabi, along with those mountains of Chicago parking meter quarters.

The Arne Duncan march wasn’t officially political, but it was indeed political, because these things usually are.

It was a party. It wasn’t a coincidence. It was planned.

And now with Duncan being positioned expertly by experts, consider:

Father Mike has found new political life. He’s now something of an establishment figure himself, after being publicly exonerated by Cardinal Cupich from unproven allegations. And he wasn’t the only person of note with Duncan.

Rogers, the big money guy, is the founder of Ariel Capital Management, the largest minority-owned mutual fund firm in the country, controlling billions in investments.

At the stop-violence march, Father Mike called for a summit of the top office holders, all Democrats, to do something.

“We’re demanding that there be a summit. The governor, the Cook County board president, the mayor and the state’s attorney,” said Pfleger. “Stop all the finger-pointing and the police department. Get in the room, lock the door, figure out what you’re going to do.”

A summit? What could they agree on besides blaming Republicans for what they and their Democratic Party have done to urban America, systematically, for almost 100 years?

Duncan took care to say that more police won’t solve the problem of increasing violence, the better to protect his flanks with woke media and the social justice warriors.

“We cannot arrest our way out of this,” Duncan said although arresting the violent and putting them in jail—away from their victims in violent neighborhoods–might be a good idea.

But this is about Duncan’s positioning. He’s the potential candidate, not me.

“Our guys on the street, they’re just looking for family. It’s the wrong family,” Duncan continued. But we all have to be the family.”

Family. Oh yes, family and the Democrats.

As local media continues to fall apart—taking with it the institutional memory of political reporters and editors now gone—some of us stubbornly remember:

Decades ago, the Democrats paved the road to urban hell with their good intentions, by pushing welfare policy that broke the Black family.

In the 60s, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who later became the great Democratic Senator of New York wrote a cautionary warning about what the welfare state would do to families in America.

Moynihan wrote his paper when there was still time for a course correction, before the pernicious effect of government policies upon successive generations of Americans.

And what do I say, lo these many years later?

That when government becomes the daddy, the street gangs become the big brother. And now we’re paying for it.

Just before the Duncan mayoral coming out party, Lightfoot was on the tarmac at O’Hare waiting for President Joe Biden who was to roll out to the suburbs for politics.

But he stayed briefly for a photo-op of concern.

Also out there waiting for Biden at O’Hare, a responsibly frosty social distance away, was Toni Preckwinkle, Lightfoot’s rival, the Cook County Board President and chair of the Cook County Democratic Party.

In one news photo, Biden towered over Lightfoot, as if he were consoling a lost child at a funeral.

And Preckwinkle was safely in the background as if she had nothing to do with anything.

Could you interpret this hieroglyphic for a test?

Because it is a test. And if you don’t get it, then you won’t understand Chicago at perhaps the most critical time in its history, with chaos and political instability on the horizon.

And while you’re here at johnkassnews.com, I want you to understand it.

Lightfoot is the mayor. She’s lost the city. She’s responsible for handling crime. She failed. By rights, she wears the jacket. She wanted the job.

But fair is fair. Her foolish political mistake was getting into a political war with the police and siding with the Chicago Teachers Union and giving CTU its most lucrative contract in history. Now that same CTU that has defied her on school re-opening wants to cancel her out.

She allowed Preckwinkle and Preckwinkle’s protégé, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to escape media scrutiny on the crime issue.

If local media was interested in explaining things to you, then Preckwinkle and Fox would be held equally accountable. But they’re not held accountable.

Preckwinkle is not being held accountable. She’s a ghost on the tarmac with Biden, a ghost in most discussions about Chicago violence.

 That is a big part of the problem. As party boss and county board president, Preckwinkle leverages the Cook County judges. And Chief Judge Tim Evans is all on board with Preckwinkle’s policy of reducing the population of the county jail, where the violent are to be held as they await trial.

He offers low bail and broken electronic monitoring. Many in the media—particularly the taxpayer-funded leftist media—shriek that low bail isn’t the problem.

But cops, victims, even the progressive Lightfoot know otherwise.

The establishmentarian Preckwinkle also controls the radical Foxx, her former aide who is now Cook County’s catch-and-release prosecutor. Foxx is one of several catch-and-release prosecutors across the country heavily funded by radical left philanthropist George Soros.

Lightfoot reasoned that if she didn’t criticize Foxx and Preckwinkle directly over their own bad crime policy, they might return the favor and leave her alone when she runs for re-election.

Who loses in this deal? The people of Chicago and all the victims of crime.

And Lightfoot too, for being played for a fool, and conclusively demonstrating that, in the final analysis, she is one.

In Duncan’s case, local media doesn’t seem to care all that much that Rahm and Team Obama aren’t in the picture frame.

And local media also don’t seem to care all that much about Preckwinkle and crime.

Toni just hovers at the far edges of those Biden/O’Hare photos, while allowing Lightfoot to wear the jacket full of stones.

Of course, none of this is missed by the Chicago politicians.

They’ve survived in this brutal game by knowing how to read the warning signs and political hieroglyphics along the Chicago Way.

They read them the way predatory mammals read and sniff at Lightfoot’s trail, as if her tracks belonged to some tender herbivore with a bad foot, limping away from the water hole.

That’s all it takes. An invitation of weakness.

They see Lightfoot, once a rising political star full of promise, one that I loudly supported, has now lost her city to street violence and can’t seem to do anything about it.

Lightfoot refused to repeatedly call Preckwinkle, Foxx and Evans to account on the crime issue. And that was her political mistake.

She is afraid to do what is necessary to protect her city, because to do so would require disrupting the relationships upon which the Democratic Party’s power is based.

And by failing to do so, she also undermines her prospects for survival.

Foolish? Yes.

But in political terms, as far as how she ignored good advice and took bad advice, does it really matter now?


Lightfoot stupidly filled the pockets of her own jacket with stones of her own choosing. They weigh her down and now she sinks. There’s little she can do about it. None of her “friends” will help her.

So, she claims that 99 percent of her problems are due to white racism. But that’s pathetic, smacks of desperation and is painful to watch.

Meanwhile, Arne Duncan and the others gird themselves to come for her, because that’s how The Chicago Way works.

 To survive in this game, you must read the signs and correctly interpret the hieroglyphics as you would in some old Soviet-dominated Eastern Bloc dictatorship.

You must notice what is said. But also, what is not said, what is not stressed, and what is not leading the news stories.

You must understand the rituals of Chicago’s political liturgy, know which icons are being paraded and why, and which are being taken down. And you’ve got to know who, exactly, is taking care of the priests.

And you must clearly see who is not in the photos, but behind the screen.


(Copyright 2021 John Kass)

Photo credit: “Mayor visits McCormick Place’s COVID19 ACF during construction” by usacechicago is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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