Emmanuel celebrates in a Chicago bar
The Chicago elections board underscored an important rule for politicians Thursday when it cleared Rahm Emanuel to run for mayor, which is that it’s fine to rent your house out to a complete stranger, as long as you leave your wife’s wedding dress stuffed under the stairs, or maybe just some old pasta in the refrigerator.
But for all the farce surrounding the question of Mr. Emanuel’s residency, the elections board, whether or not it intended to, also affirmed a serious and more important principle with its ruling — that Washington is in fact an extension of the rest of the country, rather than some alien territory cloistered within it.
This, of course, was not the most obvious issue to surface in the proceedings to decide whether Mr. Emanuel really was or was not a Chicagoan, a sideshow that must have made the former White House chief of staff pine for the relative sanity of Congress. Led by the man who rented Mr. Emanuel’s house from him and who had himself threatened to run for mayor, about 30 citizens questioned Mr. Emanuel, under oath, about whether he had actually left behind any boxes in the basement that might prove his continued residency…
“Were you ever a member of the Communist Party?” one of the interrogators jokingly asked Mr. Emanuel, tacitly acknowledging, it seemed, the ludicrous nature of the entire hearing.
Illustrating the stupidity and core values of populist opposition to this union called the United States, describing teabagger ideology by repeating the ironic question characteristic of paranoid nutballs years back in our poltical history of fear.
And yet there was a serious cultural subtext to the debate, beyond the question of whether Mr. Emanuel, a lifelong Chicagoan, is enough of a Chicagoan to run the city. At issue was also the larger question of whether someone who goes to Washington to serve his community and his country, as Mr. Emanuel did as both a congressman and a presidential aide, can be seen as having left his home to take up residence somewhere else.
This was essentially the argument [countered] by Mr. Emanuel’s lawyer, Kevin Forde, who pointed out that the residency law made allowances for people who were away “on business of the United States,” like soldiers stationed overseas. “If being chief of staff for the president of the United States isn’t in the service of the United States, I don’t know what is,” he said…
As it is, assuming the decision survives an inevitable appeal, Mr. Emanuel, who is leading handily in public polls, can now look forward to the election. After that, perhaps, he can return to his house and unpack the contents of those disputed storage boxes, the accumulated this-and-that of your average American life.
The appeal is guaranteed by sufficient funding for delay by those in high places and low whose singular interpretation of Constitutional Law holds that holy writ supersedes legal precedent, secession remains a viable alternative to federal decision-making, dedication to parochialism in education, religion and jurisprudence is what is lacking in government.