Daley May Outlast Father As Chicago Mayor The lessons Richard M. Daley learned from his father's missteps during the chaos of the 1968 Democratic Convention helped him claim — and hold — the seat behind the Chicago mayor's desk where his father served for 21 years.

Daley May Outlast Father As Chicago Mayor

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93844540/93922092" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Forty years ago this week, protesters clashed with police on the streets of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

(Soundbite of public demonstration)

HANSEN: The violence marred the convention. It may have cost the Democrats the presidential election that year, and it badly damaged the image of Chicago and its mayor, Richard J. Daley. Now his son, Richard M. Daley, runs the city that works, and he is closing in on his father's record for longevity in the mayor's office. As part of our occasional series, Echoes of 1968, NPR's David Schaper reports on how the power of the two mayor Daleys has evolved over the past four decades.

DAVID SCHAPER: By most accounts, Mayor Richard J. Daley and his police force handled the demonstrations during the '68 convention poorly. With the whole world watching, cops beat protesters. A later inquiry would call it a police riot. The tone was set by Daley himself, who at the time had the most powerful Democratic machine in the country.

Mr. ED BURKE (Alderman, 14th Ward, Chicago): He was the last of the big city bosses.

SCHAPER: Chicago alderman Ed Burke's career overlaps with both Daleys. He was first elected in 1969 as an ally of Richard J. Daley.

Mr. BURKE: He had a great pride in Chicago. He had a great love for the city. And throw into that a good measure of his Irish temper and you had a volatile mix.

SCHAPER: In 1968, Burke was a Chicago police officer assigned to the convention. He was on the floor just a few feet behind Mayor Daley when Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff altered his speech nominating George McGovern.

Senator ABRAHAM RIBICOFF (Democrat, Connecticut): And with George McGovern as President of the United States, we wouldn't have to have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago.

(Soundbite of crowd shouting)

SCHAPER: Daley defended himself and his police force with a little slip of the tongue.

Mayor RICHARD J. DALEY (Chicago): The confrontation was not created by the police. The confrontation was created by the people who charged the police. Gentlemen, get the thing straight once and for all. The policeman isn't there to create disorder. The policeman is there to preserve disorder.

Mr. PAUL GREEN (Director, Institute for Politics, Roosevelt University): The Democratic Convention of 1968 was a disaster for the city of Chicago. It was a disaster for Richard J. Daley, and it was a disaster for the Democratic Party.

SCHAPER: Paul Green is director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University in Chicago and has co-authored four books on the Daleys.

Mr. GREEN: He was never the same.

SCHAPER: Daley's influence nationally started to wane. Retired WBBM political editor Bob Crawford covered both Daleys.

Mr. BOB CRAWFORD (Retired Political Editor, News Radio Station WBBM-AM): The '68 convention left such a bad taste in the mouths of Democrats all across the country that even party regulars were blaming Richard J. Daley for the fate of the party and losing the election in '68.

SCHAPER: But at home he was a hero. Richard J. Daley won reelection in landslides in '71 and '75, and he maintained firm control over Chicago City Council. He was still the boss until the day he died of a heart attack in 1976.

But back to that scene on the floor of the convention hall in 1968. Look closely at the pictures of Daley screaming back at Ribicoff. And over the old man's shoulder is a young Richard M. Daley, screaming right alongside his father.

Mr. GREEN: He saw chaos.

SCHAPER: Again, Paul Green.

Mr. GREEN: He saw chaos and he saw his dad lose control.

SCHAPER: And control is something a Daley never wants to lose. Retired WBBM political Bob Crawford.

Mr. CRAWFORD: I think he may have learned at that time that power is everything and weakness is nothing.

SCHAPER: But rather than try to control or influence everything from local judges in the state legislature to Congress and the president, as his father had, the younger Daley began to adapt to a new era of politics in which the political parties were less important, the media more so, and in which voters are more diverse. Alderman Ed Burke.

Mr. BURKE: He came to the conclusion very early on that he had to change with the times or that he was doomed to failure. And he made a very conscious effort to avoid the mistakes that older political bosses in Chicago had made.

SCHAPER: The second Daley lost his first try to win his father's old office. His challenge to Mayor Jane Byrne in 1983 split the white vote, allowing for the election of Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington. Many elements of the old machine were falling apart, so Daley started building a new machine.

After Washington died in 1987, Daley put together a coalition of the remaining white ethnic ward bosses, Latinos, and white lakefront liberals. He included gays, Asian Americans and others to win the Mayor's office in 1989. In every election since, he's added a growing number of African-American supporters, in part by focusing on evenly delivering city services and by making sure a fair share of city jobs and contracts go to minorities.

Marilyn Katz(ph) was one of the organizers of the '68 protests. Her political consulting firm now does a lot of work with the current Daley's administration, and she cals his more open and inclusive governing style radically different than his father's.

Ms. MARILYN KATZ (Organizer, 1968 Protests): I think Daley learned the lesson that - a number of things. It is better to incorporate dissenting voices than to smash them. That power was probably more secure when shared.

SCHAPER: The current mayor's critics suggests this Daley is only inclusive to the extent he has to be, and they say he can be just as controlling, autocratic and vindictive as his old man. Former Alderman Dick Simpson now teaches political science at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Professor DICK SIMPSON (Political Science, University of Illinois): Chicago politics has transmogrified. It has put on a new pretty new face and it has globalized, but its heart is still an old politics.

SCHAPER: A case in point is right here. I'm in Chicago's Millennium Park, a beautiful, open space with an amphitheater, botanical garden, sculpture and fountains. It's build above railroad tracks that were once the eyesore of Chicago's lakefront. You see, both Daleys are builder mayors, focusing as much on the city skyline and big public works projects like this as delivering basic city services. And this park is a whopping success, the crown jewel of the city, but it cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than projected and contracts went to key Daley supporters.

Mr. CRAWFORD: Call them great mayors but remember the price.

SCHAPER: And Bob Crawford says that price is corruption, which has been rampant in Chicago under both Daleys. Though neither has ever been charged with wrong doing, Dick Simpson says both are somewhat responsible for it.

Mr. SIMPSON: Just like gum on the bottom of a shoe. If you're going to wear the shoe of machine politics, you're going to have the gum of corruption.

SCHAPER: The second Mayor Daley has introduced more reforms to open up government than his father, and his national image is different, too. This mayor is looked to by other mayors as a leader and innovator on issues ranging from schools and crime to the environment, but not so much to deliver votes.

Mr. CRAWFORD: This Mayor Daley isn't really as powerful as Richard J. Daley was.

SCHAPER: Again, Bob Crawford.

Mr. CRAWFORD: Richard J. Daley had a true political machine which wasn't compromised by anything, total loyalty from the first man to the last. We all know he was a kingmaker in presidential politics. He could pick up a phone and talk not to the president's secretary but to the president himself. He had the president's private number, you know. Well, this Richard M. Daley can't do that because he doesn't rule on the basis of a true machine-style of politics. He rules on the basis of a coalition.

SCHAPER: Of course, that could change this fall if Chicagoan Barack Obama wins the White House. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.