In the End, Tom Dart Didn't Have It in Him

Tom Dart got stared down by the big fish, when he could have pulled big support from white voters the big fish needs desperately.

And, to top today's Tom Dart news off, apparently we've got Ambassador Moseley-Braun, a person who hasn't run a winning race in a generation, as the possible consensus candidate of African-American leaders.

This really is the gift that keeps on giving.

That would be the mayoral sweepstakes, which, just a short couple of weeks ago, I spoke of as an embarrassment of riches. Why? Well, because at that point we were looking at a fairly long list of well-qualified candidates. Sure, not everyone had everything you might want in a mayor, but each had something to bring to the table, something that made him or her qualified to run and to govern if elected.

Now, some of these same people are bagging it.

The facile answers to the question of why they are bagging it are either: 1) fear of the Rahm Emanuel juggernaut, or 2) fear of what awaits at City Hall.

But I see something different here. That something is a failure of the will, something no important candidate for public office can have.

For starters, for an instructive example, look at our late, lamented, successful Democratic President, and recent Chicago visitor, Bill Clinton. Did he fail to run, much less fail to win (twice) because of a failure of the will, in his case around his supposed philandering? Nope. He forged ahead.

For starter seconds, look at our late, not-so-lamented, recent two-term president, George W. Bush. Did he fail to run, much less fail to win (again, twice) because of a failure of the will, in his case, around his purported drug abuse?

Nope. He forged ahead, too.

Both went for it when the opportunity arose and the timing was as good as it was ever going to get.

But not Tom Dart. Instead, we have a person we spoke of as a serious possibility a couple weeks ago who is now history, as well as one who looks like he probably will be, Rev. Meeks.

Of course, Rev. Meeks can be a kingmaker, regardless, so that's nice (and comforting to a person who likes to be close to the seat of power). But Rev. Meeks had to know that saying he would be pastor of his church while mayor was an impossible sell to voters he would need to win. So, I conclude he didn't want it, really.

In the case of Tom Dart, running for Mayor might have meant he could be Mayor. Consequently, the only thing I can conclude is that he just didn't want the grief--of the campaign or of running the place.

I go back to a Harold Washington lesson: Be willing to cut them off at the knees, if that's what's needed (that's what the running of the place requires). Well, Tom Dart wasn't, so he won't.

One could imagine that Tom Dart polled and found that not enough African Americans or Latinos were excited about his candidacy. But then again, how excited are those voters about Rahm's? It would have been a fight. I go back to my first point.

Fire in the belly is a funny thing: You wouldn't think to look at him that Mayor Daley had it. Yet he consistently fought hard for the kind of Chicago he wanted. You might not agree with everything he did, but he fought and kept fighting.

Fire in the belly is a funny thing: You wouldn't think to look at her that Lisa Madigan has it. Yet, she was willing to run for legislative office with a modest resume in a district where she didn't have a long history, and she fought back, hard and smart, when questions were raised about whether she could be an effective Attorney General when her father was (is) who he is. Well, she sure enough proved them wrong.

As those of you who read my blog know, I'm a fervent advocate for public officials who stand up and take chances on things that matter to our city and to our lives. Today, I'm again hoping that someone else decides to stand up and take the chance, the chance to run for mayor and make the case for what this city needs. That case isn't clear yet, and the more discussion we have, the better the rest of us will be for it.