Monday, July 21, 2008

A Machine by Any Other Name . . .

Dennis Byrne thinks it's time to call a machine a machine:

It’s time to bring back the Chicago Machine. Or the Democratic Machine. Or Machine Politics.

For those of you who are thinking, “the Chicago Machine has never left, so what’s to bring back?” you’re quite right. We’ve still got the Chicago Machine. But some time ago, use of the expression “Chicago Machine” fell out of favor.
Yes, I was thinking just that. And I wondered - what does it matter what you call it? Culture of corruption. Cesspool. New Venezuela. Hoard of blood sucking leeches. (Fun, isn't it? Continue in the comments if you like.) I've even thought that a Chicago Machine board game - like monopoly - might be a riot. "Do not pass go until you pass $200.00 to Official X" kind of thing. At least that's something we'd all get to "pay to play".

But Dennis Byrne's point is more important than I first thought. Change in descriptive terms itself implies change. Clarity in nomenclature does matter, now more than ever:
But the continued omission of references to the Machine insults reality, disserves the reading public and permits the Machine to go its happy way as if it doesn’t exist. Maintaining this pretense has national implications, allowing Democratic presidential candidate and Chicago favorite son Barack Obama to continue the fiction that he ain’t no scion of no stinking Machine.
He's right. You can tidy it up and embellish it with flower pots, wrought iron fences and a bean, but let's be clear. The "city that works" is still run by the same greasy machine. To deny that allows the pretense that Obama is a political naif with no grimy connections, no political past. Despite a cheerleading national media, this is no representative of change. He certainly didn't bring any change (for the better) to Illinois. So, if somebody steals my board game idea, go ahead and play against Obama. But don't use real cash, and be prepared to lose. He's a veteran of the real Chicago Machine.

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