The Chicago Way: How Obama Began Transforming America Into Cook County

When then-presidential candidate Barack Obama told a crowd in Columbia, Missouri, in October of 2008, "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America," he meant it.

US Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama speaks during a rally at Genoa Park Amphitheatre in Colombus, Ohio, October 10, 2008. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

For all his promise, Barack Obama was a man of few accomplishments before being elected to the highest office in America. But he actually did achieve something when it came to national politics. He brought the Chicago Democratic Machine model into the national arena.

I grew up just north of Cook County, Illinois, in which Chicago is located. For 21 years, from 1955 to 1976, Mayor Richard J. Daley ran his town as a true big city party machine Democrat, complete with patronage and all the other creepy-crawly intrigues to be found when turning over the rocks of municipal politics.

While Daley was a Democrat, he was no ideologue. He was a product of the old school Democrat Party that gave us FDR, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, Scoop Jackson, Zell Miller, and even Bill Clinton. Indeed, it was Daley’s Chicago Police who violently cleared out Grant Park anti-war protesters during the height of the 1968 Democrat Convention, for which he was vilified by Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D-CT) as using “Gestapo tactics.”

Daley was not a woke, pandering, identity-obsessed modern Democrat. Rather he was a mover, a conductor, a political boss. And the city ran. Under Daley the streets were clean, life was affordable, business boomed, the stunning skyline grew, and crime rarely spilled out onto the Magnificent Mile as it so often does now.

The Chicago Democrat Party is rife with corruption, as extended one-party rule inevitably leads to abuse of power — Chicago has not had a Republican mayor since 1931. The running joke in Chicago is “Vote Democrat, Vote Often.”

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MARCH 07: Inmates at the Cook County Jail check in with election judges before voting in the Illinois primary election after a polling place in the facility was opened for early voting on March 07, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. About 500 to 700 inmates were expected to vote today inside the facility which houses more than 5,000 detainees. The jail is the first in the nation to open a polling place inside to allow inmates to vote. The Illinois primary election will be held on March 17. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Scott Olson/Getty Images

In fact, Daley’s son Richard M. Daley, served as mayor for 22 years, beating his father’s previous record by one year. The pathologies that exist in Chicago today, however, are not the result of Daley-esque pragmatist Democrats, but rather ideological zealots. As such, in one generation, the leadership of this once-great city has devolved from the old school Daleys to the hard-Left progressive leadership of Lori Lightfoot and now Brandon Johnson. Anyone with an objective eye can see that the farther Left Chicago has lurched, the more unlivable, expensive, and dangerous it has become. Even my beloved Chicago Bears have had enough and are moving from iconic Soldier Field downtown to Arlington Heights in the suburbs. 

So when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama told a crowd in Columbia, Missouri, in October of 2008, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” he meant it. But not in the way envisioned by the starry-eyed Obamanauts who projected upon their narcissistic empty suit of a messiah their own progressive aspirations. Obama doesn’t think that way. Anyone who rises to the top of Cook County politics by definition is about ruthlessly accumulating and maintaining political power as the ultimate goal, not making the world (other than his own) a better place. And as a way to amass national power for himself and the Democrats he still surreptitiously leads, Obama saw what works in Chicago and vowed to install the Cook County model for the Democrat Party machine on a national level.

The Democrat Party Obama created was one that sought to transform the entire country into Chicago. This transformation came to fruition in the 2020 election. I am not saying that the Democrats “stole” that election, but they did cynically exploit the faux concerns over COVID to force upon the nation mass mail-in ballots. In the 2016 election, roughly a quarter of all ballots were cast by mail. The percentage jumped to 46% in the 2020 election. This is no coincidence. Nor is it a coincidence that in 2020, even though some 67% of Trump voters voted in person either on or before election day, only 41% of Biden voters did the same. To my knowledge, GOP voters weren’t dying of COVID in droves afterwards.

The DNC, which pushed mail-in balloting, knew what this unprecedented (some argue illegal in certain states) revamping of election procedure really meant for them: opportunity. As the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform reported in 2005, “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” 

So why would a party that howls clarion calls about Trump’s “threat to our sacred democracy” push for this clearly flawed and easily corruptible election process? Because, historically, fraud has worked in their favor. It has in Cook County for decades and has shown to be a valuable tool at the national level as well.

Aerial Dramatic View of Downtown Chicago at Sunset - Lake Shore Drive. Aerial_Views. Getty Images.

Aerial_Views. Getty Images.

A common media mantra is that 2020 saw no “widespread” election fraud. And, technically, they are probably correct. But that didn’t matter, and Obama and his Chicago cronies — including his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who tellingly ended up mayor of Chicago himself for a spell, and who was eventually succeeded in his White House post by the late Mayor Daley’s son — understood this. When you have three key swing states in which Trump only won by a combined 80,000 votes in 2016, then “widespread” voter fraud is not needed. What is required is targeted fraud. 

There is no doubt that very powerful institutions from Big Government to Big Tech to Big Justice colluded to push their censoring and prosecutorial thumb on the elections scales. It’s still happening today, as evidenced by Trump’s many court appearances that caused even Left-leaning CNN host Fareed Zakaria to admit they are only taking place because of the accused’s name. As to actual ballot stuffing, harvesting, or illegal voting we will not know for a long time how much it did or did not occur. Nevertheless, millions of Americans sensed something was amiss in 2020, something we Chicagoans shrug off as business as usual.

Remember, it took decades to show conclusively that Texas Democrats did, in fact, knowingly falsify votes in LBJ’s successful 1948 run for Senate — with catastrophic consequences for the country later.

Defenders of the overall integrity of mail-in ballots will point to various courts’ refusals to hear over 50 Trump-initiated claims of election fraud as evidence there is nothing to see here. But they will neglect to add that most of these dismissals were on procedural grounds such as standing or laches, and often just touched upon the potential merits which were never allowed to be fully argued before the bench. It’s worth noting that the Supreme Court, in fact, sided with the now-proven fraudsters for LBJ on procedural grounds as well. The courts are not oracles.

A survey by New York University’s nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found that 40 states and the District of Columbia passed laws and changed procedures to expand voting access during the COVID pandemic as well as “substantive changes to their voting systems since the start of the pandemic.” Some eased rules on voting by mail or extended early voting to reduce crowds — to protect them from a virus that apparently only attacks poll lines and biker clubs, while leaving BLM and antifa protestors, or Democratic California governors at swanky Napa restaurants, alone. What makes this concerning is that these loosening standards affected 258 potential electoral votes. And, not surprisingly, 96 more eventually went for Biden than Trump; 47 of these had gone for Trump in 2016. 

This is why Obama’s main project seems to have been, at its core, elevating through mail-in ballots the corrupt Cook County machine to a national level. It’s all about power. It is not the means to an end, but rather the end itself. And COVID gave them their cover for all the election rule easing and censorship of “disinformation.” As Rahm Emanuel himself stated: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

Still, this cynical attempt to nationalize what once worked locally in my hometown is fraught with hazard. One-party Chicagoland is a solidly cobalt blue enclave. They think the same way, vote the same way, believe the same way even if it leads to their city’s destruction. As such, they will tolerate corruption with a wink and a nod so long as their party stays in control of City Hall.

The country as a whole, however, is not Cook County. It is evenly divided among blue and red, as the last two elections have shown. There are some 75 million-plus voting Americans who will not just stand idly by with a shrug of the shoulder when the “Chicago Way” is applied nationally again. January 6, as ugly, ludicrous, unnecessary, and misguided as it was, nevertheless offered a chilling portent of what could happen should millions of voters once again feel that the electoral process has been compromised.

Democracy is built entirely on trust in the legitimacy of a voting system. And that trust must be especially strong among the losers. But what if trust is gone? What reason is there to believe in our democracy? What reason is there to obey any laws at all when they are only selectively applied based not on merit but party affiliation? If Americans no longer believe their votes are honestly counted, there is no more democratic foundation to hold up the Republic. Remember, we have elections to settle our differences without killing each other.

What Obama and his Chicago crew are attempting is a fundamental “transformation” of America as promised. And it will fail because, as with so many of the Left’s other misguided attempts to nationalize policies from healthcare to schooling, it is not scalable. Just as what works in tiny countries cannot be imposed on the enormous USA, neither can the political model of one corrupt, collapsing city be applied nationally without severe push-back from millions who will find no humor in the quip that “The dead of Cook County always vote Democrat.”

One man’s joke is another’s sense of disenfranchisement and disempowerment. And that never ends well.

* * *

Brad Schaeffer is a commodities trader, author, columnist, and musician whose eclectic body of writing can be found in the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, New York Daily News, Daily Wire, National Review, The Hill, The Federalist, Zerohedge, and others. His latest book LIFE IN THE PITS: My Time As A Trader On The Rough-And-Tumble Exchange Floors is available on Amazon and soon Audible. 

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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