Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago, by Mike Royko

Mike Royko's 1971 book, Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago is an account of the famous mayor from his birth up through the end of the 1960s. Royko was a leading reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune during the 1960s and 70s and later. He had much first-hand experience with Daley and events surrounding his administration. This is an extremely readable book. For people who were alive during the 1960s and who paid attention to the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, this book will be especially interesting. It's difficult to imagine that people like Richard Daley could thrive or even survive in today's political climate in America. Having said that, I immediately must take it back, because Donald J Trump, our current president, is a much worse demagogue than Mayor Daley ever was. But I digress.

Daley was a consummate politician, which is not to say an honest one. He was dishonest. He used every political technique imaginable from personal payoffs to special jobs for people who did him favors or ensured that an electoral district would go his way. He threatened, blackmailed, and cajoled. Ultimately, he arrived at a point in his career where achieving his goals meant getting to do what he wanted. He resisted all challenges to his power. He became the equivalent of a feudal king, and Chicago was his fiefdom. He was ruthless and self-aggrandizing. His behavior during the 1968 Democratic convention was a prime case in point. It's amazing to read about a city and government and a political leader as corrupt as Chicago, its government, and mayor were during the 60s. For those who read the novel The Nix, this book will have special interest for those scenes that describe the riots surrounding the 1968 Democratic convention.

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