“Ambassador Rahm Emanuel”: The Biden Jobs Program No One Needs

Rahm Emanuel is why we can’t have nice things.

Sometimes, a casual conversation turns out to be prophetic and stays with you for decades to come. In 2006, I had lunch at the LA World Science Fiction Convention with Eric Flint when the subject of Barack Obama came up. I admitted that his incredible rhetoric gave me hope.

Flint — a union organizer from Chicago — quickly disabused me. Obama, he said, was a Chicago Machine Democrat, and that meant he was a cynical horse-trader whose version of “democracy” was for insiders to do deals in backrooms, without accountability or transparency.

Those words stayed with me through the Obama years, as Obama literally shut off the server that grassroots organizers used to coordinate the campaign that got him elected and told us all to shut up and go away so he could strike deals with the GOP to get stuff done.

Flint’s compact description of Chicago Democrat politics has been an invaluable guide to understanding everything from Rod Blagojevich’s criminal corruption to Lori Lightfoot’s ghastly handling of the Black Lives Matter uprising last summer.

Above all, Flint’s description is how I’ve come to understand Rahm Emanuel, a terrible person even by the standards of the Chicago Democratic machine, whom Obama brought into the White House, evidently a necessity of Byzantine Democratic machine politics.

There’s no other way to say this: Emanuel is a piece of shit.

He’s an emotionally incontinent, corrupt bully, a guy who once stabbed a table “while shouting the names of people who betrayed Bill Clinton.”


It’s not like Democrats don’t know this. Obama himself once joked that after Emanuel accidentally cut off part of his middle finger, it “rendered him practically mute.”


It’s not just his demeanor, it’s his actions. Emanuel’s turn as Mayor of Chicago included an all-out blitz to suppress the footage of a Chicago police officer murdering Laquan McDonald, a Black 17-year-old.


If the Biden administration was the progressive bastion we’re hoping for, it would be distancing itself from Emanuel. Instead, it’s embracing him.

As Alex Shephard writes for the New Republic, the Biden admin is running two very distinctive federal jobs programs.

The first is the progressive infrastructure/clean energy/health program in the American Jobs Plan.


That program will spend $2t to create hundreds of thousands of good jobs where hard-working Americans will be well-compensated as they labor to repair America’s sagging infrastructure, care for its sick people, and transition it to sustainable energy.

But there’s another program, this one devoted to finding one federal job for one American: Rahm Emanuel. Biden seems to have put Emanuel in charge of this, despite Rahm’s initial delusional idea that he would be a great Transport Secretary:


Progressive activists within the Democratic Party killed that idea, but now it looks like Emanuel will head to Japan to serve as ambassador, a job that famously requires an even, diplomatic (!) temper. No one — no one — would use the word “diplomatic” to refer to Emanuel.

As Shephard points out, this kind of cronyism — where key diplomatic appointments are handed out as favors to party bosses — is not the norm among other advanced democracies.

And while cronyistic governance by asshole party bosses is a bipartisan affair, it’s not bipartisan in its effect. When Republican Presidents kowtow to party bosses, they do so to advance the Republican agenda and usually it works.

But listening to Rahm Emanuel — a lavishly corrupt abettor of racist police murders — doesn’t advance the Democratic Party agenda.

If anything, it also advances the GOP agenda, both directly (by preserving the murderous status quo) and indirectly, by helping the GOP paint the Democrats as the party of corrupt insiders.

Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, and blogger. He has a podcast, a newsletter, a Twitter feed, a Mastodon feed, and a Tumblr feed. He was born in Canada, became a British citizen and now lives in Burbank, California. His latest nonfiction book is How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. His latest novel for adults is Attack Surface. His latest short story collection is Radicalized. His latest picture book is Poesy the Monster Slayer. His latest YA novel is Pirate Cinema. His latest graphic novel is In Real Life. His forthcoming books include The Shakedown (with Rebecca Giblin), a book about artistic labor market and excessive buyer power; Red Team Blues, a noir thriller about cryptocurrency, corruption and money-laundering; and The Lost Cause, a utopian post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias.

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