Cook County Democratic Party
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (March 2013)|
|Cook County Democratic Party|
|Headquarters||134 N LaSalle, Chicago, IL|
|National affiliation||Democratic Party|
|Politics of the United States
The Cook County Democratic Party is a political party which represents voters in 50 wards in the city of Chicago and 30 suburban townships of Cook County. The organization has dominated Chicago politics (and consequently, Illinois politics) since the 1930s. It relies on a tight organizational structure of ward and township committeemen to elect candidates. At the height of its influence under Richard J. Daley in the 1960s, it was one of the most powerful political machines in American history. By the beginning of the 21st century the party had largely ceased to function as a machine due to the decline of political patronage following the issuing of the Shakman Decrees. The successes of politicians such as Jane Byrne and Harold Washington, as well as the indifference of mayor Richard M. Daley also contributed to the demise of the party as a political machine. After several decades of domination by Irish Americans, the Cook County Democratic organization today is diverse in its leadership. The current Chairman is Joseph Berrios and during his tenure the Democratic Party has made great inroads in the communities of suburban Cook County.
Organization and leadership
Article I of the by-laws of the Cook County Democratic Party states that the party exists to "attract, endorse, and support qualified Democratic candidates for office, to develop positions on issues of public importance, to advance the ideals and principles of the Democratic Party, and to seek to improve the lives of the people of Cook County through effective, efficient, and fair government." The by-laws also state that the party must "promote Democratic political activity in Cook County and encourage broad and diverse political participation by Cook County Democrats regardless or race, color, creed, national origin, gender, physical ability or sexual orientation....and take an active role in county, state, and national political efforts which have an impact upon the people of Cook County."
The party has been chaired by 31st ward committeeman Joseph Berrios since 2007. The Executive Committee has eight other officers: two Executive Vice-Chairmen, First Vice-Chairman, City Vice-Chairman, Suburban Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, and Sergeant-At-Arms. Each of the 50 wards of Chicago and the 30 suburban townships has its own committee and is represented in the Central Committee by an elected committeeman. Those local organizations have other officers and committee members who are usually elected officials and community activists. These committees often coordinate campaign activities within their jurisdiction.
In suburban Cook County, regional groups, such as the Southland Democrats, co-ordinate activities with their local Democratic township organizations and their committeemen. Furthermore, Article IV, Section 4 of the By-laws of the Cook County Democratic Party allows the Suburban Vice-Chair (a position currently held by Illinois State Senator Don Harmon) the authority to "convene caucuses and meetings, solicit support for the organization, assist the County Chair in any matters upon request, coordinate activities concerning recommendations for endorsements of candidate, and bring before the Central Committee issues of particular interest."
Cook County was created on 15 January 1831 and it was named after Daniel Cook. Cook had been one of the earliest and youngest statesmen in Illinois history and he was a registered Democrat in Randolph county. By 1837, local Democrats were winning electoral victories under the leadership of William B. Ogden. Ogden recruited Irish immigrants into the party. Their loyalty to native Democrats was established in return for petty political favors and an occasional elected office. The careers of Irish Democrats from this period, such as John Comiskey from the Blue Island area, were still limited by anti-Irish discrimination. Prior to the American Civil War, the city of Chicago and Cook County had created a strong two-party tradition. The local Democratic Party grew stronger in the decades that followed the Great Chicago Fire due in part to an influx of new immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. By 1890, Roger Charles Sullivan had accumulated major influence within the tumultuous Cook County Democratic Party. He would come to dominate the organization for two decades and he was a national figure during the age when urban political bosses reached the height of their power and prestige. After his death, he was followed as chairman by George Brennan in 1920.
Prior to the death of party chairman George Brennan in 1928, the Democratic Party in Cook County was divided along ethnic lines - the Irish, Polish, Italian, and other groups each controlled politics in their neighborhoods and municipalities. Under the leadership of Anton Cermak, a Czech American, the party combined its ethnic bases into one large organization. With the organization behind him, Cermak was able to win election as mayor of Chicago in 1931, an office he held until his assassination in 1933. After Cermak's death, Patrick Nash and Edward J. Kelly consolidated the Cook County Democratic Party into a political machine.
Nash and Kelly were able to add African-Americans to the organization's fold, as they had been previously loyal to Republicans since the Civil War. Nash died in 1943 and Kelly took over as Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. The extensive corruption that took place during Kelly's tenure caused him to become unelectable. Jacob Arvey assumed the position of Chairman of the organization after Kelly's ouster in 1947. Arvey put reformers on the slate, such as Martin H. Kennelly for mayor, Paul Douglas for United States Senate, and Adlai Stevenson for governor of Illinois. During the early years of the 1950s, Joseph L. Gill - George Brennan's brother-in-law - replaced Arvey as Chairman of the party. His role was more of a caretaker than that of a political leader.
Under Richard J. Daley
The organization then turned to Richard J. Daley, who brought the Cook County Democratic Party to the height of its power and notoriety. Daley assumed the leadership of the machine in 1953, and successfully put himself on the party's slate for mayor in 1955. He won election fairly easily, and ruled the city and the party machine for the next twenty years. This was accomplished with the help and support of William L. Dawson. In return, an African-American "sub-machine" led by Dawson was created under the umbrella of the regular machine. In the predominantly African-American wards, Dawson was able to act as his own political boss. He amassed a considerable power base by awarding political appointments to his allies, just as Daley did in the larger machine. However, Dawson's machine had to continually support the regular machine in order to retain its own clout.
|2012||74.00% 1,488,537||24.63% 495,542|
|2008||76.48% 1,582,973||23.05% 477,038|
|2004||70.25% 1,439,724||29.15% 597,405|
|2000||68.63% 1,280,547||28.65% 534,542|
|1996||66.79% 1,153,289||26.73% 461,557|
|1992||58.21% 1,249,533||28.20% 605,300|
|1988||55.77% 1,129,973||43.36% 878,582|
|1984||51.02% 1,112,641||48.40% 1,055,558|
|1980||51.99% 1,124,584||39.60% 856,574|
|1976||53.44% 1,180,814||44.69% 987,498|
|1972||46.01% 1,063,268||53.41% 1,234,307|
|1968||50.56% 1,181,316||41.11% 960,493|
|1964||63.18% 1,537,181||36.82% 895,718|
|1960||56.37% 1,378,343||43.33% 1,059,607|
A noted example of the Chicago machine in action was in the 1960 presidential election. Daley helped turn out the vote for John F. Kennedy. Kennedy won Illinois by only 9,000 votes, yet won Cook County by 450,000 votes, with some Chicago precincts going to Kennedy by over 10 to 1 margins. Illinois' 27 electoral votes helped give Kennedy the majority he needed. In recognition of this, the organization was selected to host the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Author Len O'Connor described this period as Richard J. Daley's "High Water Mark". At that time, the Cook County Democratic Party was one of the most powerful political machines in American history.
Decline of the machine
Reform activities, such as the The Shakman Decrees, eliminated many of the patronage jobs that the party could hand out, reducing the number of voters who owed their livelihoods to the Democratic party. Although the Shakman Decrees would eventually make machine politics untenable, the power of the machine had begun to decline during the 1960s and 1970s. The 1968 convention had ended in disaster. The Walker Report later concluded a "police riot" had taken place under Chairman Daley's watch. NBC News had televised the event and switched back and forth between demonstrators being beaten by the police in front of the convention hall and the festivities over Humphrey’s victory inside. Racial tension over issues such as urban renewal in Woodlawn and Lincoln Park, red lining, open housing and public school desegregation drove African-Americans and Latinos from the machine. Though Daley himself never faced any criminal charges, a number of his associates did, including Thomas Keane and Arvey. After Daley's death in 1976, the machine lost even more of its influence. Michael Bilandic, Daley's successor, did not have nearly the power that Daley did, and indeed lost in a 1979 mayoral primary to Jane Byrne.
Some argue that the machine ended when Bilandic lost the mayoral Democratic primary to Jane Byrne, and that the last remnants of the machine finally collapsed during the racially charged three-way mayoral primary in 1983. Byrne's base of support, both politically and popularly, was on the Northwest side of Chicago, and to a lesser extent the Southeast, and she also benefited from the first flexing of independent African-American electoral power. However, while originally a Daley appointee, Byrne did not have the backing of the influential Southwest Side ward bosses such as Daley, Michael Madigan, or Thomas Hynes. While she enjoyed for a short while after her election the support of Daley's successor as Chairman George Dunne, her election occurred without her ever taking simultaneous control of the Cook County Democratic Party the way Richard J. Daley had. It was during this time that a Democrat from suburban Cook County rose to a position of leadership in the state. In 1979, Oak Park Democratic committeeman Philip J. Rock became the Illinois State Senate's top Democrat. He would serve as such for the next 20 years and he would retire as the longest serving President of the Senate and Majority Leader in state history.
George Dunne had a falling out with the mayor and in 1982 he lost the party chairmanship to 10th Ward committeeman Edward Vrdolyak, an ally of Jane Byrne. When Richard J. Daley's son Richard M. Daley challenged Byrne for mayor in 1983, it enabled an historic coalition of African-American, Hispanic, and "good government" or "lakefront" liberals to coalesce. Latinos who had been displaced for years from the downtown and lakefront neighborhoods joined the West Town Coalition and the Young Lords, and both groups backed Harold Washington. He won the three-way primary election with 80% of the Latino vote. The Young Lords leader Jose Cha Cha Jimenez introduced the new mayor in June 1983 in Humboldt Park before a crowd of 100,000 Puerto Ricans. For the next three years, the Cook County Democratic Party was divided by crippling Council Wars in the city of Chicago. This was essentially a racially polarized political conflict that blocked the agenda of Washington and his allies.
After Washington was elected - and in spite of the fact that African Americans and Latinos comprised 55 percent of the votes in the city’s 49 wards - only 15 Blacks and one Latino served as alderman. Gerrymandering had prevented the Black and Latino majorities from electing candidates from their own communities. Washington's supporters and allies waged an unprecedented and successful battle over redistricting. Their broad, multiracial coalition then used grassroots organizing techniques that resulted in electoral wins. Those victories brought an end to the Council Wars that had paralyzed Chicago's city council since Washington was elected. The ensuing split in the Cook County Democratic Party, largely along racial lines, led to the defection of several prominent machine Democrats, notably Party Chairman Edward Vrdolyak, to the Republican Party. George Dunne, who had aligned himself with Harold Washington during the Council Wars period, was re-elected to the party chairmanship after Vrydolyak resigned following his defeat by Washington in the 1987 Mayoral election. Similar to the weakening of the machine after Richard J. Daley's death, the Washington coalition fractured and then completely collapsed after Washington's death in the fall of 1987, only a half-year into his second term. No subsequent African-American candidate was able to unify the West and South Side African-American communities or mobilize the same degree of support among white liberals as well as Washington had.
Under Tom Lyons
Pushing 80 years of age and yet enmeshed in a scandal in which he admitted having sex with female county employees who alleged they were pressured into providing sexual favors to him, George Dunne did not seek re-election to the party chairmanship in 1990. Following Dunne's departure, Thomas G. Lyons was elected chairman of the party and would serve in that capacity for 17 years. He had also been the 45th Ward committeeman and was a lawmaker, lawyer and lobbyist. During this time, the influence of the party declined due to the election of Richard J. Daley's son Richard M. Daley to the office of Chicago mayor. In 2000, the Chicago Tribune wrote, "Nobody wants to be the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, the job once held by Richard J. Daley, the job that made George Dunne a powerful man. Nobody wants it because the Democratic Party of Cook County has become nothing more than a distraction for the one Democrat who counts, Mayor Richard M. Daley." After the March, 2000 County elections, Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune editorial page editor R. Bruce Dold, writing in an op-ed said, "The Democrats, though, they had a thing of beauty, a big, genuine, political machine. But then it became a victim of Jane Byrne. And then it became a victim of Harold Washington. And now it's a victim of indifference."
Richard M. Daley's "indifference" was due to the fact that his political operation was largely separate from the county organization. He had built a political organization of his own that reelected him five times. His power bloc included the growing Hispanic community, through a "powerful and feared patronage army" known as the Hispanic Democratic Organization. Unlike his father, the younger Daley also reached out to those who initially opposed him, and primarily through negotiated apportionment of city funds for aldermen's local projects, was able to gain control of the City Council to a degree that only the elder Daley ever enjoyed. As Daley's time in office drew to a close, investigations, indictments, and criminal convictions for hiring fraud and graft, including the federal conviction of Daley's patronage chief Robert Sorich, left little doubt that a political machine had been revived since its apparent collapse. In July 2005, a federal court-appointed monitor reported widespread abuses of a previous court decree against patronage hiring. The U.S. Attorney's office contended in 2006 that Daley had rebuilt a political machine. Chairman Tom Lyons died in 2007 and Richard M. Daley left elected office four years later. Shortly after Lyons death, 13th Ward committeeman Michael Madigan said, "The party's been going through transition for a long time. This is a completely different Democratic Party than the one I joined in 1969."
On February 1, 2007, Joseph Berrios was unanimously elected Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and has headed the organization ever since. Under the leadership of Berrios, the party has been neither dominated by Irish American men as it was in the days of the Richard J. Daley, nor is it racially polarized as it was when Washington was mayor. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle made this point publicly in 2010, saying, "When Joe came in, for the first time, African-Americans, Latinos, women had a real opportunity for leadership in the party and had a real opportunity to be slated by the party." Berrios is the first and thus far only Hispanic to serve as Chairman.
The party has recently won several notable elections in suburban Cook County. At the county level, the Democratic committeeman of Wheeling Township, Patrick Botterman, engineered Brendan Houlihan's successful campaign for Commissioner of Cook County Board of Review in 2006. Recent electoral victories in suburban Cook County have included several Illinois State Senate seats that contributed to the Democratic supermajorities in 2006, 2008, and again in 2012. Similar gains have been made in suburban Cook County in the Illinois House of Representatives. The 2012 elections in Cook County helped give Democrats unprecedented power in Springfield. The Democrats can now make budgets, override vetoes by the governor, and borrow money without any assistance from outside their party. Lou Lang, a leader of the Cook County Democratic Party and committeeman of suburban Niles Township, cautioned in the press, "It isn’t a slam dunk that just because one party has veto-proof majorities in both houses and the governor’s office that we can just wake up one morning and fix everything."
List of chairmen
|John McGillen||21||(fl. 1893)|
|Thomas Carey||29||(fl. 1904)|
|William L. O'Connell||6||(fl. 1909)|
|John McCarthy||2||(fl. 1912)|
|Roger C. Sullivan||14||(1915-1920)|
|Edward J. Kelly||11||(1943-1946)|
|Joseph L. Gill||46||(1950-1953)|
|Richard J. Daley||11||(1953-1976)|
|George Dunne||42||(1976-1982, 1987-1990)|
|Thomas G. Lyons||45||(1990-2007)|
- By-laws of the Cook County Democratic Party: Article I: Organization and Purpose p. 1
- Chicago Tribune: Democrats elect a new chief
- Southland Democrats: Democratic Organizations
- By-laws of the Cook County Democratic Party: Article IV: Officers, Powers and Duties p. 4
- Growth of Cook County, Vol. I, by Charles B. Johnson, published by the Board of Commissioner of Cook County, Illinois, 1960.
- Holli, Melvin G. and Petre d'A. Jones, editors; "Ethnic Chicago" (1995) p. 414
- Holli, Melvin G. and Petre d'A. Jones, editors; "Ethnic Chicago" (1995) p. 416
- Encyclopedia of Chicago: Machine Politics
- Holli, Melvin G. and Petre d'A. Jones, editors; "Ethnic Chicago" (1995) p. 417
- Richard Allen Morton (1998). "'A Man of Belial': Roger C. Sullivan, the Progressive Democracy, and the Senatorial Elections of 1914". Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 91. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
- Holli, Melvin G. and Petre d'A. Jones, editors; "Ethnic Chicago" (1995) p. 433
- Holli, Melvin G. and Petre d'A. Jones, editors; "Ethnic Chicago" (1995) p. 444
- O'Connor, Len; "Clout: Mayor Daley and His City". (1975) pp. 37-39
- Holli, Melvin G. and Petre d'A. Jones, editors; "Ethnic Chicago" (1995) p. 451
- O'Connor, Len; "Clout: Mayor Daley and His City". (1975) p. 45
- Holli, Melvin G. and Petre d'A. Jones, editors; "Ethnic Chicago" (1995) p. 437
- O'Connor, Len; "Clout: Mayor Daley and His City". (1975) pp. 54-55
- O'Connor, Len; "Clout: Mayor Daley and His City". (1975) p. 56
- Holli, Melvin G. and Petre d'A. Jones, editors; "Ethnic Chicago" (1995) p. 457
- O'Connor, Len; "Clout: Mayor Daley and His City". (1975) pp. 60-61
- O'Connor, Len; "Clout: Mayor Daley and His City". (1975) pp. 11, 12
- O'Connor, Len; "Clout: Mayor Daley and His City". (1975) p. 121
- Dawson, William Levi, (1886 - 1970)
- O'Connor, Len; "Clout: Mayor Daley and His City". (1975) pp. 110, 113
- O'Connor, Len; "Clout: Mayor Daley and His City". (1975) pp. 158-162
- Encyclopedia of Chicago: Shakman Decrees
- Cook County Shakman Compliance Administrator: Background
- Federal Judicial Center: The Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial
- NBC Morning News, August 29, 1968.
- Oxford Dictionary of Political Biography: Jane Byrne
- Chicago Tribune: Jane Byrne elected mayor of Chicago
- New York Times: Michael Bilandic, Daley Successor in Chicago, Dies at 78
- WBEZ: This American Life 84: Harold
- Illinois Issues #18: After Byrne's Win
- Illinois Department of Central Management Services: Rock, Phil
- WBEZ: Forging a Rainbow Coalition: The Legacy of Harold Washington
- Williams, Jakobi; "From the bullet to the ballot : the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and racial coalition politics in Chicago". (2013) p. 198
- "Rahm Emanuel says he doesn't want a repeat of the Council Wars that once crippled City Hall"
- Encyclopedia of Chicago: Council Wars
- Political Affairs: Harold Washington: The People’s Mayor
- Fremon, David K., "Chicago Politics, Ward by Ward". (1988) pp. 3-4
- Los Angeles Times: Vrdolyak Files for Chicago GOP Primary
- Daily Kos: Remembering Harold Washington
- The Root: The Root Cities: Chicago's Political Power Brokers
- New York Times: Chicago Is Untroubled By Political Sex Scandal
- Chicago Tribune: Thomas G. Lyons: 1931 - 2007
- Chicago Tribune: Is Cook County's Democratic Party Becoming A Joke?
- Chicago Sun-Times: The two mayors Daley: Son about to pass father for time in office
- Chicago Tribune: Once Mighty Political Group Shuts Down
- Huffington Post: Mayor Daley Will Not Seek Another Term, Chicago's Political Landscape Changes Enormously
- "Federal prosecutors are poised to call dozens of witnesses from City Hall to describe a revived model of the Democratic machine.
- Chicago Tribune: Chicago rebuilt machine, U.S. says
- Bloomington Pantagraph: Dem Majorities Remake Ill. Legislative Landscape
- Chicago Tribune: Preckwinkle praises Berrios to Tribune editorial board
- Press Release: Berrios Gets Backing from African-American Elected Officials
- Chicago Reader: Patrick Botterman
- Cohen, Adam and Taylor, Elizabeth, American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley — His Battle for Chicago and the Nation (2000)
- Grimshaw, William J, Bitter Fruit: Black Politics and the Chicago Machine, 1931–1991 (1992)
- Rakove, Milton L, Don't Make No Waves, Don't Back No Losers: An Insider's Analysis of the Daley Machine (1975)
- Rakove, Milton L, We Don't Want Nobody Sent: An Oral History of the Daley Years (1979)
- Royko, Mike, Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago (1972)