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Illinois' Cult of Personality

By vouchey in News on Feb 25, 2005 1:10PM

Mayor Daley - Sen. ObamaA couple days ago Chicagoist noted how horribly wrong national columnists can go when talking about us folks in the Middle-West. Yesterday two more national publications took a swipe at defining Illinois politics, and this time they seemed to have gotten it a little more right -- just a little.

Yesterday's Washington Post Style Section Front Page, the premiere place to be if you're an upwardly mobile politician, featured an in depth story on Illinois' newest member of the glitterati, U.S. Senator Barack Obama. Like all Style Section pieces, there was no attempt to make news or discuss real issues, just puff up the subject a bit and give the reader some warm fuzzies. So we read about Sen. Obama's workhorse attitude (to distract from his very obvious celebrity-status), his shunning of national speaking engagements (which he still does, just not that often), and Michelle Obama teasing him about his big ears (are they really that big?).

In the Wall Street Journal Joseph Epstein writes about Mayor Richard M. Daley as part of a successful dynasty of Daley rule in Chicago. His take on Daley seems to be one Chicagoist has heard parroted by non-Chicagoans around the country, "[The Daley family's] interest has never been in money--only in what money can do to smooth the way to power, which for them has always been the real point and prize of politics."

Nothing could seemingly go wrong under the Daleys, and Chicago is now a shining city on a hill, Epstein suggests. He completely skims over the Hired Truck Scandal, the Duff family, and a city budget bursting at the seams, desperate for a tax hike.

The question Chicagoist has is this: Why do out-of-town newspapers keep using out-of-town reporters to write about things they clearly have no context to write about? It seems that the cult of Illinois political personality has more to do with people outside of Illinois than inside.