From time to time, people can be heard to complain that Chicago-style politics have taken over the nation's capital. That has raised a question in some quarters: To which books would you turn for an accurate, behind-scenes look at how a Chicago or Illinois political campaign really works?
Three longtime standards have been Mike Royko's Boss, Milton L. Rakove's Don't Make No Waves, Don't Back No Losers and Rakove's oral history We Don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent. But those titles date back to the 1970s. Even older is is a book one person mentioned, Captive City: Chicago in Chains by Ovid Demaris.
Most of what's been written since then was characterized by another person I took this matter up with as "either boring academic studies or empty, self-serving memoirs. Jane Byrne wrote My Chicago and managed to say almost nothing interesting."
James L. Merriner's Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago is an exception, though it's more about politicians and reform efforts than political campaigns. Others I talked to liked The Illinois Governors: Mostly Good and Competent by Robert P. Howard (updated by Taylor Pensoneau and Peggy Boyer Long) and The Mayors by Paul M. Green and Melvin G. Holli, who also wrote The Making of the Mayor of Chicago, 1983.
Claude Walker, who has run Pat Quinn's operations from time to time, wrote a novel, Currents of Power (but "hard to keep track of the huge cast of characters," one reader said). Much of David Mendell's Obama: From Promise to Power is based on Mendell's reporting on early days of the Obama campaign.
Why isn't there more literature in this area? Here's a theory one person offered:
"There is nothing recent out there covering the modern-day antics, probably because exposing the truth about a particular candidate's election tactics and fund-raising could invite lawsuits."
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