Of all the things that have been written about Mayor Daley’s decision not to run again, what Mary Schmich wrote in the Trib resonated the most with me. She wrote that Daley was the city’s father figure, warts and all, and that love him or not, Chicagoans may have grown to depend on him more than they care to admit.
I think Mary’s on to something. At its core, political leadership can tap into our need for authority figures who we think have our interests in mind and make us feel safe and protected. Taken to an unhealthy extreme, you have Kim Jong Il. But there can be a type of transference that takes place in which familial instincts kick in to the political arena. And that ain’t necessarily a bad thing.
I once read a book about losing one’s father in which the author uses the following analogy. Imagine living in a house that overlooks a mountain range. Some days you look at the range and others you don’t–but you always know it’s there. One day you happen to look at it and you notice one of the mountains has disappeared. Gone. And there is an empty spot where a mountain once stood. It’s jolting. The void is real and disconcerting–a feeling which can last for some time.
Right now the scrum to replace Daley is just beginning in earnest. And eventually there will be a new mountain in the range. But it’s hard to imagine one as imposing as the old one–even if the old one had scary drop-offs, unexpected crevasses, and the potential for the occasional avalanche.