Rahm Emanuel, who made his name in the Clinton and Obama administrations exclusively for being a dickish pit viper to people, just wrapped up his eight-year tenure as mayor of Chicago, leaving office with a list of accomplishments that includes, according to The Intercept and the Washington Post and other sources: shuttering half the city’s mental health clinics, eliminating its Department of Environment, closing nearly FIFTY public schools, appointing a “CEO” of the remaining public schools who ended up getting convicted of fraud, cravenly attempting to prevent video evidence of Laquan McDonald’s murder from becoming public, jacking up water and sewage fees, instigating a teacher’s strike, and allocating property tax revenue meant for disadvantaged neighborhoods to help subsidize a luxury development instead.
And that’s just a topline of how deeply Rahm sucked.
I am not a Chicagoan and therefore anything rude I say about Rahm Emanuel here will still be far too kind: Chicago sent him packing with an approval rating under 50 percent. Clearly, that city preferred its more traditional brand of corrupt local asshole to this man. And I can’t blame them. Rahm Emanuel was a failure, a predictable disgrace.
But of course, Emanuel could afford to run a major American city into the ground because he was almost certainly well aware that he had a cushy media gig awaiting him once he turned tail and exited a life of extremely minimal public service. Two gigs, actually. This week, ABC News hired Emanuel as a contributor, no doubt to play the role of whatever the barely liberal version of a Never Trumper is (perhaps an Always Bidener), AND The Atlantic brought him aboard as a contributing editor. His first piece for the latter, which I assume he dictated with maximum spittle toward a poor assistant, is depressing both for its tone-deafness and for the fact that this kind of tone-deafness is precisely what his new bosses wanted out of him. He starts out by making a cogent point that he rarely abided by during his mayoralty, illuminating the notion that…
American middle class’s belief that the Lori Loughlins and Felicity Huffmans of the world, let alone the Don Rumsfelds and Dick Fulds, aren’t asked to play by the same set of rules. The elite get all the breaks and are shown all the shortcuts. In the meantime, ordinary people are forced to pay full freight.
And then he predictably shoots himself in the dick by indirectly conjuring Chuck Schumer’s imaginary Bailey family and demanding that Democrats bow down before the inner workings of that family’s (again, imaginary) headspace:
The answer certainly isn’t socialism. Middle-class voters currently presume that elites already control the government—so why would they want to give the bureaucracy any more power?... Every time Democrats look at a problem, they think of a program. And while those programs often point the way forward, Democrats need to focus their energy on convincing the middle class that they share their values more than just their economic interests.
I’m actually grateful to Rahm for tossing aside his blatant disingenuousness at the start of this column and getting back to his real self: namely, a donor-obsessed goon castigating progressives for how they might approach policy and, in his favored guise of asshole-telling-it-like-it-is, vehemently insisting that pandering to fearful, white, dilettante suburbanites—which Democrats have been doing for years now, often with catastrophic results to show for it—is the best way forward.
This is what The Atlantic is paying for. They are paying for a ratio magnet. They are paying for Rahm, who is himself a cosseted elite, to pretend to be angry about the existence of other cosseted elites and then propose solutions that essentially preserve this shitburger of a world from which he and his ilk are continuing to handsomely profit. Emanuel’s true legacy, apart from having politicos fawn over his “pugilistic” methods, is intentionally blurring the line between politician and operative to such a degree that no citizen can discern one from the other. And he is about to flourish in a media ecosystem that celebrates that legacy and, in its hiring practices, cultivates it.
Look at all the failures and disgraces and conniving opportunists who have managed to score high profile work in TV and print once they left the public sphere and were bored by the idea of becoming full-time lobbyists: Rick Santorum, David Gergen, Ari Fleischer, David Frum, Katrina Pierson, Joe Scarborough, John Podhoretz, Jason Chaffetz, Newt Gingrich, Dana Perino, Karl Rove, Judge Jeanine Pirro, George Stephanopoulos, and on and on. This is a population of charlatans, raking in cash from a thriving industry which ensures, if you happen to be a failed leader or one of his/her accomplices, that no fall from grace can be too high, no crime too sordid, no lie blatant enough. With the assistance of ABC News, et al., politicians need never fear being run out of office and operatives need never fear a PR crisis, because a more visible and potentially lucrative occupation awaits them all regardless. And if politicians and their minions don’t have to fear voters’ wrath, then what incentive to do they have to represent those same voters at all?
This is enabling on a mass scale. It’s a media gravy train that merrily trades away fostering actively vital political debate and promoting good ideas in favor of rewarding name recognition to our most notorious institutional sociopaths. Emanuel knew this fallback career was waiting for him, and dozens of others are working off the same playbook. The basement of the 2020 field of Democratic Presidential hopefuls is already rife with underachievers who already know that they can run a cursory vanity campaign, fail miserably, and end up rewarded for it all the same. Even New York’s clueless mayor was shrewd enough to get in on the hustle.
That hustle won’t ever end, but it needs to. I remain foolishly hopeful things will get better after Trump leaves office, but there’s no prayer of that happening if our current political coverage model, which abetted the transformation of Trump’s vanity campaign into an ongoing nightmare, remains committed to handing out golden parachutes to hideous retreads. It’s a national embarrassment, one that only encourages current leaders to frolic in municipal disgraces of their own. Rahm Emanuel's smooth transition into punditry is no surprise. The way the Discourse Industrial Complex works, it was his destiny all along.
Originally Appeared on GQ