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Rebecca Sive

Rebecca Sive

Posted: November 3, 2010 12:10 PM

Big Girls Don't Cry, Chicago Style

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(Silly boy) told my girl we had to break up

(Silly boy) hoped that she would call my bluff
(Silly boy) then she said to my surprise
Big girls don't cry?

Right out of the gate last night, Cook County Board President-elect Toni Preckwinkle, when asked about repealing the Cook County sales tax, said it would be done "by the end of the first term."

Girl, am I loving this.

Think about it: President-elect Preckwinkle (that sure rolls off the tongue mighty nice, doesn't it?) took the most high profile Cook County issue (see today's only Chicago Sun-Times editorial) and not only laid out a clear process for how she will approach the issue--advisedly, in the face of the County's hundreds of millions of dollars' budget deficit--but she stated, in summing up, that, lest anyone think otherwise, she would be President for a while. I repeat: "by the end of the first term."

While Forrest Claypool, the person many presumed would be President-elect Preckwinkle's main opponent four years hence (if he won the assessor's race), is now history as far as elected office goes, there are still plenty of male others, even in the face of President-elect Preckwinkle's huge victory last night, waiting in the wings, believing they have a shot.

Hey: A 60-plus, progressive African-American woman. Hey: It was just the luck of the draw that she won this race.

I don't think so.

This is one determined woman. This is one big girl who didn't cry, ever.

Listen-up: As President-elect Preckwinkle pointed out in her victory speech last night, when she started down this path, "almost two years ago," she was a long shot. But, no more. In fact, hers was the shot (just) heard round the world, the world of Chicago politics, that is. And, after all, what other world is there to most of us political junkies who call Chicago home.

I've been invited to a dinner party later this week to discuss ways to get more women elected to office in Illinois. Guests include Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose future intentions may be clearer then than they are now, notwithstanding just being re-elected the state's Attorney General.

President Preckwinkle and Mayor Madigan: It's enough to make this big girl cry.

Cry tears of joy.

Sometimes, in the daily round, you forget what the days add up to.

Well, in my daily round of 35 years of helping winning women win elective office in Chicago and Illinois, that daily round has added up to this: Today, the morning after the President got his clock cleaned (in part, because his middle-of-the-road policies satisfied no one), we have a never met a progressive policy she didn't like, pro-choice, really smart, really committed, politically and policy-savvy African-American woman as the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, head of a county whose population is larger than that of 29 states.

And, in a couple days, we could have a woman, if only she would, as the candidate to beat for Mayor of the third largest municipality in the Unites States. That walk up the middle say, between Rahm Emanuel and Rev. Meeks, that one I wrote about a couple months ago; well, that walk might be just about to start.

Listen up, girls who would be President (or Mayor), and boys who are friends of these girls; listen up to the words of this song from President-elect Preckwinkle's childhood, when girls were still being told the best job in the world is being a housewife married to a rich husband. Who'd have thought a song of that era would still be so timely.

(Silly boy) told my girl we had to break up

(Silly boy) hoped that she would call my bluff
(Silly boy) then she said to my surprise
Big girls don't cry?

Toni Preckwinkle called the big boys' bluff. Then, she went and got their support. (Lisa Madigan might, too.)

In the first verse of the song, Frankie Valli sings:

Big girls don't cry-yi-yi (they don't cry)

Big girls don't cry (who said they don't cry?)
My girl said goodbye-yi-yi (my oh my)
My girl didn't cry (I wonder why)

Toni Preckwinkle didn't cry, ever. (Lisa Madigan hasn't ever, either.)

My girl(s), you didn't cry, and, girl(s), am I glad for that.

Frankie: Your song has inspired some reminders, for girls of whatever age, (and boys, too), reading this morning's news and dreaming that they might be a President or a Mayor someday. (And here's what I will be saying at that dinner party a couple nights hence.)

The eternal Huey Long verity is just that: Take on the big boys. If you take on the big boys, by definition, you are a big boy (or a big girl, as the case may be), too. The results: Visibility, credibility, money, influence, votes and, best of all, power.

All politics is local, meaning that the opportunities one sees at street level are the ones that actually matter.

Sitting in her office on South Cottage Grove Avenue, say, Toni Preckwinkle saw an opportunity in the weakness of Todd Stroger. And, she saw the timidity of those boys who always thought they'd run this race.

The boys? Well, if white, they thought: Todd will get the African-American vote, how can I win? The boys? Well, if African-American, they thought: Todd will get the African-American vote, how can I win?

That walk up the middle: There it is again.

Toni called all the big boys' bluff: Unlike them, she took the chance that Todd would mess up so bad that he just had no credibility left and, so, unlike them, she went for it.

And my favorite reminder this morning after? Big girls don't' cry: They organize.

Girls: Let's organize (some more).

 
 
 

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