Sunday, May 14, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 8

I'm reading this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. The book is a great mirror for our times. It does not give answers but it puts things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy and "Realpolitik". Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are 1:Voters, 2:Power, 3:Immigration4:Religion5:Segregation, 6:The Irish, and 7:Political philosophy.

Communication style
... Daley projects an image at public gatherings of an effective, well-organized speaker who knows where he is going. "His style comes through," according to one observer, "not as inept but as unpretentious."
Community activities, 1968 - on Flickr - by Digital Collections, UIC Library
County board president George Dunne, Daley's possible heir apparent as mayor, recounts Daley's advice to budding candidates for office: "Prepare your talks carefully, and don't go over five minutes. Don't tell off-color stories. If you've had something to drink, stay home."

Daley, in public gatherings, is rather taciturn, conservative, and reserved.
"How do you approach the mayor?" the machine guys ask laughingly. On tiptoe," says newspaperman D.J.R. Bruckner. "And when he speaks to the people, most of the time, he uses few and careful words. Sloppy listening habits are very dangerous around this man."
Management style
Central to Daley's political style is his acceptance of responsibility for all matters which fall under his own purview. And he applies the same standards to all those who work for him or with him.If Daley assigns a job to a politician or city employee, he will not tell the person how to do the job. He will spell out the obligations of the position being offered, define the parameters of accountability, make it clear that with the title and the authority goes the responsibility, and define his own role in no uncertain terms.
Richard J. Daley - on Flickr - by gympumpkin
He normally will not give orders to an appointed or elected party or governmental official, give advice to those who come seeking it, or involve himself in a situation which has been brought about by the action of others. Woe to the party or public official who comes to him to ask what should be done about a particular situation. If you are working for the mayor, and you have a problem, and you come to him to ask him what you should do about your problem, chances are excellent that you will have a permanent problem with the mayor.
If you have a problem, and you ask to see him to tell him about your problem, and then tell him what you think you should do about your problem, you are likely to get a monosyllabic grunt or nod, and leave the office, still not having received a yes or no as to what to do about your problem but recognizing that if you have a problem, it is still your problem. And you will know, too, that if you do not resolve that problem satisfactorily, you may be looking for another job in the very near future.
Non decision making
There is a great deal of research and analysis being done today in contemporary political science, psychology, and sociology on how decision makers in positions of responsibility and authority go about making decisions. Most of this research and analysis is irrelevant to professional politicians like Richard J. Daley.
What the students of decision making have overlooked is that most successful politicians who have remained in office for any length of time are not decision makers. They are, rather, skilled practitioners in the art of not making decisions.
Blanik Mountain Knight - on Flickr - by Digital Collections, UIC Library
There is a simple explanation for the behavior of the non-decision makers who have managed to remain in public office for any period of time. They are generally professional politicians who, early in their political careers, learned the relationship between decision making and their chances for staying in office for any length of time. They know that every time a public official makes a political decision, somebody wins, somebody loses. They know, too, that those for whom they made the decision are ungrateful and will soon forget what was done for them. They know, further, that those against whom the decision was made will never forget the decision maker and will do their utmost to remove him from public office at the very first opportunity.
They know, finally, that while an office holder must be held accountable and responsible for whatever happens in his office, there is no need for him to seek accountability or responsibility in somebody else's sphere of authority. Consequently, most successful politicians avoid making decisions whenever they can and make decisions only if they are forced to do so by a developing crisis or an aroused public opinion. And, even when they are forced to make a decision, they will do it at the lowest level of accountability in order to alienate and offend as few people as possible.
Political technique of non decision making
Richard J. Daley is a master of this political technique. While he accepts his responsibilities as mayor of Chicago and chairman of the Democratic party of Cook County, he will not accept the responsibility for the operation of any ward or political subdivision of the city, nor will he make decisions for those in the city bureaucracy who have been given responsibility or authority over a particular area of public policy.
Community activities 1968 - on Flickr - by Digital Collections, UIC Library
If backed against the wall, he will appoint a committee to study the problem or announce that it should be decided in accordance with the principles of Christian justice. In the meantime, he will be looking around for a successor to the unfortunate bureaucrat or politician who failed in his responsibilities at his level in the political or governmental systems that Daley controls.
For example, when Superintendent of Schools James Redmond announced the Redmond Plan for busing black children in the city of Chicago into white schools, Daley was asked at his press conference what he thought of the Redmond Plan. Daley responded, "I'm not familiar with the specifics and details. I am not an educator. This is up to the educators of our country, the educators of our community, the board of education and their staffs to work it out." The reporter then asked if Daley was going to use his power as mayor to implement the Redmond Plan. Daley's response was, "Do you want the schools brought back into politics?" It was clear what the mayor was doing. He was going to run Superintendent Redmond up the flag pole and let him wave up there before he involved himself in such a controversial issue.
Politician versus administrator
It is a fact of human behavior and human psychology that the talents of a successful politician are different from those of a successful administrator, and that men who are capable administrators usually have little feel for the realities of political life.
Community activities 1968 - on Flickr - by Digital Collections, UIC Library
Successful politicians are usually gregarious, hail-fellow-well-met types who enjoy shaking hands with the multitude, who revel in publicity, who are inveterate joiners, and who have legions of acquaintances and friends. Capable administrators, in contrast, are usually private men who shun the limelight, who gain satisfaction in working out problems, who are masters at shuffling papers and delegating responsibility, and whose thought processes are normally orderly, circumspect, and undeviating.
Daley is an exception to the rule. A rarity in American politics, he is a first-rate administrator who is also a master politician.

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