Steve Chapman

Richard M. Daley. The outgoing mayor, it is often forgotten, also lost to Washington in the 1983 primary. But he would not be a Daley if he had missed the lesson of Byrne's defeat: A white mayor can survive many mistakes, but inflaming African-American voters is not one of them.

Daley lasted 22 years in office partly because he resolved to ingratiate himself with black Chicagoans. He appointed blacks to high positions, stressed his commitment to provide services to all neighborhoods, tore down scary public housing projects and pushed reform of the minority-dominated public schools.

He was so skillful in defusing suspicion that no black challenger was ever able to gain traction. By the time he was ready to leave, the racial passions had cooled.

Carol Moseley Braun. A canny, able and charismatic African-American candidate might have been able to overcome these factors. But Braun proved those adjectives do not apply to her.

She bridled at being asked to release her tax returns, bragged about being ambassador to New Zealand and falsely accused a minor candidate of having been addicted to crack. She acted like the diva locals recall from her Senate days. Result: The anointed black candidate has 20 percent of the black vote in the Tribune/WGN poll.

Politics in this city have never been an elevating enterprise. But the receding of race is proof that even the Chicago way can travel a higher road.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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