They are a key part of his coalition.
Instapundit pointed to this Chicago Magazine article which details the murderous corruption of Mogadishu on Lake Michigan.
There seems little doubt which group holds the whip hand:
Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance
While they typically deny it, many public officials--mostly, but not limited to, aldermen, state legislators, and elected judges--routinely seek political support from influential street gangs. Meetings like the ones Baskin organized, for instance, are hardly an anomaly. Gangs can provide a decisive advantage at election time by performing the kinds of chores patronage armies once did.
It is no surprise, then, the players in the game are compelled to minimize the danger posed by gangs:
At some of the meetings, the politicians arrived with campaign materials and occasionally with aides. The sessions were organized much like corporate-style job fairs. The gang representatives conducted hour long interviews, one after the other, talking to as many as five candidates in a single evening. Like supplicants, the politicians came into the room alone and sat before the gang representatives, who sat behind a long table. “One candidate said, ‘I feel like I’m in the hot seat,’” recalls Baskin. “And they were.”
The former chieftains, several of them ex-convicts, represented some of the most notorious gangs on the South and West Sides, including the Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples, Cobras, Black P Stones, and Black Gangsters. Before the election, the gangs agreed to set aside decades-old rivalries and bloody vendettas to operate as a unified political force, which they called Black United Voters of Chicago. “They realized that if they came together, they could get the politicians to come to them,” explains Baskin.
The gang representatives were interested in electing aldermen sympathetic to their interests and those of their impoverished wards. As for the politicians, says Baskin, their interests essentially boiled down to getting elected or reelected. “All of [the political hopefuls] were aware of who they were meeting with,” he says. “They didn’t care. All they wanted to do was get the support.”
No one wants to insult the real power brokers in the city.
Many forms of political corruption--taking bribes, rigging elections, engaging in pay-to-play deals--are plainly unethical, if not illegal. But forming political alliances with gangs isn’t a clear matter of right or wrong, some say. In many Chicago neighborhoods, it’s virtually impossible for elected officials and candidates for public office not to have at least some connection, even family ties, to gang members. “People try to paint this picture of bad versus good--it’s not like that,” says a veteran political organizer based in Chicago who specializes in getting out the vote in minority areas. “Everybody lives with each other, grew up with each other. Just because somebody goes this way or that way, it doesn’t mean you’re just gonna write them off automatically.”
Somehow, I can’t see a reporter accepting such a nuanced picture of killers and criminals if the gang in question was the KKK or Aryan Brotherhood. It’s probably worth quoting the great Stanley Crouch here:
I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that politicians who are willing to beg for gang support at election time sometimes make questionable decisions:
[Between 1980 and 2002] street gangs have killed 10,000 people in Los Angeles, which is three times the number of black people lynched throughout the United States between 1877 and 1900, the highest tide of racial murder in the history of the nation.
(Reconsidering The Souls Of Black Folk)
Coddled politicians become corrupt politicians. Corrupt politics leads to dangerous cities.
Most alarming, both law enforcement and gang sources say, is that some politicians ignore the gangs’ criminal activities. Some go so far as to protect gangs from the police, tipping them off to impending raids or to surveillance activities--in effect, creating safe havens in their political districts. And often they chafe at backing tough measures to stem gang activities, advocating instead for superficial solutions that may garner good press but have little impact.
Chicago may be an outlier (maybe*) but I think this article helps to explain why Nanny Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns has such appeal to politicians. They cannot address the lawlessness of their cities because the criminals have friends and families who vote. Just as in Chicago, the gangster’s camp followers represent a sizable bloc of voters.
Two police sources--a former gang investigator and a veteran detective--bluntly acknowledge that even if the police know of dubious dealings between an alderman and a gang leader or drug dealer, there is little, if anything, they can do, thanks to what they say is the department’s unofficial rule: Stay away from public officials. “We can’t arrest aldermen,” says the gang investigator, “unless they’re doing something obvious to endanger someone. We’re told to stand down.” The detective concurs: “It’s the unwritten rule. There’s a two-tier justice system here.”
Meanwhile, the city’s inspector general can’t--by design of the City Council--investigate council members. (In May 2010, the council, under pressure to curb its corruptible ways, created its own inspector general. The job went unfilled for more than 18 months, until last November, when the council picked a New York lawyer for the part-time position, which has a minuscule budget and no staff and which critics have decried as window-dressing.)
It is so much easier to blame the crime on the gun, not the criminal. After all, the laws MAIG wants to pass mainly target gun nuts outside the city limits. I. e. they can’t vote for mayor.
As I read this report I kept wondering, “what is wrong with the GOP in Illinois?” Why don’t they make Chicago’s lawlessness and corruption an issue in every election? Make the Democrat-gang alliance in Chicago part of the Democratic brand for suburban voters and downstate conservative Democrats.
* Philadelphia has had its own history of corrupt politicians and politically powerful killers.