How Chicago Made Obama a Politician

Dem learned to navigate the system, not foster ideals
By Greg Atwan,  Newser User
Posted Jul 15, 2008 3:00 PM CDT
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., arrives at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Monday, July 14, 2008.    (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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(Newser) – Behind the New Yorker’s fist-bumping Barack Obama cover, Ryan Lizza chronicles the Democrat’s political education in Chicago, where competing imperatives from the city’s fundraising elite, black urban base, and Daley-down political hierarchy taught him how to massage the system—and learn the kind of political evasion that opponents are beginning to detect. 

Illinois pols say Obama was always more politically adept than idealistic; even his anti-Iraq war stance may have ingratiated him with an important backer. And though Obama the organizer evinced devotion to his causes, the insular, patronage-driven Chicago political machine forged Obama the politician—deft at being “superficially critical of some unseemly aspect of the political process without necessarily forswearing the practice itself.”