The Breakfast Table

Politics and Clear Roads


Yes, after a rugged weekend of shoveling snow and playing Monopoly, I’m still here. The storm was amazing–the blizzard dumped 21.6 inches of snow on Chicago, 18 inches of that in one day, more than any other one-day snowfall since the city started keeping records over a century ago. It was like watching whipped cream pile up on a sundae. I’d look away for what seemed like a minute, and when I’d next look out the window I’d see yet another thick, white layer glistening on top of cars, picnic tables, and what used to be sidewalks.

When I wasn’t busy playing Monopoly, I thought of your point last week that Americans are more interested in weather than politicians’ sex scandals. Sunday, as a relative newcomer to Chicago, I learned from the Tribune that weather is politics here, and it’s been known to swing an election in a way that sex can’t. (What this says about Chicagoans’ priorities I don’t want to think too deeply about, just to add that in terms of my own personal priorities, sex is a lot higher on the list than weather, and I don’t plan on changing that no matter how rooted I get here.)

Anyway, it turns out that in 1979 incumbent mayor Michael Bilandic was considered an easy win in the mayoral race. Then along came the blizzard of 1979 dropping a mere 20.7 inches of snow and the city couldn’t keep side streets clear or public transportation going. As you mentioned in your e-mail, that blizzard lost Bilandic the election. Riding in on a wave of snow, his opponent Jane Byrne became the next mayor of Chicago.

Needless to say, Mayor Daley has a lot of snowplows on the street today. And the papers are full of delicious pictures of whipped cream everywhere.

Yours digging out,


P.S.–I couldn’t agree more that the impeachment process lacks a certain dignity, not to mention common sense and public service. What a huge waste of time and money!