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A Stark Look
Rahm -- The Neo-Mandarin -- and His Crew

By Robert T. Starks, Political Editor

In imperial China from 605 to 1905, the mandarins were bureaucrats representing the rulers. They wore a mandarin square on the front of their robes to indicate their status as a high-ranking official.

The rank of mandarin was obtained as a result of thorough imperial examination. The mandarin officials were men who were members of the nine imperial ranks who had a great deal of influence in the bureaucracy and government.

In addition, they were known for their intellectual and literary knowledge, and understanding of Chinese history. Westerners referred to them as mandarins because they spoke the standard language of northern China in the area in and around Beijing.

Mandarin became the official language of the Chinese. There was a large population and numerous ethnic groups, and in many cases in old China the mandarin language was not understood by the majority of the Chinese people. Mandarin officials interpreted their authority as coming from the imperial court and later claimed a mandate from heaven.

Most importantly, the traditional mandarins in old China was a distinctive elite group of officials who collectively saw themselves as a class unto themselves. They internalized the reality that they were elites and acted accordingly.

"Neo-mandarins hold fast to the attitude that they know best what the public needs and how best to deliver it to them. They have little
regard for the opinions
of ordinary citizens."

Back To The Present

The "neo," or new, mandarins in this country are those current public officials who work at the top levels (usually in policy) of local, state, and federal bureaucracies.

Because of this policy experience and implementation, these mostly young, White operatives move freely from their bureaucratic safe havens to the corporate world and back at the drop of a hat.

In the course of this movement, they tend to incorporate the attitudes, philosophies, and approaches of their corporate sponsors.

After all, it is to the advantage of the corporate community to bring these eager, young, well prepared persons into the corporation because they can inform their sponsors of the policy moves being put in place by government, especially if these eager beavers are the authors of these policies.

Thus, they become valuable assets to the corporation in their attempts to avoid government regulations and taxes.

Elected officials encourage this behavior because they engage in this behavior themselves. Further, by sending their young bureaucrats into the corporate community, they can keep the lines of communications open between themselves and business leaders.

They can easily incorporate policy changes into their administrations that are suggested by business. All of which means that increasingly, government is now following the policy dictates of business rather than the two operating as co-equals in an effort to maintain balance in a democratic system.

The recent struggle of public service workers in the state of Wisconsin to hold onto their collective bargaining rights and the stance of Governor Walker was dictated to him by the billionaire Koch brothers.

The Wisconsin labor struggle and the Republican victory that strips public service workers of their collective bargaining rights is a corporate strategy that is being repeated throughout the nation at the urging of Republican Party-corporate partnership.

President George W. Bush made the greatest use of the neo-mandarins while he was in office. Bush had a steady stream of bureaucrats moving into government and out to business, many to Wall Street.

An examination of the Obama administration's top advisors and policy people reveals a composite of neo-mandarins that tops the number and concentration in the Bush administration.

Witness the recent changes in the White House staff that brought Rahm Emanuel to Chicago and sent William Daley, a former vice president of J.P. Morgan Chase and a poster boy for neo-mandarinism to Rahm's former position as White House Chief of Staff.

Rahm Steps In

Rahm Emanuel is one of America's leading examples of a neo-mandarin poised to be sworn in as the next mayor of Chicago.

Rahm graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a B. A., and a M. A. in Speech and Communications from Northwestern University. After working for Illinois Public Action and Senator Paul Simon, a stint at the Democratic Campaign Committee and for Richard Daley as a fundraiser, he went on to work to elect Bill Clinton president.

In 1998, he became an advisor to President Clinton and later moved into investment banking, where he reportedly made $16 million dollars and sharpened his shark-like demeanor and negotiating skills.

After serving in Congress for three terms and chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he supported the Obama campaign for president and was chosen by Obama as his White House Chief of Staff.

During his time in Washington, he was accused by Congressional Black Caucus members of constantly killing any proposals that they brought to the table.

Supposedly, his rationale was that Black congressional members did not need to be taken into account in the policymaking apparatus because they had no political options other than the Democratic Party; they were tied to the party and dependent on the party and its donors to keep them in office.

Looking at the personnel moves and appointments that Emanuel has made thus far, it is clear that he will bring the same neo-mandarin attitude and staff to City Hall.

Neo-mandarins hold fast to the attitude that they know best what the public needs and how best to deliver it to them. They have little regard for the opinions of ordinary citizens. Mayor-elect Emanuel's neo-mandarins will employ the demeanor and negotiating skills of their leader.

(Warning: those who express dissent might find a "dead fish" in their mailbox!)

Lastly, it may not matter if Rahm includes non-neo-mandarins in his administration because they will be in such a definite minority and dominated by the neo-mandarins that they will be ineffective and be rendered window dressing.

Chicago's African-American community cannot expect very much from the man that they gave such overwhelming support to on February 22nd, because he will introduce a much more streamlined and slicker version of the same old Democratic machine control over the Black community. The only way in which he can be put in check is through constant vigilance and struggle.

If we believe that an Emanuel administration left on its own will "do the right thing," we have ignored the lessons of the Obama administration.

Too many Black Americans enthusiastically voted for Mr. Obama and went back to their homes believing that because of his brilliant oratory, rhetoric, and promises of hope and change he would
do the right thing!

We are still waiting.