The sudden death of Mayor Cermak, in the midst of such tragic circumstances, is certain to evoke a stream of comment, some of it sober and sympathetic, some of it hectic and immoderate. The temptation to dramatize his rise from poverty and obscurity to the throne of a harassed metropolis will not be resisted for long. Still, it is true that his stewardship was, for two years, remarkably well acquitted. And he did come perilously close to confounding his party by an unwelcome fulfillment of their promise that he would be "the best mayor Chicago ever had."
But the problems raised for Chicago will be far deeper than plans for an appropriate cortege, or for a day of universal mourning. Tumult and shouting can only defer the day when she will have to scan anew the list of aspirants to her highest office. Charles E. Merriam will, somewhat more impatiently after these twenty years, demand again that a government now impecunious must pass to the expert, and to the honest; and at the University there will be reawakened vistas of regulatory grandeur. Clicking receivers will carry tentative promises of patronage to the Mayor's revived political opponents. And it is even conceivable that the suave Windsors will find themselves embroiled once more in the fever of a Middle Western campaign.
Chicago, rather paradoxically, was the birthplace of Walter Fisher's aristocratic civic reform, the home of the berserk Municipal Voters' League, and the zealots of "efficient government." But she will probably choose to return, after a sudden and dizzy eminence of virtue, to her comfortable post-war role of the protesting victim. For sixty years Chicago has been a great, a wealthy, and a powerful city. And for almost sixty years her industrious citizenry has submitted to the control of an incredibly arrogant, mendacious, and corrupt chain of municipal dynasties. Her example, although not solitary, serves to bring the issues into sharp relief. There is a serious hiatus in the democratic theory of government when it is applied to a teeming modern city, without the increasingly popular device of reserving administrative power to a non-partisan expert. With the exception of a few false dawns in American public life, such as the wondrous Tom Johnson or the velvet dominance of Seth Low, our cities have laboured under distressing burdens of incompetence. But Chicago also had her interlude. To a Bohemian immigrant must go the glory of a real resuscitation, however temporary, of her moribund civic pride.