Two reasons for getting to know more about Chicago. If Barack Obama is elected, we'd have a creature of Chicago politics in the White House. And Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, a Chicago native who even vacations in the Windy City (in August!), is positively Chicagoesque in his governing style. So here's a short primer, courtesy of Chicago Reader political columnist Ben Joravsky, a tough critic of Mayor Richard Daley. If this primer makes you worried about Obama, keep in mind that Harry Truman, who sprang from the corrupt Pendergast machine in Kansas City, Mo., turned out to be quite independent-minded when in the White House. If it makes you anxious about Mayor Nickels, remember that he's only in his second term, while Mayor Richard M. Daley is in his sixth. At any rate, we begin with Mayor Richard J. Daley, who ruled Chicago from 1955 to 1976 by the simple method of making the local Democratic Party and the city bureaucracy one and the same. Acolytes in the party got the jobs and favors, and turned out the voters each four years to elect the boss, even after his cops cracked heads at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Boss Daley's son, Richard M. Daley, was elected first in 1987, after the brief interregnum of Harold Washington, a champion of black independence who tried to get his people out from their thralldom to the Daley machine. The present Daley is said by some to be more of an independent than a Democrat, but he still controls all aspects of the city. His appointees control all the key governing boards. Few dare challenge any of the pro-Daley City Council, whose 50 members rubber stamp the mayor's every wish. Doing business with Daleytown is a matter of calling up the right lawyer (like the mayor's younger brother) or the right council lobbyist (mostly former Daley appointees). The boodlers occasionally get nailed in scandals, but Daley gets reelected by large margins, most recently 71 percent. You can hardly blame the Obama crowd for being a part of all this: there's no other game in town. Obama got started in Chicago politics right as the current mayor was coming to power. His wife, Michelle Obama, worked for the Daley administration, and his vaunted campaign strategist, David Axelrod, has run some Daley campaigns. Obama last year gave a speech endorsing Daley that was so fawning that the Senator's supporters still cringe. Daley reciprocated by endorsing Obama for president. Many of the things Mayor Nickels admires about Chicago are well worth emulating here: the commitment to parks, to arts, to global-city positioning, and to thriving ethnic neighborhoods. It's a terrific city, though lagging some on the technology sector. The place works. It's just that there's nothing like democracy or respect for opposition points of view. I remember a story that a local Seattle politician once told me, comparing Seattle and Chicago. "In Chicago, the mayor gets all the important stakeholders on a big issue around the table. He tells them that they all have a voice, but that some will lose. Behave well as a loser (or winner) and you'll be invited back. In Seattle, by contrast, the same group is assembled and the mayor or other leader will say that they all have a voice and that we won't reach a decision until everyone is happy with it. No one will lose." Which city would you want to live in?