Progressive bulwark growing, in City Hall and communities
From: Kristen Crowell. Executive Director, United Working Families
On Tuesday, as Chicagoans go to the polls, there stands a good chance that Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to eliminate all opposition to his pro-corporate, anti-democratic agenda will have been stopped in its tracks.
And we’re not just talking about Rahm himself, who faces the possibility of being the first Chicago mayor ever to be forced into a runoff--thanks to progressive firebrand Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s strong challenge.
Flash back to only a few months ago. That’s when the combined news of Karen Lewis’s withdrawal from the race and the growing pot of cash in Rahm’s Chicago Forward super PAC was leading certain political observers to all but call off today’s vote.
Chicago Forward was going to wipe out the pesky Progressive Reform Caucus that has led the lonely charge in the City Council against everything from massive closures of neighborhood schools and mental health clinics; to the near-criminal giveaways to Rahm’s corporate cronies; to the attacks on the retirement incomes of public-sector employees; to the administration’s actions that put in danger a disproportionate number of people of color.
Rahm and Chicago Forward were going to support the rubber-stamp aldermen who control City Hall and who vote with Emanuel 100 percent of the time.
And Rahm and his coalition of the 1 percent was going to stifle the discussion and sow confusion over the referendum on elected, representative school boards, which themselves would have prevented the closure of 50 neighborhood schools, the move that sparked of so much resistance to Emanuel’s policies.
As it turns out, it’s a hard thing to quash dissent, and the voice of the people dies hard. Rahm is about to find out just HOW hard.
This is not by accident, but by the work of thousands of grassroots volunteers and organizers from all backgrounds from all across Chicago who, almost from scratch, began the underdog effort to take back City Hall and regain the momentum following Karen’s difficult decision.
United Working Families was born from this resistance, and, along with protecting the members of the Progressive Caucus, our challenger candidates have placed several of Rahm’s rubber stamp Council members on defense. This, in turn, has led to new discussions about the direction of their wards and of Chicago. United Working Families’ rookie candidates, many of them political newcomers, came to speed, fueled by a real appetite for change and our intensive candidate training and mentorship program.
United Working Families has signed up thousands of new members who want a political voice in a process that, like Rahm, has excluded them. They’re in it for the long haul.
Chuy Garcia’s campaign, meanwhile, has galvanized the opposition and reminded Chicago how their voices were not heard during the school closure debate and how government should serve working families, not just corporate contributors.
And, in 37 wards throughout the city, voters today are expected to say “yes” in overwhelming numbers to scrapping the current system and replacing the mayoral-appointed school board with a representative body elected by the people, the case in every other school district in Illinois.
This is not to mention the organizations our candidates have built in the wards that, win or lose, will stay engaged in the discussion across their wards and position a new bench of non-machine candidates to organize, win and restore progressive values for Chicago in the future.
Make no mistake: the work of United Working Families and the thousands of Chicagoans we have engaged doesn’t end after today, or after the runoff on April 7.
The stories leading up to the election were about the size of Rahm Emanuel’s war chest, and the corporate donors who have engorged it, and the inevitability of his efforts to eliminate all dissent.
The job will not be complete when we wake up Wednesday. But I’m confident that, as we enter the home stretch in the campaigns, not only will the opposition to the Emanuel corporate agenda be alive and well, but you will see poured the foundation for greater victories to come.