Chicago Mayoral Race Results: “Rahm, They Tell Me You Are Crooked, and I Answer: Yes, It Is True. Period.”

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again. –Carl Sandburg, Chicago

Ian Welsh got it right in 2010. These words are still true today:

The left must be seen to repudiate Obama, and they must be seen to take him down. If the left does not do this, left wing politics and policies will be discredited with Obama. This is important not as a matter of partisan or ideological preference, it is important because left wing policies work. It is necessary to move back to strongly progressive taxation, it is necessary to force the rich to take their losses, it is necessary to deal with global warming, it is necessary to deal with the fact that the era of cheap oil is over, it is necessary to stop the offshoring engine which is destroyin the American middle class.

Only left wing solutions to these problems will work. America has spent 30 years, since Reagan, trying to fix its problems by going more and more right wing, and it has been a disaster. Each additional step to the right has made the problem worse.

The first step to fixing America is fixing the Democratic party, and the first step in fixing the Democratic party is fixing Barack Obama and destroying, forever, publicly and in the most high profile way possible, the idea that Democrats can ignore and abuse their own base. The lies spewed by corporate media figures who earn millions of dollars a year, that every time the Democrats lose, it is because they were too left wing, so more tax cuts are necessary, must end.

Taking Rahm down — in addition to being a simple pleasure in itself — would have helped fix the Democratic party. It didn’t happen. Why, and what next?

Why did Rahm Win?

First, Rahm got lucky, RJ Eskow:

Emanuel had a surfeit of luck. Karen Lewis, the immensely popular head of the Chicago Teachers Union, led Emanuel 45 percent to 36 percent in head-to-head polling last July after confronting the mayor before and during a 2012 teachers’ strike. Tragically, Lewis was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and was unable to run. That left Garcia short on time and resources with which to overtake the cash-rich incumbent. Another formidable challenger who chose not to run was Toni Preckwinkle, head of the Cook County Board of Supervisors.

Second, Garcia lost the black wards[1]. The Hill:

Black voters were the key swing constituency for Emanuel, even though the African-American candidate in the first election in February, Willie Wilson, backed Garcia, as did Jesse Jackson, Rep. Danny Davis (D) and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. Emanuel beat Garcia 58 percent to 42 percent amongst this group.

Third, Garcia lost the black wards because the “black misleadership class” held them for Rahm (and by extension, Obama). Black Agenda Report:

Rahm Emanuel’s biggest asset was the overwhelming support of Chicago’s well-established black political class of preachers, business types, “community leaders” and public officials. President Barack Obama himself came home to Chicago this year and in 2011 to campaign for Rahm and cut commercials for him. Nearly every prominent black elected official in town, Democrats all, came out for Rahm, for privatization, for gentrification, for austerity, for more of the same. This is the state of black politics in 2015, and the reason that Rahm Emanuel carried every single one of Chicago’s majority black wards.

A career Democrat politician himself, Chuy Garcia could talk about the injustice of high stakes testing and privatizing public schools. What Garcia simply could not do was explain to black audiences why almost every black politician in town including the black Chicago Democrat in the White House was riding with Rahm. To do so would have been to directly criticize the regime of black urban politics and the policies of the president himself, something even the most “progressive” career Democrat politicians don’t do.

Notice, however, that Democratic “progressives” are failing in exactly the same way Garcia did; they never mention this factor. Not Eskow, not Jim Dean, not Ilya Sheyman, not MoveOn, not Bold Progressives, not anybody in the Democratic nomenklatura. BAR interviewed a Garcia staffer, who described what might have been:

“To win, Chuy needed to carry black wards against Emanuel, to make discouraged voters in those neighborhoods come out,” a campaign staffer told Black Agenda Report.

“You do that by conducting an intense voter registration drive in those areas, and giving those people compelling reasons to come out. It could have been done. Chuy’s campaign was dealt a good hand, but they didn’t play it. The campaign failed to conduct a voter registration drive in black Chicago, and to emphasize the issues that could have set black Chicago on fire.”

“This was the winter and spring when Ferguson was on everybody’s lips. Chuy could have won wider and deeper support in black Chicago by focusing early and sustained attention on the corrupt and brutal practices of CPD, Chicago’s Police Department. He didn’t do that. It took weeks to get the Garcia campaign to endorse the drive for reparations for survivors of Chicago police torture. It took weeks more to briefly draw Garcia’s attention to CPD’s black site at Homan Square, another controversy he declined to make a big sustained stink about. The campaign pissed away these key opportunities to mobilize black support. And the only jobs program they announced with actual numbers was Chuy’s proposal to hire a thousand extra cops.”

Garcia had a shot at winning more black votes than he did, but never took it. That’s because he’d rather lose as a “good Democrat” than win as a real one. Karen Lewis would not have been subject to the iron law of institutions, as Garcia — as well as Moveon, DFA, Bold Progressives, and all the rest of ’em — clearly were.

Finally, Garcia didn’t clearly separate himself from Rahm on finance; austerity, in particular:

Instead we got Garcia, who steadfastly refused to draw up a bold policy program, opening himself up to easy criticisms by Emanuel that he had no real plan for the fiscal crisis facing the city. Even late in the campaign, he continued to use phrases like “shared sacrifice” (usually code words for additional austerity measures on the backs of workers) in describing how he would solve the city’s budget woes.

He refused to strongly endorse measures like a financial transactions tax.

So, as they tend to do, people voted for the real Rahm, instead of a fake one.

What Next for Chicago?

First, Democratic “centrists” take a few moments away from re-arranging the deck chairs to do the happy dance. Politico checks in with some “Democratic strategists.” The headline:

Rahm shows Hillary how to tame the left


To many Democrats, there are two possible lessons: First, that the professional left talks a much better game than it delivers even as it starts to make big promises about the presidential race. And second, that focusing voters on the progressive elements of a candidate’s record, as Emanuel did during his runoff, can blunt a challenge from an ineffective opponent.

“Rahm Emanuel is a progressive mayor, period,” said Paul Begala, a longtime Bill Clinton adviser and a friend of Emanuel who advises the pro-Hillary Clinton Priorities super PAC. “I don’t think people should say a right-wing Democrat won. I think you’ve got to actually look at what he did and what he ran on.”

“That’s the lesson for Hillary Clinton: You can run comfortably on a progressive agenda and win,” Begala said.

Really. Well, I hope Clinton doesn’t compromise with Jebbie on privatizing the Veteran’s Administration and call that “progressive,” is all I can say. And, too bad Elizabeth [genuflects] Warren didn’t endorse Chuy. Eh? But to resume…..

Second, the Board of Alderman got a little bit better. Labor Notes:

While the [Chicago Teachers Union-led campaign to oust Mayor Rahm Emanuel fell short, [ school counselor and CTU executive board member Susan Sadlowski Garza’s], victory is a boost for the council’s progressive caucus, which before the election included 7 members out of 50. Depending on the outcome of absentee ballot counts in several close races, the progressive caucus could increase to 12.

So, the next step would be to double-plus-a-smidge again, from 12 to 26, no?

Third, Emanual was, in fact, shoved a millimeter left on policy. Salon:

Despite their defeat, Chicago progressives were able to force Emanuel to the left. Last year, the mayor supported an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $13 [and why not $15?] an hour. After Garcia promised to end the speed camera program, Emanuel pulled cameras off 25 street corners.

Fourth, I hope for a Nixonion scandal scenario in Rahm’s second term. Remember, the Nixon adminstration imploded after stomping McGovern, even though (or perhaps because) Nixon ran the most vicious and effective political operation until Rove. And there’s plenty of scandal to go around, because selling off public property for cheap to insiders — that is, privatization — is just corrupt by definition, and Tiny Dancer being Tiny Dancer, we can expect him to double down. (Don’t believe Rahm’s “Honey, I’ve changed!” schtick for a minute). Commenter OIFVet lists some scandals in embryo:

“This is well beyond solving by moving the “diversion of tax monies” deck chairs around.” True enough, but it demonstrates part of the Chicago corruption playbook: if the unfunded liabilities are allowed to pile up long enough, Da Mare can simply say “The TIFs (or whatever diversionary program you may choose) would only address a small part of the liabilities, so let’s talk real solutions here rather than politicizing the program”. Voila: Da Mare appears statesman-like, and as an added bonus he can legitimately argue for deep cuts to needed programs, accelerating the money giveaways known as PPPs and continue to divert property taxes to the Pritzkers and such, and go after the unions. It’s a Chicago-style three-fer.

Regardless of the outcomes (“a Chicago-style three-fer”) all these pain points can be used to discredit Emanuel, if the left is willing to think of fighting neoliberalism as a permanent campaign, instead of an election cycle. In my book, the place to dig is Rahm’s sleazy private equity — sorry for the redundancy — backers. International Business Times:

Heading into the final days of campaigning for re-election, incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has faced intensifying criticism for being too close to the city’s financial elite. Precisely how close, though, remains a matter of conjecture — and most likely will remain so until after the Tuesday runoff vote. That’s because Emanuel’s administration has for weeks blocked the release of correspondence between his administration and one of the Democratic mayor’s top donors, Michael Sacks. The administration has also refused to release details about tens of millions of dollars in shadowy no-bid city payments to some of Emanuel’s largest campaign contributors.

Do tell. Funny, though, I don’t recall Chuy making any noise about this at all. Did I miss it?

Finally, the (dys)functional identity of Democratic and Republican leadership becomes more and more visible. It was Republican money that let Rahm outspend Garcia by 8 to 1, after all. As R.J Eskow points out:

The nickname Emanuel earned during this race was “Mayor 1 Percent,” and it’s a name which is likely to stick. That reflects a new reality for “centrists” in the Emanuel/Third Way mold: corporate-friendly policies bring serious political risk.

That’s because the squillionaires bought Emanuel his second term, and everybody knows it[2]. Forbes:

And it’s Emanuel’s linkages to Republicans and the rich that are dogging him as the race winds down. “We don’t need more Republicans saying nice things about Rahm,” one Emanuel campaign advisor told Forbes recently.

While Emanuel’s friendship with the billionaire financier and newly elected Republican governor Bruce Rauner are no secret, the Mayor’s other relationships with rich Republicans are getting headlines in the last few days.

The lead story in Friday’s New York Times business section was headlined “Chicago’s Odd Couple” about Emanuel and a “billionaire Republican investor.” The story focused on the Mayor’s “single biggest donor,” Kenneth Griffin, a multibillionaire who is chief executive of the investment firm Citadel.

I don’t know how the implications of that identity play out on the national stage, but it’s to be hoped that it opens up a space for Democrats to be Democrats, instead of ersatz Republicans. After all, Boss Tweed wasn’t boss forever, though I’m sure it seemed at the time he would be. Livin’ the dream!


It seems to me that the possibility for a Democratic victory in the Chicago mayoral race was there, but the stars just didn’t align. If Karen Lewis doesn’t get brain cancer, she could have done all the work on the ground that Chuy’s campaign manager wishes they had been allowed to do. The Guardian scoop on Rahm’s black site for torture cops gets used. #BlackLivesMatter gets leveraged. David Sirota’s work on Rahm’s corruption gets used. The Black Misleadership class gets knocked off their game a bit. Where the money really goes becomes an issue. And so on.

Nevertheless, the left didn’t defeat Rahm, and weren’t seen to. They didn’t collect a scalp. Next time!


[1] Garcia lost the poor, too. DNAinfo:

Nearly 60 percent of voters with an annual family income under $30,000 picked Emanuel, according to an Edison Research exit poll.

Sixty-one percent of Chicagoans most affected by poverty, crime and failing schools — poor black families who earn less than $50,000 a year — also voted for Emanuel.

So, progressives, you gotta win the black and the poor…

[2] People focus on the TV ads. I’d like to know about the walking around money.

NOTE Let me caveat that the most I know about Chicago is many visits to the Museum of Science and Industry when I was very young. So I’d love to hear more from Chicagoans, both residents and expats, on what the this race meant, and what next.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. guest

    At a distance, that Chicago mayoral race looks like one of those elections in an oligarchic country.

    Just one opponent disconnected from the electoral basis is pitted against the official candidate; the challenger does not put in question the policies, methods and integrity of the incumbent, refuses to raise burning issues important to the electorate, has at best a sketchy programme that does not depart from what the incumbent is doing, and is reluctant to make a grassroot campaign. Ultimately, he makes an utterly lame impression — compared to the official favourite, who is certainly well-known as a corrupt and ruthless person, but who therefore might have the balls and connections to get something done for the city after he fills the pockets of his cronies.

    It all looks as if Guarcia was just put forward as an alibi to have a “choice” apart from Emmanuel.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      Controlled opposition at all levels. J Edgar Hoover’s plan is working … Mission Accomplished. Community organizers unite!

      It is a shibboleth however to only blame the candidates/office holders. The voters are responsible, whether they vote or not, and by who they vote for. All are culpable.

      1. different clue

        So the black citizens are misled? Well, they get the misleadership they choose and support. They chose to vote for Massa Rahm because the Firstest Black President Evah supported Rahm? They chose Rahm and helped get Rahm elected and their reward is Four More Years! of Mayor Rahm.
        Well alrighty then.

    2. CB

      When the so-called progressive committee put Moseley Braun forward as its candidate, I knew the fix was in. Execrable candidate. After reading about Garcia, I wonder, again, if the fix was in. I mean, how inept does a candidate have to be to raise the possibility of throwing the fight?

      I’m thinking five to seven yrs from now, bankruptcy ripoffs. You missed the best black agenda report bit: from commenter beverly

      “Despite the pathetic missteps of the Garcia campaign and the whore-assed endorsements of the black misleadershippers, this race shouldn’t have been close. Black voters in Chicago have seen and experienced the havoc wrought by Zionist devil Emmanuel and they re-elect him anyway. Karen Lewis goes public with Emmanuel’s comment about public school students are not going to amount to much . . . and even this can’t wake up the bleeple to fact Emmanuel doesn’t give a shit about them. Maybe if he had said the “N” word or some other politically incorrect utterance this would have wrecked his chances but I doubt it; Dronebama would have spoken up for Emmanuel’s faux pas and all would be well in black folk world. Sometimes one gets what one deserves. If they are too stupid to see the forest for the trees, don’t come crying when Chicago becomes another Detroit.

      “Karen Lewis’ brain cancer. Sad coincidence? Or courtesy of Emmanuel and the Dems? See: Hugo Chavez; it’s a good bet his cancer was aided and abetted by our govt. It’s not a stretch that the tactics used to oust foreign leaders who fail to kowtow to U.S. wanton whims are now being used stateside.

      “As for Garcia, get off the Democratic Party plantation or STFU. No ‘”change”‘ is gonna come from inside the two-party mafia.”

      1. optimader

        When the so-called progressive committee put Moseley Braun forward as its candidate, I knew the fix was in. Execrable candidate. After reading about Garcia, I wonder, again, if the fix was in. I mean, how inept does a candidate have to be to raise the possibility of throwing the fight?

        C, M-B was a POS grifter for sure, but the fact remains Karen Lewis is the one that foisted Garcia forward to run, so if it was a fix, it was her fix.

        Garcia has the Horsepower of an midlevel Chicago municipal bureaucrat, which is what he is. His selection as a opposition candidate is more an artifact of Karen Lewis’s judgment than any “oligarchic fix” by RE.

        The opposition candidate (IMO) should have been Tony Preckwinkle who has a fiduciary background and I believe a decently high level of integrity, She is the one that had a chance to shred R.E. AND has the follow-on professional expertise to go toe to toe and start chipping away at Chicago’s financial trainwreck. Garcia would have been an express train into the back of the existing train-wreck.

        But for whatever reason(s) Tony P. declined to run (maybe simply because she is too smart to walk into that snakepit?) who knows, didn’t happen.

        I only have sympathy for KLewis medical condition, but an evil conspiracy?… sigh..

    3. dcblogger

      It all looks as if Guarcia was just put forward as an alibi to have a “choice” apart from Emmanuel.

      No. That is not how it was. Rahm had several opponents. When he failed to get 50% in the primary, it moved to a run off with the second place candidate moving into the runoff. Which is how Garcia wound up being the alternative.

  2. Northeaster

    Interesting because for black people in the inner city hell-hole, surviving past the age of 24 is considered a success. Secondly, Cook County will never be short of funding, politicians are heavily invested in their bonds (i.e. John Kerry), de facto support of “everything is awesome” in Chicago!

  3. Ishmael

    it is important because left wing policies work.

    A failure of a statement. I ask you where have we ever seen left wing policies work. Maybe we should look at Detroit, the most left wing city in the US. Maybe we should look at Chicago. Yup, it is left wing to the core but still it is bankrupt. How about LA. Left wing but bankrupt. Let’s expand out. Are Michigan, Illinois and California succeeding. Nope all big failures.

    What I would like someone to point out to me is one leftist govt that has ever succeeded. Okay, you will point out maybe Norway and Sweden. Well since I have lived in Norway I know that country first hand. It is succeeding right now due to oil. Retirement age in Sweden is 72. You work part time up to 72. On top of that I do not know what I make of a country that 10% of the GDP is Ikea. Norway and Sweden worked pretty well while they were still all related but the influx of people has put some real pressure on them.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the current system is good and in fact I have it but I think the big problem is all of these libertard policies which have basically crowned an aristocracy by throwing out some little fishes to people to vote for them. This country made a really bad turn starting with Woodrow Wilson and has been moving towards the crapper ever since.

    So my challenge to all the people at Naked Capitalism is please point out a leftist country that works and does not have a homogeneous population.

    1. timbers

      FYI – all of the examples you give in the first paragraph are not following “left” policies but “right” policies, at least in many ways that have been the subject of late at NC. You need to be more specific.

      Social Security and Medicare are in many ways “left” polices that “work” in the non “homogeneous population” to answer your question.

    2. diptherio

      Universal education, the highway system, rural electrification, Social Security, Medicare, etc., etc., etc….


      1. optimader

        “left ” vs “right” ugh
        “universal educational” –> follow that bread crumb trail to Horace Mann (A Whig, in todays parlance, “right”)
        “highway system” –> mixed bag, Wilson (old time southern D, lets not talk about slavery) was to US highway system as Mann was to universal education, but Eisenhower ( R), championed it principally as military logistics initiative.

        By todays standards was Eisenhower “left” or “right”?
        “…He continued all the major New Deal programs still in operation, especially Social Security. He expanded its programs and rolled them into a new cabinet-level agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, while extending benefits to an additional ten million workers. He implemented integration in the Armed Services in two years, which had not been completed under Truman.[118]…”

        “Social Security” –> that would go into the humane “Left” column? ( note to self: was not proposed as a “guaranteed minimum income”, was intended as supplemental working poor and dependents. Does that make it “left “middle” or “right”? )

        Medicare –> an Excellent Humane “left” program that has become a bit of a clstrfk. Kinda reminds me of policy version of “Murder on the Orient Express” at the hands of the “left” and “right”

    3. Tyler

      Ishmael, poverty in America dropped like a rock in the 1960s, and our government enacted left-wing economic policies throughout that decade.

      1. FederalismForever

        @Tyler. Not sure you’re right. Kennedy’s economic policies were somewhat similar to Reagan’s (or at least Reagan’s rhetoric**): Kennedy cut taxes, and endorsed a free trade policy that would eventually be implemented in 1967. Also, poverty reduction was well underway by the 1950s.

        But, looking back, it is increasingly clear that so much of the post-WWII success story was just a fluke based on America’s historically unique and unprecedented advantage of being able to play in a conference in which all of its leading competitors were either recovering from a devastating war or had turned their backs on the West to play for a while in the Marxist league. It’s much easier to generate a sort of faux prosperity when you’re the only game in town. Since it is highly unlikely we’ll ever see America in such an advantageous position again, it is a mistake to look to the post-WWII era for policy recommendations. Instead, we should look to the post Civil War expansion from 1865 to 1932, when America rose to the top in a much tougher environment.

        **I say “Reagan’s rhetoric,” as in fact that top marginal income tax rate was 50% or higher for 6 of Reagan’s 8 years in office. Combined with his increase in the payroll tax rates, the Reagan era was actually a fairly high tax era. Moreover, even when he reduced the top marginal rate to 28% effective in 1987, he increased the capital gains rate to that same 28% – which is a high capital gains rate, and marks one of the few times when capital gains and ordinary income were taxes at the same rate. Finally, although he used a lot of “free trade” rhetoric, Reagan was actually fairly protectionist in practice.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Nope. What made the country work post-World War II was systematically dismantled by the neo-liberal dispensation, starting in the mid-70s, and continuing to this day.

          1. FederalismForever

            @Lambert Strether. Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976 as part of one of the strongest Democratic waves in history. Democrats had super-majorities in both the House and the Senate, and could do anything they wanted with zero Republican support. Why would this group of Democrats, flush with success, riding a wave of anti-Republican post-Watergate zeal, and (presumably) full of fond memories of LBJ’s “great society” achievements circa 1965-1969 suddenly embrace the evils of neo-liberalism? This is not a rhetorical question. I’m genuinely interested in a psychologically plausible account of why Democrats would do this, when doing the opposite had resulted in so much success for them in the past.

            To tie this in with Ishmael’s post above, the Democrats have had super-majorities three times in history: 1965 and 1977 (as described above) and 1937. In each case, there was a Democratic President, and filibuster-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate, such that the Democrats could do as they pleased. Now consider where the country found itself three or so years after each of these elections – i.e., in 1968-1969, 1979-1980, 1938-1939. What a terrifying picture! Rampant economic despair, riots, stagflation, etc. Not a large data set, to be sure, but not exactly a ringing endorsement of Democratic competence and ability!

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              I don’t know what their motivations were. But the neo-liberal “turn” took place at that time; the issue is the historical record, not a hairball of ultimately unknowable motives.

              Please stop confusing Democrats with the left; whatever left policies they adopt, they do so only when forced to by events. My own personal view is that the Democrats need to split and go the way of the Whigs, but I’ll be happy if either major party splits, since they prop each other up.

              Adding, from my perspective, the devolution from the party that justly impeached Nixon to the party that failed to nail Reagan for Iran-Contra — assuming he was still compos mentis, which is arguable — and all in less than a decade, is unaccountable. It’s one for the historians, and I believe Rick Perlstein is writing a book on it. However, one need only recognize a tipping point; it’s helpful to have an account for it, but that’s not needed to recognize it, and that is my claim.

            2. Katiebird

              Jimmy Carter’s election was a big part of the move to embrace neo-liberalism. We didn’t elect Julian Bond that year or Fred Harris, two of the guys who ran who would have pushed liberal (or as we say now) progressive legislation. Carter has been an admirable former President but his administration was one tragedy after another. ….. one example… The first Dem administration after LBJ and the passage of Medicare. And in spite of those supermajorities they did not expand Medicare to cover everyone.

              1. optimader

                I think your correct. Jimmy Carter although reviled by the republicans had pretty conservative sensibilities.
                His one success that I can think of : In 1979, Carter deregulated the American beer industry by making it legal to sell malt, hops, and yeast to American home brewers for the first time since the effective 1920 beginning of Prohibition in the United States

            3. different clue

              Carter may have been a Trojan Horse secret agent neo-liberal under Democratic cover. He WAS a member of the Trilateral Commission, lets not forget.

    4. rusti

      What I would like someone to point out to me is one leftist govt that has ever succeeded. Okay, you will point out maybe Norway and Sweden. Well since I have lived in Norway I know that country first hand. It is succeeding right now due to oil. Retirement age in Sweden is 72. You work part time up to 72. On top of that I do not know what I make of a country that 10% of the GDP is Ikea. Norway and Sweden worked pretty well while they were still all related but the influx of people has put some real pressure on them.

      This is just racist propaganda and outright lies. Sweden is not “pressured” due to an influx of brown people as you’ve postulated, but years of Neoliberal policies eroding the Nordic model have helped loot the commons in Rahmesque fashion (though not quite as thoroughly).

      As far as pensions go, the standard retirement age is 65. Pensionsmyndigheten makes it abundantly clear that you can start drawing pension at age 61 in Sweden, and much like the US you get a higher payout the longer you delay before withdrawing. If you wish to work beyond 67, you need explicit consent from your employer. I have never had a colleague older than their early 60’s, only a few part-time professors who wished to continue teaching into their 70’s.

      1. Felix

        For a country to be “leftist” I suppose the voters would have to agree to some sort of equalization of resources and income. My sense is that it would require the voters to have a sense of the commons. It is a lot easier for people to see the nature of the commons when they are similiar. It may well be easier to vote for higher taxes when the benefits are going to ones “family’ so to speak. Voters might start to think differently when the benefits are going to different looking people who share few cultural traits and no history who arrived primarily to get the benefits of this hypothetical egalitarian society. I think it is unfair to label the commenter racist. Certainly if poor white people went to a rich Moslem brown country and wanted benefits but did not want to adopt the culture I suspect there would be resistance as well. Otherwise, would we not see many American poor people migrating to Dubai or Saudi Arabia or the UAE or Kuwait? Obviously the citizens of those countries do not want to share their common wealth with poor white people, for example.

        1. rusti

          I think there is legitimacy to your argument that having an obvious outsider to demonize is an effective tool for powerful moneyed interests to divide and conquer, but it’s not nearly as effective when people don’t feel squeezed by anti-labor policies. Immigration isn’t new to Sweden, but immigration coupled with underemployment is. If ethnic identities were a fundamental limiting factor, the US would still be a bunch of squabbling colonies.

          As far as the poster goes, it’s clear from his other posts that he’s an obvious troll unwilling to participate in an actual discussion. Making up his own retirement age in Sweden, implying ethnic homogeneity in Germany, using terms like “libtard” intended to dumb the level of the debate down, etc.

    5. dSquib

      please point out a leftist country that works and does not have a homogeneous population.

      LOL for ridiculous condition. Hey, point out a rightist country that works that doesn’t have a vowel in its name!

      Please tell us what it is specifically about US relative heterogeneity that stops it from instituting single payer healthcare (an unmitigated success everywhere), for example.

    6. bruno marr

      There is this app on the Web called Google Search. Try typing in the words “pensions in Sweden”. Yep. You would discover that you’re full of bullshit.

    7. jrs

      point out that right wing policies work better? A right wing u.s. state that works (and oh boy are you then probably talking petro-economy!)

      I’m all for idealism and trying the well intentioned untried on a small scale and I do think conditions like climate change demand radicalism (a mere somewhat liberal may not cut it) but perhaps you are seeking a standard of “works” that doesn’t exist in this world?

    8. FederalismForever

      @Ishmael. It’s easy for the NC Commentariat to pick holes in what Ishmael wrote. But sweep away the dross, and there is a fundamental point which cannot be dismissed so readily. This thread concerns the city of Chicago and the State of Illinois. The fact is the city and the state have been under solid Democratic rule, with only limited exceptions, for decades now. Look at the results. Can we not acknowledge there is some truth to what Ishmael says? When Ian Welsh says the solution is more progressivism, has he really taken a look at who has been in charge in Illinois for most of the last 50 years? Welsh wants more progressive taxation, and even higher taxes on the rich. But tax rates in Illinois and Chicago are already quite high! Increase them much more and the rich will simply decamp across the border, similar to those who live and commute from New Jersey to avoid the high taxes in Manhattan. (California is lucky – its rich are “trapped” on its gorgeous coast, with Nevada too far away to commute from. Thus, California can get away with its sky-high top rate of 13%.)

      The Left needs to acknowledge the truth in what Ishmael says, if it wants to attract independent voters who look at the truly dire fiscal situation in Illinois and (rightly) blame the party that has been in charge.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I think you’re confusing Democrats with progressives — the people Rahm calls “retards.” Whatever fiscal straits Chicago may be in — and the situation is being defined by people who want to cheapen Chicago’s assets in order to buy them — is due to policy consensus by both parties, with the left playing a very small part.

        1. Code Name D

          Not so fast. Ishmael still hit upon an impotent point (all though I doubt he sees it.)
          “Leftist polices.” I challenge you to define what that means for me. Diptherio came up with universal education, the highway system, social security, and a few others. Those are systems – not policies.

          The right wing is also for universal education, or at least they say they are, just as Democrats do. And Democrats benefits from the perception that they are better at managing these things are than Republicans.

          But the question still is in regards to what policy? Why is one better than the other? It’s those reasons that we need to focus on.

          The term “the left” is just a word – one ultimately without any meaning or point. Just as is the term “the right” or “the center.” So you can’t say “leftist policies work” because “left” doesn’t include any policies for me to examine, let alone arguments or supporting evidence that might back that position.

          Yesterday you did an excellent analysis on the minimum wage. While Obama may be promoting a $10.10/hr minimum wage, you were right to point out that this is not a serviceable living wage. You then backed up your argument with good evidence and argument. So if the goal is to simply raise the minimum wage to more than it is now – hazza! Obama has seen the light. But your stated goal is a living wage that could actually solve our economic crises – not prolong it indefinably with a random ad-hock solution. And you even set the goal for your own position, a living wage.

          When others pointed out that the MIT number of $25.00/hr doesn’t include retirement savings, your position can include this number because you offered a specific goal you wanted to meet. Not only are you free to modify your argument – but others are free to do so without you. So if you were to drop dead before you can raise it to say $30.00/hr – others can still follow the pathway you paved out to a serviceable solution.

          In contrast, Obama picked a number out of a hat. 10-10 is a bumper sticker, not a functional policy.

          This is in part how Emanuel won re-election. He still holds the mantel of “left” – but only because it doesn’t mean anything. But voters however treat “the left” as a Roshack test, they see it as whatever they want it to be.

          That is how you get people to vote against their interest. You convince them that they are.

          1. JTFaraday

            “The term “the left” is just a word – one ultimately without any meaning or point.”

            Or people. “The left” in America probably still fits on Todd Gitlin’s rolodex, (alongside a thin file of people who are beyond the pale).


          2. different clue

            Perhaps we should start speaking of the “Identity Left”. The self-avowed cultural-issues left which sets the standard of Lefthood to which self-identified Leftists are supposed to be measured against. The Left which seeks the hatred of millions of recreational gun owners by calling them Ammosexuals and sneering at them for “penile defficiency compensation” or “consumer object fetishization” or whatever the Identity Left makes itself feel good by sneering at them for. And thereby assures that millions of them will forever hate the “Left” and reject any policies which the “Left” chooses to advance.

            Marx is generally regarded as Leftist, I believe. And Marx fanatically supported Free Trade and opposed Protectionism. Free Trade was one of the Big Planks in the Communist Manifesto. Free Trade is Marxist. Protectionism is Conservative. Nowadays, it would even be Reactionary, because we would have to go back to it to get it. Does that make Protectionism a bad policy?

            Someone really needs to invent, or re-invent, or rediscover something better and other to be than the “Left”. And that something better could advance policies which the Identity Left will never be strong enough to advance, or even get a hearing for.

            1. Code Name D

              “The left” is generally anything that isn’t right wing. “The right” is generally anything that isn’t left wing. That’s just a bit too circular.

              Those on the right tend not to self identify as “the right.” They are conservative, libertarian, fundamentalist Christian, and so forth. Each ideology usually has a think tank behind it which puts out regular editorials to the common public which defines what these ideas mean, which in turn define what the people believe. If a preacher gets on FM radio and tells his listeners that the Bible says the sky is pink… than the sky is pink, and his listeners will believe the sky is pink, and that the sky has always been pink.

              It’s such an absolute that it ends up destroying the word “pink”, because it ends up meaning blue during the day, black during the night, and the many hues of red during sunrise and sunset.

              This could be avoided with academic rigger, instead of just accepting uncritically what ancient scriptures may or probably doesn’t say about any given issue. But the right has the benefit of creating a common narrative through which the people can communicate. Not unlike how dictionaries play an important role in establishing the definitions for words.

              “The left” however tends not to have any such think tanks to help with this role. So “leftist” actually turn to the right’s think tanks to help them define the narrative. This is so pernicive that they probably don’t even notice it. I have found through direct observations that what liberals and progressives believe is more often than a not a character of what conservatives say they believe.

              The LBGT community broke that dichotomy by taking maters into their own hands. They set out with a very public awareness campaign. They set up conferences and began debating between themselves various ideas and definitions, and began practicing the art of philosophy. Other members of the community began to synchronize their vocabularies. This in turn aloud them to discus and comprehend a more complex and sophisticated narrative and sets of ideas.

              Soon, the new vocabulary spilled out into the general population. Slowly the homophobia just melted away. Even most a growing number of conservatives have no problem with LBGTs any more

              In contrast, look at Ishmael. When he says “left wing policies” he dose have something in mind when he says it. While I can’t read his mind, it’s likely to resemble Communist Russia or Nazi Germany. (Didn’t you know Hitler was a Leftist?) And apart from bits and pieces of history that may nor may not be true, he couldn’t even tell you why these things were so evil. They just are evil, end of story. When you mention Social Security, he thinks of “left wing policies” which takes him back to Nazi Germany again.

              This is why he thinks he won the argument. His understanding is so simple and so shallow that it’s little more than word association.

              This is why I also challenged Lambert for his fraise “left wing policies work.” This was like waving a red flag in front of Ishmael and prompting a pre-programmed response. And this mostly because the term “left” has been destroyed, if it’s not to be argued that it ever had any meaning in the first place.

              If Lambert has used “progressive policies work”, Ishmael’s programming might not have kicked in. But Lambert is still left with the original problem that “progressive” still doesn’t have a functional definition behind it.

              I also challenge this for another reason. It’s irrelevant. Is global warming progressive or conservative? Is healthcare a right or left issue? These are nonsensical questions. It’s the equivalent of asking if my car is liberal or conservative. Even if a self described liberal is behind the wheal, the car itself has no political ideology what so ever – it’s just a car.

              “Left wing policies” do not work. In fact – they can’t, because every political ideology lacks real-world relevancy, nearly by definition. This is a political ideology is a framework around which we build social norms which need not be directed by reality. In fact it shouldn’t be.

              The abolition movement needs to be free to say that slavery is wrong, despite the economic realities that argue its necessity. If you are to have religious freedom, religion needs to be free to thumb its nose at science.

              But while political ideologies are not necessarily reality constrained. Humans are.

              An ideal political ideology is one that recognizes this and works to reflect reality. But it can not do this alone. It must turn to something else such as science and philosophy which is a vary different place where political and ideological freedom must be subservient to academic freedom.

              If “leftist policies” are to work, it can only be through devotion to science principles, because science works, biches.

        2. optimader

          is due to policy consensus by both parties,
          Chicago may be unique in that no two party consensus is neccesary because there is only one functioning party! In fact, it can be considered case study for what can happens with y-on-y one Party rule.

          and the situation is being defined by people who want to cheapen Chicago’s assets in order to buy them
          Don’t confuse the problem with the bad remedy alternative. There is really no ambiguity on what the problem is in Chicago, it is an absurdly financially irresponsible 800lbs gorilla in the room. Chicago citizens have allowed it to fester. Yes it is a case of blame the people.

          The facts on the ground are that Chicago Labor Unions are as responsible as anyone else.

          “[CFL President] Jorge [Ramirez] wants a strong, independent labor movement, but he doesn’t see taking on Rahm as the way to do it,” says one public sector union political organizer. “Historically, Chicago has been a strong union town. So most of the unions feel comfortable where they are. Why should they be bold? ‘We’ve got jobs. Our kids have jobs. Why should we have strong progressive democratic unionism?’ ” The CFL made no endorsement in the mayoral election. On top of that, the influence of the building trades unions, with its largely white and suburban membership, makes Chicago labor more conservative, especially about the role of government, and less in tune with communities of color.

          Emanuel is likely to pick up support from most of the Teamsters, who supported him last election; most of the building trades, who appreciate the city’s new tall buildings; and ostensibly the police and fire unions, who seem fairly satisfied with their new contracts (with the exception of the police sergeants’ union, which endorsed Fioretti). The usually progressive Local 1 of UNITE HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers union, which joined the fight against Emanuel’s school closures, donated $25,000 to Emanuel, who attended a union town hall meeting in December 2013, leaving the union with the impression it will be an integral part of his plans to promote tourism and the hotel industry.

          A number of unions remained neutral or publicly undeclared as of early January: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), the Illinois Nurses Association and National Nurses United, industrial unions (steel, auto and others), and SEIU Local 1 (building services).

          Is it worth noting: “…Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel addresses supporters on election night at Plumbers Local 130 Union Hall Tuesday, April 7, 2015….”

      2. jrs

        Alternatively it may be a general problem with one party rule tending to degenerate into corruption. Does R one party rule do the same?

        Yea I know we argue that they are both the same party but they aren’t really, they represent different $ interests etc.. They are often both fairly right wing parties of course.

      3. jrs

        Well we know that growing inequality and disempowerment of most people (ie right wing solutions) don’t produce a society that is good for most people’s wellbeing. Not only is it obviously that disempowered people will be abused, but there are plenty of studies on how inequality produces lowered wellbeing. And Ishmael could hardly produce any evidence it does with all the technocratic definitions of “works” in the world, that leave out the actual experience of human life (are people living in poverty, without healthcare, stressed out, high levels of violence, no say over their working conditions, unable to maintain human relationships or anything else because of too demanding economic demands etc. etc.)

        And if imperfect liberalism is too imperfect for some perhaps it is because it’s an ideology that compromises with capitalism and that’s an inherent contradiction shall we say? If companies are constantly threatening to leave the state or the country, capital is constantly threatening flight etc. whenever a few bones are thrown to most people via government or unions, maybe capitalism is a zero sum and totalist system. Maybe it’s like certain plants whose leaves produce poison so that nothing else can grow nearby (not even a few feeble liberal solutions that make life tolerable). But then what? Then socialism? If liberalism as it exists now is too inherently contradictory then some form of socialism might not be.

      1. FederalismForever

        @Lambert Strether. Your statement is how Marxists wish the working class would view the world – as one homogenous group of laborers, ready to unite together to battle the evil capitalists. Alas, when we look to history, we see that when the working class has consisted of multiple racial and ethnic groups, those groups rarely unite for long across racial and ethnic lines. Indeed, when it comes to class warfare, history shows that “diversity” is often a drag, rather than a boon. This in turn suggests that race/ethnicity is for most a stronger identity than class. But this would not be the first time Marxists have badly misread human nature (indeed, many of them deny the very existence of “human nature” altogether!).

        The recent election in Chicago may foretell another sad chapter in this story:

        For those waiting for America’s working classes to unite together and rise up against the “squillionnaires” – based on America’s current demographics, this would require an almost unprecedented degree of unity and cooperation from a very diverse group of people. Maybe that was the reason why so many of the “squillionnaires” have so readily embraced open borders immigration these past few decades?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Actually, I don’t think matters are nearly that simple. However, I’m not going to let something like “homogenous population” slide by unexamined.

          1. Ishmael

            Lambert – I really do not know what you are talking about. Attempt to get German citizenship. Near impossible. Attempt to get Japanese citizenship. Near impossible. These countries are what they are because they have deep cultural ties that unite them and allow them to move forward.

            People grasp calls like “We know the left works” and “We are stornger because we are diverse.” There is absolutely no support for any of that and I will just call BS on it.

        2. optimader

          In Chicago if you hire a trades person it will almost invariably be a Hispanic not a Black person. It is not homogenous, and it is an underlying source of animosity. That’s just the facts on the ground –nibbled around but not confronted explicitly very often IMO.

    9. jrs

      The Detroit thing is a confusing correlation with causation. Detroit was a one industry town that collapsed when that industry shrunk, was outsourced etc.. Much of the rust belt isn’t’ all that much better. Of course Detroit at this point isn’t even a small d democracy as it’s all in receivership etc. as I understand it. It’s kind of odd to make a generalization like Illinois and California aren’t succeeding, since they are succeeding as well as just about any state. Some of the frack boom states are temporarily doing better, but it’s not sustainable. CA is overpopulated for a dessert and worse with climate change (but the whole country is likely to suffer under climate change, the midwest a frying pan …), some government policies encouraged this overpopulation but it’s a bit much to blame it all on local liberal policies.

      And again what right wing country has succeeded? You may say the U.S. is a right wing country, and that would be right. But if your going to handwave away Norway based on it being a petrostate, why not hand wave away the U.S. for being an empire and one heavily involved in hydrocarbons as well, trying to control the middle east for instance, the petrodollar some say.

    10. ishmael

      I ask for examples and the only one you can give is the US after WW2. Oh my cod, you guys make me burst out laughing! By the way, most of the leftist policies you sighted above have led us to where we are today.

      This reminds me of the other day someone was singing the praises of unions and I told they guy to give me the name of one successful company with unions. He named one and I chuckle just like I am now. The company went Chapter 11 and was liquidated.

      And then there is the basic libertard yell of you are racist when I say something about Sweden. I go back and say point out some country which is doing what you want to be done and is successful in current times.

      You guys are chasing unicorns and Chicago has the city government it deserves!

      1. timbers

        I don’t understand why you think post WW2 U.S. doesn’t count, or why you say it was the only example given. Universal single payer healthcare was mentioned and present in many nations.

      2. Code Name D

        This reminds me of the other day someone was singing the praises of unions and I told they guy to give me the name of one successful company with unions. He named one and I chuckle just like I am now. The company went Chapter 11 and was liquidated.

        And this is what it looks like when you don’t have a clue.
        The purpose of a union is to represent the interest of the workers – you know, that liberty and freedom sort of thing.

      3. different clue

        Oh . . . I don’t know . . . quite a few New Deal policies worked and kept on working in the de facto Protectionist national-economic context we had up until GATT Round One. It was a combination of various Free Trade extensions and illegal employment waves by illegal employERS which helped engineer the slide from broad prosperity by the Fifties to the broad poverty we can expect by the 2020s.

        I am a New Deal Reactionary. The New Deal was a good deal for most of us, as far as it went. I want my New Deal back. But that starts with the Abolition of Free Trade and the Restoration of Belligerent “Capitalism in One Country” Protectionism. Or is doesn’t start at all.

        1. jrs

          tariffs and so on do seem the only way to prevent the race to the bottom, that is other than nationalizing every darn thing that threatens to leave. But if you want something that’s not overtly socialist …

          This weak liberalism that doesn’t deal with businesses leaving may not work as criticized by Ishmael but neither does going along with the race to the bottom really work (oh it “works” if you overlook mass impoverishment and suffering).

          Maybe all trade agreements are about corporate rule, some are just completely overt about it.

          1. different clue

            Yes. All trade agreements are indeed about corporate rule, and the Overclass Rule which hides within corporate rule. Going all the way back to GATT Round One at least.
            That depraved little Trade Creep George Ball made that very clear in an article which Matt Stoller shared here once. (Trade Creeps are to trade what Peace Creeps were to peace.)

            Lost Future Economist Charles Walters Jr. wrote about this in Unforgiven. He also wrote about this over and over in his political-economic articles in Acres USA when he was alive as its editor and publisher.

      4. different clue

        Daewoo and Hyundai have unions. Are Daewoo and Hyundai unsuccessful? Oh, and . . . Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen and etc. have unions too. At least their European parts do. Are they unsuccessful? Ford has a union. Is Ford unsuccessful?

        1. Ishmael

          different clue — let me introduce you to a clue — those are all homogenous societies.

          1. different clue


            Let me introduce you to a different clue. Ford and GM take place within heterogenous societies. And they are successful and they have Unions.

    11. OIFVet

      “Yup, it is left wing to the core but still it is bankrupt.” What the hell are you smoking? Name ONE left wing policy that’s the norm in Chicago. The fact is, Chicago is the birthplace of neoliberalism (they don’t call’em ‘Chicago Boys’ for nothing) and in many ways continues to write the neoliberal playbook. Arne Duncan, Paul Vallas, and Richie Daley were opening charter schools before the rest of the country had ever heard of Michelle Rhee and the reform movement. That worked out well… Then there is the privatisations of public property: Chicago led the way and to this day the parking meter deal is widely acknowledged to be the worst privatisation deal in the nation. Rahm has only accelerated the same failed neoliberal policies, what with him being the quintessential Third Way neoliberal.

      I would call your comment neoliberal, except I don’t believe you are as ignorant as you sound. There is a time-honored tradition of passing off neoliberal policies as “left wing policies”, the purpose being to discredit the only possible antidote to the wholesale theft of public assets and the continued redistribution of wealth upwards. Your shtick might work on Yahoo or some such hotbed of ignorance and prejudice, but you are way out of your league in these here parts.

      1. different clue


        I saw your comment a while ago on SST. Welcome to SST if you choose to keep reading and commenting. Reading the granularity of detail of your description of how agents of the US DC FedRegime manipulated political outcomes in Bulgaria demonstrated that it was indeed so.

        I continue to doubt that it was an expansionist DC FedRegime which drove NATO eastward. I continue to think that it was the desperate desire of the ex Warsaw Pact regimes in general which created the vacuum of opportunity into which the DC FedRegime was happy to find itself opportunistically sucked. Though the DC FedRegime was heavily involved in the NATO wannabe intrusion into Ukraine, to be sure.

  4. Eureka Springs

    While I agree with many points made this post is a perfect example of what I have long ago coined as:

    Negotiating in errorism.

    There is no such thing as a good Democrat. It’s not a ‘fixable’ party. It is an ongoing criminal enterprise from it’s core to its ozone… and those coming from a so-called left slant are being handed both a constant reminder and constant losses deservedly so as long as they lie to themselves and others that this party might be any different than it has long been. As long as “the left” identifies with, much less negotiates with the D party… there will be no left.

      1. montanamaven

        Me to give you +100. The Democratic Party is a roach motel. It’s been pretty bad throughout its history. Even it’s name is a lie. At least the Republicans name themselves after what the US is, a “republic” not a democracy. They believe in elite rule. The Democrats do too, but they lie and say they are beholden to the people and call their party “Democratic”. Ha Ha Ha. Yes, occasionally both sides get together and give working people a little something like minimal Social Security rather than a really good National Pension Plan and give us old age medical help rather than Single Payer or Medicare for All. We are like the Dickens character that says, “Please, Suh, Can I have a bit more gruel?” I just can’t pay attention to elections anymore. I don’t care if people jeer at me and say, “You need to look at the big picture. Cuz the Supreme Court. ” or what Dems said to me last time, “What does it get you to be a purist?” Well, I guess I don’t feel dirty.

        1. different clue

          There are still state/regional/local elections worth paying attention to, to be sure.

  5. TedWa

    It’s the same way Monsanto and ilk keep winning against food labeling initiatives. Their opponents never seem to really want to win. Managed democracy, all the outward appearances but few to none of the internal workings.

  6. Steve H.

    Chicago-born. You already got it, Lambert:

    “Garcia had a shot at winning more black votes than he did, but never took it. That’s because he’d rather lose as a “good Democrat” than win as a real one.”

    He never really expected to be in the spotlight, more likely he was simply to function as a vote-siphon from Karen Lewis. It probably took all his courage to just sit there blinking without diving for the floorboards.

    As for ‘leftist government’ and its implementation, there is a simple (if insufficient) answer to what it means to be Progressive: Progressive Taxation. The U.S. was once a progressive nation.

    1. optimader

      more likely he was simply to function as a vote-siphon from Karen Lewis.

      Get your facts straight, Lewis recruited Garcia..

  7. chitownrdh

    I live in Chicago and I think the above analysis is spot on, but two thoughts on the election are:
    1. People would rather vote for the crook they know
    2. There was very low voter turn out partly due to CPS spring break time.
    # 1 is a big factor as I heard that comment from several fellow Chicagoans. Sad but true. People have grown accustomed to the crooked politics of Chicago.
    David Sirota’s reporting was not picked up by local papers or news outlets which is a damn shame.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      On point 2, I should have added that explicitly, in the form of:

      The local press protected Rahm.

      Thing is, Chuy protected Rahm, it looks like. After all, it was his job to turn those stories into issues, and he didn’t!

  8. gaylord

    Blacks are so enamored of “their” guy Obama even though he’s helping the banksters screw them and laughing all the way to the banks. I see His Reverence’s visage emblazoned on some folks’ T-shirts with gold glitter embellishment. I wonder if they feel the same way about another token Supreme Royal, Clarence Thomas. Education can be a dangerous thing when it is directed toward individual financial rewards as a primary goal.

  9. DJG

    My compliments (also a Chicago native and current resident of the 40th Ward). A very good analysis. As several people note (great ellipses, diptherio), leftwing politics and policies have been highly successful, which is why the rightwingers know that they have to engage in scorched-earth politics. “Reform” Social Security into oblivion, charterize the public school system, destroy the IRS, ruin the post office (Benjamin Franklin, dangerous leftist), invent “right to work,” and so on.

    What Chicago still lacks, because corruption is so deep-seated that it undermines daily life and language itself, is a sense of the power of the powerless (from Vaclav Havel). People should be in the streets shaking their keys and throwing small change at their bought politicians. Instead, they stay home, cower, check the schedules for the big festivals in Grant Park (panem et circes), debate ketchup on hotdogs, exchange lumbersexual fashion tips, and repeat the slogans of the rich. Yet this is the city of famous strikes–where May Day as a working-person’s holiday was invented.

    And I’m still not buying the argument that the city and state are bankrupt. That’s a shock-doctrine tactic.

    1. Eric377

      There are many ways to invest in Chicago and Illinois debt, which are well-priced if you believe the risks are overblown.

  10. Dan Lynch

    Excellent info, Lambert. Thanks!

    @Ishmael, Huey Long’s left wing policies worked very well in Louisiana. They only ended because Huey was assassinated, and even then inertia kept them going for many years.

  11. Roquentin

    I remember seeing all these headlines about how the election had “humbled” Rahm. Anyone who buys that is a fool. They try to pull off the same canard about Cuomo here. Neoliberalism is still firmly the reigning ideology in the US, nationwide probably even worldwide. You even see it with Syriza. Finally, a hardline left wing party gets elected, one that would seemingly hold to its principles, but the minute they got in the impossibility of trying to enact any of their platform within the current system became clear.

    We need to stop focusing on ideas like corruption as if they are the primary problem. It makes it seem that we’re in the mess we are because of personal vice. That isn’t it at all. The fact that elections are basically bought and sold should be seen as part of a holistic system which is functioning exactly as it should. For a certain class of people, this is exactly how they want things to work. All of this is a long way of saying that I’m no longer convinced the electoral system is capable of the necessary reforms or that we can vote our way out of this predicament. I’m not sure where that leaves us, and you can draw whatever conclusions from that you like. Because if recent events are any indication, no matter who is elected, they will in a very short amount of time, be forced into acting as willing stewards of the neoliberal economic programme, willing or unwilling.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Rule #2 of neo-liberalism expressed as simple rules is “Go die.” You can’t express that, even obliquely, and be humble.

  12. Jeff N (in Chicago)

    Garcia & Preckwinkle aren’t super popular, they are on the Cook County board, which is thought by some to be a source of Chicagoland’s current ills.

    Karen Lewis is very popular among parents of school-age kids, but to some without kids, not voting for her would be an opportunity to punch a hippy (union member).

    Regarding Rahm’s support, I think the “well-established black political class of preachers, business types, ‘community leaders’ and public officials.” assumed he would win, and threw their support behind him as not to lose any of their own power/funding when the inevitable happened. Father Pfleger stumped for Rahm, and my brother’s union did too (probably to protect Chicago-funded construction projects).

  13. Toni Gilpin

    I’m a Chicagoan, and one who knocked on doors for Chuy, so I’d also agree: very good analysis. But one element you left out was the fractured labor movement, which is a problem here but also undermines the possibility of any progressive transformation of the Democratic Party. Chuy had the CTU but Rahm had HERE, and enough other unions to allow him to trumpet his labor support. A number of important unions, like AFSCME, stayed out of the race. Which is pretty incredible, given not just hedge-fund groupie Rahm’s heavy-handed union-busting here, but of course his role in bringing us NAFTA. (Of course Chuy was also not progressive or aggressive enough on labor issues, but that’s another story.) But so long as the labor movement continues to be willing to forgive and forget on issues as critical as NAFTA, or be bought off (in HERE’s case) by the promise that a casino in the city will get your members some more jobs, then we are really hampered in advancing the progressive cause.

    But that’s been a problem for a long time, especially in my town. DJG made reference to the first May Day, but as a labor historian (and one currently writing something about Haymarket) I feel it necessary to point out that the socialists and the anarchists and the pure-and-simple trade unionists were at loggerheads in 1886, which is part of the reason the 8-hour day movement fell apart then (that and the fact that the plutocrats managed to hang some of them.)

    Anyhow, Nelson Algren said that Chicago is the city where someone is always forgetting to touch second base. So the little guys, at least, get accustomed to losing here. Not always, though: Harold Washington was the exception. We’ll have to wait a bit longer, I guess.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          But it’s not a vacuum. If a union is going to be a union, there needs to be some level of union when discussion is complete. Chicagoans will correct me, but my impression is that the discussion was not well managed, with two factions each endorsing their own candidate.

          1. Toni Gilpin

            And to the extent there was debate, it only happened after the SEIU leadership (or one big local, anyhow) gave Rahm a big contribution without consulting the rank-and-file about it. The SEIU endorsement of Chuy came during the run-off and clearly represented the membership’s unhappiness with the union’s embrace of Emanuel, but some SEIU leaders still tried to undercut the Garcia endorsement once it happened. So yes, actually, the Chuy endorsement did represent something kind of unusual for the SEIU here, which is that the leadership actually altered a position when it seemed clear that the couldn’t shove it down the membership’s throat. Which is not a small thing, and again indicative of how the CTU’s militance has shaken things up in all sorts of ways.

            And on another front call me undemocratic but I don’t see why there needs to be a debate in any union about endorsing Rahm Emanuel. NAFTA, “Fuck the UAW,” and CTU union-busting should begin and end the discussion, after which you either endorse the other candidate, or (maybe better) use your money to go organize the unorganized.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              I got it wrong; I thought it was a faction/faction thing, not a leadership/rank and file thing. But I thought I also remembered SEIU signage at a Rahm rally, late in the election, hence then presumably after the Garcia endorsement. (I should also say that I’m leery of the SEIU because of their role and tactics in passing ObamaCare.)

              1. Toni Gilpin

                No, you could be right about that: the SEIU leadership was clearly in disagreement about how to treat Garcia’s candidacy (some have long been devoted Rahm allies but others weren’t as enthusiastic) and then there was also a membership/leadership split, but I am sure there were Rahm backers within the SEIU ranks as well. There shouldn’t have been any “official” SEIU signs at a Rahm rally, given that the state council endorsed Chuy in the run-off, but clearly (as the story I linked to above indicates) that didn’t settle the matter, at least for the leadership, and any top union official has got to have some following within the ranks. It’s very murky, is all I’m saying. And incidentally there’s some family conflict involved here: the head of the SEIU state council is Tom Balanoff, who has been a major Rahm ally. His cousin Clem Balanoff was Chuy’s campaign chair. Tom’s dad was Jim Balanoff, a leader in the insurgent Steelworkers union and a labor legend here. Here’s some more interesting detail on that family drama, which underscores how difficult it is to figure out what’s going in Chicago from a distance (which is probably true for most cities.)

    1. Steve H.

      I’m going to give you credit for laying down shoe leather. Harold Washington was exceptional, but that doesn’t mean he has to be ‘the’ exception. Underneath all the ‘second (city, base, whatever)’ is another ethos: punch back, hard. The stagnation of the unions disqualifies them from being termed a movement, and the dark cloud of Detroit is just a state away. A serious question: do you think there aren’t enough people in Chicago who’d vote for an active alternative to Rahm selling them out? Myself, I think Harold was on to something.

      1. Toni Gilpin

        Yes, there was a lot of infighting within SEIU over this campaign, and that’s illustrative of the messed-up state of labor politics here. And I didn’t mean to suggest that Washington was or will be the only good thing to ever happen in Chicago, and if I believed that I wouldn’t have been out campaigning for Chuy. But I was displaying perhaps too much of that inbred Chicago resignation, I grant you. Yes, I do believe there are enough working and poor people in Chicago (and the nation) who would choose something different than Rahm and his ilk, if that alternative was a genuine one, well-articulated, and aggressively presented. But that takes building a movement, which is a long-term organizing project, as citizens (most of whom choose not to participate in the electoral process, for which I can’t blame them) would first need to be convinced that activism (which might be electoral politics, or it might be something else) has the potential to change their lives. My reading of history tells me that effective challenges to concentrated economic power (the kind of punching back that matters) must come out of a labor movement, one that recognizes who the enemies of the working class are (regardless of what political party they are in). That sort of perspective is not one necessarily being roundly endorsed by our current union bureaucracy, most especially here in Chicago, because here unions have long been tied into the machine and have resisted, rather than embraced, reform. But the CTU is of course another exception, and their example (and their continued organizing) may yet bode well for the future.

          1. Toni Gilpin

            If Susan Sadlowski Garza — CTU member and daughter of Steelworkers reformer Ed Sadlowski — can hold on to her winning margin (she’s currently ahead by less than 50 [!] votes with some absentee ballots still out) — that will be one of the few bright spots from last Tuesday. But it’s not over ’til it’s over around here. Garza was featured in this Labor Notes publication, which provides good detail about the CTU’s general organizing strategy, so it’s a worthwhile read.

  14. Bobby K

    To do so would have been to directly criticize the regime of black urban politics and the policies of the president himself

    If Chuy did this he’d be called racist, no doubt about it.

  15. Kurt Sperry

    If Chuy had governed as he ran his campaign it may be just as well he lost. He had so many silver platter opportunities to attack Rahm on policy and record and seemingly never missed a chance to miss a chance.

  16. overfriendlyconcierge

    I’ve lived in Chicago for 15 years – I moved here for grad school and never left. I love this city. I have two young children, one of whom attends Chicago Public Schools and one who will in the next year.

    Chicago’s budget crisis is terrifying to me because failure to resolve it may ultimately force me to move away from the city I call home. Our infrastructure is decrepit and schools on the north side of the city are overcrowded. Taxes will certainly go up. The relentless financialization of housing and services and you name it means it costs more to live here with each passing year.

    I really liked Chuy as a candidate, but Chuy had no tangible plan, and I couldn’t in good conscience vote for him for that reason.

    And I’m no big fan of Rahm’s but calling him “Tiny Dancer” ought to be beneath you, Lambert. It’s facile and offensive on multiple levels.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Actually, “Tiny Dancer” is from a local Chicago blog. I’m sure Rahm is wearing his big boy pants and won’t be offended a bit. Any reason this isn’t any more than a routine piece of snark?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I sense an “I voted for Kodos” bumper sticker.

        After elections, polls indicate more people voted for the winner than actually did because the party seems nice. It could be a case of buyers remorse given Rahm’s genuinely awful nature. Only crooks and the ignorant would have voted for him. “Garcia is bad” is the only semblance of an excuse for exercising tribal loyalty to the Team Blue establishment much like the Hillary pro female stuff. Those same voters don’t care about other Team Blue women because they aren’t the establishment. I imagine Rahm has a similar following in Chicago, and to maintain peace of mind and moral superiority over republicans, Rahm voters need a certain justification for voting for an incumbent monster because elites told them to.

        1. different clue

          No . . . many black voters would have voted for Rahm out of pure Race Card Loyalty to Obama. Hopefully the local political science studies of voting patterns will be done.

    2. Ed Walker

      ]Chuy picked up my recent post on swaps ( and how to deal with them, and made that part of his plan. I checked Rahm’s web site, and I saw nothing to tell me how he plans to deal with our finances. Chuy was well ahead on points for the swaps deal alone. You might know that Rahm terminated one last September, at a cost of $35.5 million. He’s going to treat us like the Irish elites treat the Irish: tax the heck out of them to make sure the rich get paid in full.

  17. dbk

    Not a native Chicagoan, but a native Illinoisan and I agree – a very good, if incredibly disheartening, take on the Mayoral run-off.
    Two points as he begins his second term:

    a) the BFF relationship of the Mayor and Illinois’ new Governor cannot be stressed enough. If one is Mayor 1%, the other is Governor .01% – I’m having difficulty understanding why the national progressive press isn’t sounding three-bell alarms on him on a daily basis.
    b) this Mayor needs to be called on every single step he takes, because no step he takes is going to be, mm, old-school Democratic, much less democratic.

    As someone who now lives in a country (yeah, that country) which Illinois will very soon resemble if resistance isn’t mounted, one must struggle to maintain hope. Maintaining hope in Illinois is hard work.

  18. Mattski

    “Karen Lewis would not have been subject to the iron law of institutions”. This directly contradicts Welsh’s assertion that the change needs to come from within the Dem Party. In fact, it shows why it CANNOT; the fix is long since in.

    There is a wholesale shift in American attitudes that finds an increasing consonance of views among working class and non-working people “left” and “right,” that middle class analysts are barely even picking up on. The liberal middle class is increasingly reflexive in its attitudes, tinged with racism, and–following Obama’s lead–as happily militaristic as the Republican side (this was always an enormous impediment to any real progressivism within the Dem party, anyway). Middle America has ALWAYS been willing to shut its eyes to the brutal corporate exploitation of the rest of the world because that was what provided the thin, half-illusory ice of eventual riches it skated on.

    Yes, maybe you could recapture the Dem party after building an alternative–a Working Families Party, etc. But seizing the reins from inside? Fool’s errand we have been out on for far, far too long.

  19. timbers

    The “Karen Lewis would have won” thingy may be true but isn’t good enough. How many times do you suppose the Dem neoliberals have to say “if only so-and-so ran we could have won.”? I guess mostly never. A better reason liberals keep losing is the title of that FB page “If you’re still voting Republican or Democrat you’re part of the problem”

  20. Jose Garcia

    What comes to mind in every election, either local or national, is the following from George Washington’s Farewell Address, “[Political Parties]…However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
    And that goes for both parties. I worked as an election inspector here in my state of New Yawk, and became sick to my stomach seeing the corruption that takes place during elections. I see both parties not through eyes of conspiracies but through eyes that see that we still follow our human nature. These political parties are more like the Gambino and the Colombo crime families. And they run each party like a racket. A lot of money to be made and a lot of power to gain. “WE The People” are damned, because we are too busy with the three P’s. Pot Porn and Primetime TV. Long live the Kardashians!

  21. Jim

    “Its important because left wing policies work”

    “It is necessary to move back to strongly progressive taxation. It is necessary to force the rich to take their loses…”

    In the absence of dramatic participatory democratic structural reform(of Big State, Big Capital and Big Bank) successful left wing policies are irrelevant.

    It is now necessary to think beyond the contemporary fusion of states and markets.

    The assumption that modern State power is a defender of popular interests is largely wrong.(think surveillance and military-corporate interests).

    Occasionally States have protected local community interests but much more often global business (Big Capital) works hand in glove to promote the interests of both Big Capital and Big State.

    It is no longer adequate to hope that corporate power, when rightly regulated with State power or competently counterbalanced by organized labor can be fair or efficient. The social and cultural conditions which briefly created such a historical situation no longer exist.

    Attempts by many progressive intellectuals to blame only local communities for racism, xenophobia and intolerance while holding that the modern State as society’s last best hope for enlightened humanism is no longer convincing.

    The Post World War II hope that a concentration of polical power within a nation-state under the firm control of selfless public servants administrating wise progressive policy is now in the dustbin of history.

  22. Oregoncharles

    “The first step to fixing America is fixing the Democratic party,”
    That’s a lot worse than useless. Progressives have been trying to do that for at least 30 years. During that time, the DP has moved ONLY to the Right. Experience says that trying to “fix” it only makes it worse – I think by confirming a commitment to the party, leaving them with no reason to stop chasing the big bucks.

    “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Then, if you don’t succeed, wise up and give up. That was clear back in the 90’s when Slick Willy was in charge. Now they’re going to run Slick Hillary – only she isn’t all that slick, and may well lose. Again: history says the parties take turns in the Presidency, 2 full terms at a time.

    The first step to fixing America is to destroy the Democratic Party – or at least make them into the right-wing party, which is what they really are, leaving the Republicans as the far-right fringe they really are. There’s a vast gulf on the Left, which, according to issue polls, is where the People are. That means overcoming a vast amount of complacency and blind habit in the electorate, and among progressives, overcoming fear-based voting. You can’t expect your politicians to “grow a spine” if you don’t have one in the voting booth.

    (The “spineless” meme is a fraud anyway; they have lots of “spine’ when it comes to defying their “base.” What they are is crooked – the point of this article.)

    I support the Green Party because it’s the only viable leftl-wing party we have. That’s the result of a lot of work by damn few people. If lots more want to jump on board, that’s fine with us, and we’d be happy to discuss a Syriza-like coalition. We need to overcome the Left’s habit of splitting (Rocky Anderson, I’m looking at you.)

    Having said that, I’ll go back to reading Lambert’s article.

    1. habenicht

      I agree with Oregoncharles here. Doesn’t that definition of insanity that Einstein posited (doing the same thing but expecting a different result) apply to continued efforts to reform the democrats from within?

      Going green might not be the easiest way forward, but it seems to me to be the less insane route to implement progressive policies.

  23. Oregoncharles

    Chuy didn’t run the campaign he could and should have because that would have cut off his career in the Democratic Party. (And maybe because he’s actually pretty neo-liberal himself.) That sort of thing is where party membership counts – it puts restraints on even the most “progressive” office holders. Hell, Kucinich backed down on Obamacare and STILL got run out.

  24. Sam Kanu

    “…What I would like someone to point out to me is one leftist govt that has ever succeeded. Okay, you will point out maybe Norway and Sweden. Well since I have lived in Norway I know that country first hand. It is succeeding right now due to oil. Retirement age in Sweden is 72….”

    A few points on this:
    – Norway is not just doing well because of oil. If you look at the underlying economics of the country, they do well at having more equitable distribution of income, rather than just only redstribution via taxation. The effect of this is less social problems, less alientation less crime, a highly productive workforce accross the board, and one in which women are freed up to contribute more in the workforce than the US for example.

    None of that is dependent on oil. What oil does is increase the income available to the country, but at the base level they do an outstanding job of making sure it does not end up in the pockets of a small few. That is what differntiates Norway from not just Angola but also USA, which is actually the richest country in the world, but with awfully lopsided sharing of that huge cake.

    – Sweden retirement age is 72? You might want to augment that by also telling people that Sweden’s population has one of the longest lifespans in the world, and at that they live healthy active lives for longer. That because of the social welfare system catching children’s problems early, universal healthcare and healthy active lives including a lot of outdoor activity, not just sitting on the couch watching 500 channels. A Swedish 72 year is is probably in about the same health/activity level as an American 62-65 year old. It is important to mention that. The same is true of Norway by the way.

    – Neither country has a “homogenous” population anymore. Much is made of third world immigration but in fact immigrants in those countries as just as likely to be Polish or British or whatever, as much as they might be from former Yugoslavia or Iran or whatever.

    And one of the biggest immigrant group in Scandinavia is people from other Scandinavian countries. Yet a Dane living in Sweden or a Icelander living in Norway is as much at “home” a Briton in the USA: language mutually intelligible but still a fish well out of its own pond. Its not as “homogenous” as you think.

    Stereotypes do not match the reality.

    1. Ishmael

      Hey Sam, you ever freaking lived and worked in Scandinavia, didn’t think so! Well I have. What was I doing there. Everything the Scandainavians could not do for themselves. I love a lot about the countries but their helplessness of some of the people is sometimes overwhelming. Their socalism makes a large group of people in these countries very unproductive and parasitical just like the US has become in the last freaking 30 years ago. I will have to tell you that sometimes my mouth was just hanging open from the incompetence I would run into. Even now with the drop of oil prices in Norway it is having a major impact.

      1. Sam Kanu

        Hey Sam, you ever freaking lived and worked in Scandinavia, didn’t think so! Well I have.

        Am struggling to understand on what basis you managed to conclusively determined where I had lived or not. None, as far as I can see. Just made up an answer that you wanted. Which seem to mirror the methodology underlying rest of your argumentation.

        Hey Sam, you ever freaking lived and worked in Scandinavia, didn’t think so! Well I have. What was I doing there. Everything the Scandainavians could not do for themselves. I love a lot about the countries but their helplessness of some of the people is sometimes overwhelming. Their socalism makes a large group of people in these countries very unproductive and parasitical just like the US has become in the last freaking 30 years ago.

        This is empty rhetoric. Every single one of those countries produces more stable, well adjusted adults than the US. Produces less crime and more social stabilty. Produces more meritocracy, as measured by childrens ability to succeed in life independent of their parents wealth and or social staus. In fact on all these measures, these countries generally lead the “OECD league tables”, with the US and UK generally somewhere around last on the list. And they actually manage to have comparable rates of entrepreneurship establishment compared to the US, especially when adjusted for the lack of a “silicon vally VC” sack of money. Reason for that is, surprise – that there is a safety net below allowing people to try their luck if their really believe in something, without putting their kids on the street if it fails.

        Of course all that is in itself a crime as far as many American are concerned. Which is the REAL issue, isnt it.

        These are not ideal societies. Nowhere is. But you’re obviously hell bent on developing an extremely false picture that bears no relationship to the reality in these places.

    2. Ishmael

      You really do not believe Iceland and Danes are part of the same ethnic group as Swedes and Norwegian. Huh! Now Finns are different who are Slavic but Iceland, Danes, Norwegians and Swedes are practically all one and the same and Scotland also.

      1. different clue

        Since when are Finns “slavic”? Aren’t Finns “Fenno-Ugrian” ? That is, aren’t they distantly related to
        Hungarians, Estonians, and etc.? What’s so “slavic” about that? Can’t you even keep your ethnic groups straight?

  25. Lewis

    I think one reason Emanuel won is because there’s a lack of solidarity city-wide. We don’t really have a way of saying “This is Chicago, and this is what it means to be in Chicago.” Emanuel ran a Clinton-style attack on Chuy, he got his school ideas from DC, which everyone politely forgot to label as austerity. We should be afraid of someone coming out of Washington DC. But he was able to buy off or exploit his challengers like a sovereign emperor. You can win an endorsement by bullying or appealing to someone’s self-interest. It sort of looks democratic, but as you are proving, they’re not really good indicators of the worth of the candidates. Endorsements were almost the exclusive focus of The Sun-Times. And since most people read the Sun-Times or the Tribune, both of which endorsed Emanuel and downplayed or spun his faults, that means something. Even outside editorials, the Sun-Times attacked the teacher’s union in their coverage of the strike, and had Neil Steinberg devote a whole column to downplaying the torture site scandal. The Tribune hit Emanuel with a few damning stories come election year, but also ran editorials from the radical right that made him look reasonably left-wing in comparison, without him having to move an inch. Actually, the Sun-Times itself praised the pro-austerity angle (coded as anti-teacher, or sometimes white paternalism over black and brown kids in the national press). Most of Emanuel’s crimes and scandals are scattered in back-issues.

    So the business class got to decide the election, and I’m not so sure Lewis would win as handily as that poll suggests. We have scattered unions and ethnic allegiances, a few new devoted Occupy groups. But there’s not enough coordination. Maybe Lewis would have inspired that to develop, maybe not. The anti-torture protest (largely black) was held on the same day as the anti-keystone pipeline (largely white). Without universities, journalists, unions and popular groups coordinating, all it takes is a bully to come along and make token moves to the left, as if to say “That ought to shut you up.” There were a few journalists willing to outright criticize Emanuel, notably David Sirota and every once and a while Ben Jorvasky. But when I tried bringing them up to people, I was often dismissed as one of those cynical Rahm-haters. Most left-wing demonstrators I talked to were intereseted in dirt on Emanuel, but also told me they weren’t voting because the two-party system is a lie. On top of that, Emanuel’s campaign was able to produce a Chuy-related mirror image of every piece of dirt found out about him, co-opting some of whatever left-wing tendencies might develop. Clearly, we lack informed voters, and so without education there won’t be informed politicians trying to woo their vote. So in fact, Rahm did show people how to “tame” the left, by exploiting the shortcomings of democracy that already existed here.

  26. cripes

    “The assumption that modern State power is a defender
    of popular interests is largely wrong.(think surveillance
    and military-corporate interests).”
    Or even that it could, under the right leadership, serve that purpose, is essentially the anarchist critique, and one we have to deal with between occasional bouts of voting against creeps like Rahm.

    Living in Chicago, I am still stunned at the number of black voters (significant here as elsewhere a legacy of the 1960’s voting rights movement) who flatly said they would not vote for a hispanic, who would help “his people” despite Chuy being recruited by Karen Lewis, and said they would prefer the crooked Rahm they knew, who might be “tough enough” to oppose the republican governor or to win “bizniz” for the city that could vaguely benefit them.
    Neoliberalism, Obamaism, tribal diversity or cronyism motivate them and little regard for history, class or even racial interests.
    Chicagos white, hispanic and other voters are nothing to brag about, but it seems likely Chuys failure to recruit black voters, and their failure to see the writing on the wall, doomed the effort.
    But Rahm remains unpopular, and a true charlatan.

    1. different clue

      It sounds more like black voters failed to be recruitable, rather than any failure-to-recruit on Chuy’s part.

  27. Bob Swern

    It all boils down to one incisive sentence, really: “People focus on the TV ads. I’d like to know about the walking around money.”

    It’s Chicago. Money (and secret deals, with pay-it-forward quid pro quos) talks. Period. End of story.

    1. Toni Gilpin

      Oh yeah — the walking around money. When I was canvassing on election day, we saw a lot of Rahm door hangers that were hung on fences and outside doors on two flats, etc. — the sort of thing paid canvassers do who don’t care enough to open the gate or the front door of the apartment building. So for sure Rahm was using some of his $30 million for old-fashioned get-out-the-vote payola. On the other hand, we also encountered a lot of Rahm lit on homes that had been identified as places where Chuy supporters lived, so somebody’s i.d.s were wrong. I’m going to guess that it was Chuy’s campaign that had the bad info, both because I think the Emanuel camp switched a lot of votes toward the end of campaign, with the relentless negative advertising, and because the initial canvassing by the Chuy camp, hastily done and with a lot of eager but undisciplined volunteers, wasn’t all that good. Which just speaks to the fact that it is hard, in one month, to build a really effective electoral operation, no matter who your candidate is and how enthusiastic your volunteers might be. And one final note that is just sort of amusing: we were canvassing in the Ravenswood neighborhood, where Rahm lives. There are a lot of tear-down megamansions there, cheek-by-jowl next to well-worn two-flats or small single-family homes. (And a number of the megamansions have something new I hadn’t seen: skybridges, literally, connecting the house to the renovated garage with its rooftop deck. So you can walk from the house to the garage deck without having to cross the tiny yard.) It got so we didn’t even need to check the addresses, or the yard signs: we knew which bells we would want to ring. And just a note about how it is difficult here to characterize who might be “progressive:” the owners of the megamansions are relatively young, and I am sure are socially liberal, funders of NARAL and etc, but they planted their Rahm sings on their front lawns. The run-down two-flats where the Chuy voters lived were often occupied by 80-year old Polish Catholic grandmothers.

        1. Bob Swern

          I originally heard the term in Boston, 35+ years ago, when I was working on one of my first political media campaigns. (I was in my early 20s. David Garth was the campaign’s media guru. So, the “relationship,” for lack of a better word, between tv/media and walking around money was especially notable to yours truly. It’s amazing what a $100 bill will do to enhance a “media impression.”) Back then, it was referred to as “WAM.” (Pronounced like the word: “wham.”)

  28. MG

    It is a lot simpler than this from the numbers I have seen – ‘progressives’ simply can’t win especially in national races because they can’t begin to raise the money required and the Boomers/seniors (55+) are the most consistent voting block especially in primaries and they could care less as no one at the Federal level goes after their pensions/benefits in any kind of meaningful way.

    Sadly the only times progressives generally have made ‘progress’ is either when a number of people die in a high-profile incident (especially women and/or children) which makes the status quo unacceptable over the interim or when faced with the prospect of serious and sustained upheaval. Even then, just look at the late 1870s through the 1910s when the nouveau riche dealt with it – force and dramatic escalation of force if necessary. If the privatized goons/security forces weren’t enough and the local authorities were unwilling/sided with the labor unrest, then the state militia and others would be deployed as necessary to restore order.

    We are at a point again in our history where it is going to take enough Americans to ‘get hit over the head with a shovel’ and hurting again to get real & sustained action to try to roll back some of what happened the past 30 years. The problem is that the people in charge who have put in the neoliberal policies have sold large amounts of valuables and know-how in the interim and are now eating into the seed corn. Even if there is real action and the window for progressive change, is there going to be enough left in the store house to even enact it?

  29. Sean0

    Rahm won this election once Terri Precwinkle decided not to run.
    She was smart, viable & clean.
    There were no others, except maybe Tom Dart (cook county sheriff).
    Chuy. please. Way out of his depth.

  30. Padraig

    Chuy had major credibility issues with the average voter. He made a lot of promises with few specifics. Voters recognized he either wasn’t going to be able to keep his promises, or even worse, would have required steep tax and fee hikes.

    As for Karen Lewis, let’s not deify her just because she’s ill. She would have lost to Rahm as well and pretty damn badly. The truth is she is a very polarizing figure with a large group of people that dislike her as well.

    Running a candidate whose platform was way to the left of a liberal like Rahm never had a chance in the current fiscal environment.

    1. Kyle

      Padraig and Tony, or anyone else that might have info on Chicago voters in relation to tax sensitivity.

      How sensitive are Chicagoans to the specter of increased taxes?

      Which of the candidates were most likely to have been a threat for increased taxes, RE or Chuy?

      Thanks for any help.

      1. Toni Gilpin

        Neither candidate openly indicated they would raise property taxes (or taxes of any kind, on anybody), but Rahm’s campaign got a lot of traction insisting that a Garcia election would lead to a property tax increase. Which was pretty incredible, coming from Rahm, as this story makes clear — it’s maybe a little dense on the local detail, but should tell you what you need to know.

  31. cripes

    Padraig’s rebroadcast of Rahm’s billionaire-PAC, focus group tested, wurlizter propaganda is so pitch perfect it almost reads like satire. This is what happens when memes are implanted. Oh, and thanks for the beautiful description of why liberals are so foully right-wing. Excellent!

  32. cripes

    “sounds more like black vorers failed to be recruited…”
    Really? How did you arrive at that conclusion?

    1. different clue

      I’m afraid it is not a conclusion. It is just a suspicion. It is impossible to conclude anything unless and until
      the granularly detailed study and analysis of voting patterns is conducted and concluded.

      And I should have phrased my thought more clearly. So here goes. I suspect the Black Voters of Chicago are so Black Racistly Tribally-Race-Card loyal to Obama that they would have been utterly immune to any recruitment efforts from Chuy no matter how much and how good.

      Now, had Ms. Lewis not gotten sick and been able to stay in the race, how would the Chicago black voters have voted? It is unfortunate the experiment was not run. But she did. So the anti-latinoitic Black Racist anti-latinoites preferred Four More Years of Massa Rahm than to ever permit a Latino officeseeker to ever dare to become Mayor. Well . . . alrighty then, as I said before. Let Black Chicago have its beloved Obama’s choice of Mayor yet again.

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