From the March-April 2023 issue of News & Letters
Chicago—The race for mayor of Chicago is now between Brandon Johnson, a teacher endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), and Paul Vallas, a former boss of the Chicago Public Schools who trashes the CTU at every opportunity. Thus the runoff election on April 4 will be in part a referendum on rank-and-file unionism. It will be a paler version of the showdown expected back in 2015 until cancer prevented the late Karen Lewis from running against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
CRIME TRUMPS EDUCATION
Lewis, as CTU President and leader of the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE), had led the seven-day CTU strike in 2012 with the overwhelming support of the public, including parents, who identified strikers as fighting for students’ needs alongside the demands of teachers. Emanuel had been dismissive of Lewis and mass marches of striking teachers and allies, but was humiliated himself by being forced to meet their demands.
But right-wingers and cops want the election to hinge on “crime is out of control” instead. They have enlisted Vallas to spew that message. As first CEO of Chicago Public Schools in 1995 after the School Board was dissolved, he decided his job would be to starve public schools and direct public money to privately run charter schools.
After running for Illinois offices in every election cycle, four years ago he garnered less than 6% of the vote for mayor. But as the endorsed candidate of the racist, MAGA police union leadership, and the only white guy, this perennial losing candidate leaped into the lead with 33% of the first-round vote.
It is akin to 40 years ago when, to try to block the election of Harold Washington after a movement in the Black community had given him the Democratic nomination, 80% of lifelong Democratic white voters marked their ballots for the unknown Republican. Mayors who came after Washington’s election and re-election returned Chicago to governing for the benefit of insider contractors supping at the public trough, sort of like an oligarch-dominated Russia writ small. This will continue if the election is twisted into debating issues around crime.
—Harold Washington voter