Progressives have just 1 option for a de Blasio-style triumph in Chicago

Written By By LAURA WASHINGTON Posted: 02/28/2014, 12:15am

It’s a tale of two cities. A tale of two movements, and two mayors: Rahm Emanuel and Bill de Blasio. Chicago and New York City reside in parallel universes. Their politics are overwhelmingly democratic, but moving in different directions. One left, one right.

De Blasio was swept into office on a call to action from New York City’s progressives. Emanuel faces a progressive threat as he approaches a 2015 re-election bid.

Emanuel is blowing up Chicago’s public education system. De Blasio wants universal pre-kindergarten in his schools. Emanuel is sticking his finger in the dike of tax increases, while de Blasio wants to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Emanuel wants to privatize everything from garbage collection to mammogram services. De Blasio stumps for more government.

Chicago progressives are apoplectic at Emanuel’s right-of-center, non-programmatic strategy. He says, just get things done, ideology be damned. They call him Mayor 1 Percent, an anathema to the teachers union, the occupiers and remnants of the old Harold Washington coalition.

Knees are knocking at New York’s millionaires’ clubs, as de Blasio’s populist rhetoric resounds with the voters. Last week, Manhattan’s upper East Siders were aghast that snow was allowed to accumulate on their golden streets. When Gotham was hit with more than 11 inches of the white stuff, its newly minted mayor was accused of favoring the hoi polloi over the Masters of the Universe.

“Whispers turned to shouts, amplified by a GPS map suggesting city snowplows had ignored the East Side for hours,” The New York Times reported Thursday. “ ‘Shambles,’ blared the New York Post. Sacré bleu, cried the residents.”

(Heh-heh. Next thing you know, the East Siders will be forced to adopt Chicago’s dibs system, and plunking down their fancy Louis XIV chairs to “reserve” dug-out parking spaces.)

Meanwhile, Chicago’s progressives need to shovel themselves out of their own Private Idaho.

So far, they talk big talk, declaring that Mayor 1 Percent will be a one-termer. They’re gonna register hundreds of thousands of voters. They’re on the hunt for a high-profile, true blue lefty to take on Emanuel.

So far, it’s hakn a tshaynik — Yiddish, Wikipedia says, meaning, “to rattle on loudly and insistently, but without any meaning.”

The opposition is surely on to something. Emanuel may have millions in his political kitty, but he is vulnerable. He has no natural base. But to beat Rhambo, the opposition must turn up the temperature in this icebox town, and recruit its own de Blasio.

Someone who can straddle race and class divisions. Someone with an ironclad base on the South and West sides and Latino territory. Someone who is a bona fide manager and leader.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is the only logical, viable and formidable choice.

A Preckwinkle vs. Emanuel race would be a national headliner, pitting President Barack Obama’s former alderman against his former chief of staff. Talk about hot.


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