‘The Left Blows its Big Chance,” read the February 2011 headline. My column predicted that Chicago’s so-called progressives would fail in their crusade to win the 5th Floor of City Hall.
Three weeks later, Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago.
Will they blow it again?
The last time progressives took City Hall was in 1987, when Harold Washington, the only progressive mayor in the city’s history, was re-elected to a second term. His coalition of blacks, Latinos and white liberals never recovered from Washington’s sudden death that November.
They can’t seem to manage the fundamental arithmetic of winning politics: addition, not subtraction. Consolidate the black vote behind a charismatic, qualified African-American candidate and sell a reform agenda to other progressives, and people of color.
Many aspirants have been dispatched to fly the progressive flag. Every effort dissolved into infighting, miscalculation, grandstanding and hubris.
Now, once again, progressives are talking tough.
Last week MoveOn.org released a survey reporting that 85 percent of respondents “said they want to see a ‘progressive challenger’ run against Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Only 15 percent of respondents said they support Mayor Emanuel for re-election in 2015,” the press missive read. Moveon.org surveyed 75,000 members of its political action group citywide. They expressed “an overwhelming desire” to dump Emanuel, and favored 2nd Ward Ald. Robert Fioretti, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Apparently the leading candidate was unmoved. The next day, Preckwinkle dropped out of the running.
On Thursday, Grassroots Illinois Action launched a campaign to create a “grassroots-driven website to hold Chicago aldermen accountable and to connect residents to important citywide issues.”
There is opportunity. Emanuel’s natural political base and ideology centers on the downtown honchos and monied classes. Challengers to his loyal aldermen are sprouting up so fast that I need a spreadsheet to keep track.
Yet, since 1987, the “progressive movement” has batted zero in its pledge to take back City Hall. The movement I detect is coming from a lot of lips — whining, kvetching and signifying.
A victorious dump-Rahm effort rests on a unified and robust black turnout behind one standout candidate. Last week, Karen Lewis emerged as the next leading contender. Prominent African-American electeds such as congressmen Bobby Rush and Danny Davis touted her potential candidacy.
Forty-eight hours later, a stealth movement was trying to shove her aside, floating names like the perennial wannabe candidate, State Sen. Kwame Raoul, and Emil Jones, the long-retired Illinois Senate President. (Raoul told the Sun-Times he is not interested.)
Can the old boys in the back room settle on one credible consensus candidate and stick with a program?
Fioretti craves the sound of “mayor” next to his name. He is raising money for a run, which, of course, would split the progressive vote.
The Chicago City Council boasts two competing “progressive” caucuses. Some of its most prominent members are Emanuel lackeys.
It’s just seven months to the February 2015 election. Emanuel has more than $8 million tucked away in his campaign kitty.
Since 2011, progressive voices have been blowing hard about registering voters, raising money, and running candidates.
Will progressives defy history, vanquish the big egos and infighting, and get organized? Or will they blow it, once again?
They call it “The Windy City,” don’t they?