Black establishment leaders who backed Vallas’ campaign against Johnson big losers in mayor’s election

In an election that was a showdown between old-school politicians and new-thought leaders, many prominent Black political figures lined up behind Paul Vallas.

SHARE Black establishment leaders who backed Vallas’ campaign against Johnson big losers in mayor’s election
Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson being welcomed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday to the mayor’s office at City Hall.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson is welcomed Thursday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to the mayor’s office at City Hall.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor Brandon Johnson.

For a lot of Chicagoans, that’s going to take some getting used to.

After all, Johnson didn’t win by a landslide or a wide margin. Even with an army of foot soldiers provided by powerful labor unions, Johnson just squeaked past Paul Vallas, his seasoned opponent.

Johnson’s narrow victory means he has to win over many people. Many of us didn’t know whom we were going to vote for until a poll worker handed over a ballot and pointed us to a voting booth.

Then, we stood there thinking — not about the campaign rhetoric and promises that the candidates made over what seemed like an endless election cycle but about which candidates could do the least harm in a city struggling to get back on its feet.

Because Johnson was positioned as the progressive candidate, he was an easy choice for young voters who have yet to taste the bitterness of experiencing a candidate who fails to deliver on campaign promises.

But, as my colleague Lynn Sweet pointed out in a column, early figures from the Chicago Board of Elections showed that, of those who cast a ballot, “only 3.30% were between 18 and 24.”

The young people who voted did their part. But their peers weren’t excited about either candidate.

So what does that mean?

I think Generation Next — those Chicagoans holding it down in their neighborhoods — are sick and tired of seeing old-school activists pushing old-school candidates. They want fresh ideas and don’t want to wait decades for a change.

In short, many young people don’t trust the system or those who run it.

This election was a showdown between old-school politicians and new-thought leaders.

That so many prominent Black establishment leaders lined up behind Vallas, a political insider who was chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, might have been Vallas’ undoing.

Yes, we’ve come a long way from the 1983 Chicago mayoral election, when Harold Washington’s victory made history, and every Black person you ran into was wearing a “Harold” button.

In this instance, the old guard of Chicago’s Black political leadership proudly lined up behind Vallas.

Those leaders included former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, former U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 8th Ward Ald. Michelle Harris, 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale and businessman and former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson.

Regarding leadership, Black people have looked to those Black men and women in power to use their platforms to lift and support other Black people.

Because if the Black people who are in positions of power don’t give opportunities to the next generation, then who will?

In this election, Black leaders had an opportunity to pass the mantle of leadership to Johnson, who had the backing of some powerful political allies and the community — and they chose not to.

It was an embarrassment.

As mayor, Johnson has promised to unite the city.

It is a significant promise.

But, having emerged victorious in this mayoral election with a mandate that should have been freely given, I don’t put it past him.

The Latest
The Democratic commissioner was known for his advocacy of improving mental health care.
This list is a combination of obscure players on the recruiting front who helped raise their stock and others who have received attention –– and even offers –– but should have a whole lot more.
Two years after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Illinois takes in more out-of-state abortion patients than any other state. Reproductive rights and abortion access remain constantly under threat.
Phil Grenchik landed a big walleye while trolling for steelhead last week.
She was shot in the leg while in a car in the 2500 block of West Divison Street about 11 p.m.