Just when I was disgustingly admitting that I had resigned myself to our country’s descent into a permanent oligarchy, with elections marinated in money and the public’s sheepish complicity in the matter, some momentary sunshine has peeked through the ominous clouds that shroud my political psyche. This bit of light came in the form of the Chicago mayoral election of February 24th, when the current corporatist Mayor Emmanuel, armed with a campaign war chest of more than 30 million dollars, was unable to garner more than 50% of the vote, forcing a run-off in April.
His four main opponents could have pooled all their campaign dollars and maybe come up with a few million bucks to buy some air time, so thus the prediction was that Rahm Emmanuel, who had been flooding the airwaves with self-congratulating ads for months, would easily swat away his pauper-like opponents and continue with business as usual: school closings, union-busting, social program budgets slashed, to name a few of his “achievements”.
Never mind that the mayor’s ads were revisionist in their distorting of this record, if not flat-out fictions; the public (far and wide) has been shown to not exactly think on their feet when it comes to making electoral choices. By now, it’s a common occurrence to have voter’s elect candidates who immediately strive to make their constituent’s financial lives harder while cow towing to the so-called 1%-ers. Ever heard of the book What’s the Matter with Kansas? It documents this phenomenon of voting against one’s best interest by succumbing to fear appeals and one-issue fervor. Hmm. What’s the matter with the mostly minority people of Chicago? Thirty years ago they got Harold Washington (an African-American) elected, beating not one, but two Machine Democrats in Jane Byrne and Rich Daley. Daley!
I was assuming that wasn’t going to happen again based on Rahm’s seeming underfunded, late-to-the party, competition, that money would talk as bullshit walks, and he’d casually cruise back up to the 5th floor of City Hall.
Not so fast!
Someone pinch me! Chuy Garcia and his 1.5 million dollar campaign drew 35% of the vote, and the other outsiders collected about another 20% of the vote. Thus the run-off. As a result I feel–for the first time in a long, long time–that the public may be shaking off its political stupor and seeing reality for what it is. Sure, it’s a drop in the national bucket as far as progressive positives go, but if Mr. Garcia can win outright in that run-off, it could embolden others to show up and vote for their interests rather than have big money lull them into the sleep of indifference or the curse of non-critical thinking.
Maybe it’s just a momentary blip on the right-wing radar screen of the Koch Brothers, Citizens United, Tea Party predatory capitalist control freaks. They’ll send out their expensive media war weapons to drown out any dissent, no doubt. But Chicago could be the clarion call that can be heard above the prevaricating bombast we’ve been exposed to for decades.
At least for Tuesday night, there was a genuine We the People moment.
The public needs to listen. Then they can make sure they’ll be heard.
For the time being, that sliver of sunshine will have to do, as springtime, rebirth and regeneration draws near…