The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago Mayoral Election:
No Mandate for Emanuel

Apr 13, 2015

Rahm Emanuel will be mayor of Chicago for another four years, winning 56 percent of the vote, compared with 44 percent for his opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Both are Democrats in this non-partisan election.

As usual, most people felt they had nothing to gain from voting, and in reality, not voting won the election, with 60% of registered voters not turning out. And the registered voters already excludes a huge number of people who either see no reason to vote or who cannot register because they’re not citizens or because they’re on parole or probation.

The biggest part of Emanuel’s margin of victory came from the city’s richest neighborhoods. Emanuel won every one of the city’s 12 most well-off wards, which are majority white, and these wards accounted for 80 percent of his winning margin. In the wealthy 42nd ward downtown, for instance, Emanuel got 85 percent of the vote. No surprise. Emanuel serves these wealthy people well.

By contrast, Garcia won 70 percent of the vote in the wards that are over 65 percent Latino. It’s understandable that Mexicans might want to vote for one of their own, in a city where they make up a big percentage of the population and where they have been traditionally excluded from power, in the same way that many black voters backed Obama.

Garcia said he wanted to forge a “brown-black” coalition. Yet Emanuel won 57 percent of the vote in the majority black wards, effectively giving him the rest of his margin of victory. Black Chicagoans may have had many reasons to vote against Emanuel: he closed schools overwhelmingly in black neighborhoods, where crime, unemployment, and foreclosures have hit the black population hardest of any group in the city. But that doesn’t mean they had a reason to vote for Garcia, and in fact turnout in the predominantly black wards was just 35 percent - meaning that 65 percent of black registered voters saw no point in voting for either candidate.

Black resentment of immigrants may have played a role in the low black vote for Garcia. It certainly can seem to black workers that they are being bypassed by the Mexican immigrants coming into Chicago “taking their jobs,” even if the reality is that the bosses are the ones taking the jobs. And Emanuel played on this idea, promising that he would bring jobs to the black neighborhoods and that a Garcia victory would lead to job losses. Some commentators on black radio stations also discussed whether Garcia would give all the city jobs to Mexicans. The tension between black and immigrant Chicagoans has long helped the wealthy maintain political power in this majority working-class city.

Emanuel will use the election results to argue that he has a mandate from the population to carry out his policies. He ran saying he could make the “tough choices” – and he’s already preparing the ground for more attacks on the population. But Emanuel got less than 325,000 votes in a city of two million adults, and those votes were disproportionately from the wealthy. That is, he was supported by just 1/6 of the population. Emanuel will be mayor for the next four years, but despite the propaganda, he has no “mandate” from Chicago’s working class majority.