Mar 4, 2019
Chicago’s next mayor will be a black woman, either Lori Lightfoot or Toni Preckwinkle. Out of 14 candidates, these two made the runoff in the February 26 election. They will face off on April 2.
Given Chicago’s racist history, and racist present, it can seem like a major step forward that two black women, one of them openly gay, come out on top.
But this election was not like 1983, when Harold Washington was elected Chicago’s first black mayor. He was elected with a very high turnout from the city’s black population, mobilized by people who had come out of the black movement. In the current election, neither of the candidates excited the city’s working class. This was reflected in very low voter turnout: the second-lowest turnout in Chicago history, just 34%.
And neither Lightfoot nor Preckwinkle won in the bulk of the working class precincts. A third candidate, Willie Wilson, won in the majority of the black neighborhoods. Lightfoot dominated the wealthiest neighborhoods on the North Side, while Preckwinkle won votes especially in her base around Hyde Park, Bronzeville, and South Shore, where she had served as alderman.
Now the two candidates are fighting over who is the most “progressive.” But both have shown they will serve the capitalists and the elite while having little to offer the city’s working class.
As President of the Cook County Board of Supervisors, Toni Preckwinkle carried out a series of attacks on the county’s workers and the people they serve. She oversaw the conversion of the Oak Forest hospital, a public hospital in the south suburbs, to an outpatient facility, with dire consequences for its sickest patients. Under her, Cook County Health systems increasingly hired temp workers to undercut the full-time, unionized staff.
Preckwinkle even brags that there are 1,000 fewer people working for the County today than when she took over. She acted like every other boss, to the detriment of County workers and the people they serve.
Lightfoot’s record is no better. In addition to working as a federal prosecutor and corporate lawyer, Lightfoot’s main political experience has been serving as the political cover for the Chicago Police Department. From 2002 to 2004, she headed the Office of Professional Standards, charged with investigating accusations of police misconduct. During this time, Detective Reynaldo Guevara and Sergeant Ronald Watts carried out a reign of terror, torturing dozens of suspects into false confessions. The OPS did nothing about it.
Lightfoot now poses as a police reformer because she advocated making some changes to the police, after the video of Officer Jason Van Dyke murdering Laquan McDonald caused an uproar. But her appointment to the Police Accountability Task Force in 2015 was clearly aimed at giving the police political cover after the tape came out.
Both candidates support continued tax breaks for business. As Cook County Board President, Preckwinkle signed on to Chicago’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, which would have given the super-rich company billions of dollars. And Lightfoot agreed.
In fact, both Preckwinkle and Lightfoot say that the way to help fight poverty in Chicago is to support business even more. We’ve heard these trickle-down theories before. They don’t work.
Both candidates talk as if big business and the working class have the same interests. But that is a lie. Workers’ standard of living in Chicago is going down exactly because business has been doing so well exploiting us – and stealing our tax money to boot!
This election in Chicago illustrates very clearly the dead end of “progressive” politics. The next mayor of Chicago will be a black woman – but she will also be a politician who will carry out business as usual.