November 18, 2013


How Mayor Rahm Emanuel Awoke A Progressive Resistance in Chicago : The war between Chicago's 99% and the new mayor. (KARI LYDERSEN, 11/18/13, In These Times)

Many pundits describe Emanuel as the epitome of the modern centrist neoliberal Democrat. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is often viewed as a symbol of neoliberalism, a global socioeconomic doctrine with intellectual roots in Chicago. Emanuel was a key architect of the trade agreement, which ultimately cost tens of thousands of U.S. jobs and brought social and economic devastation to Mexico.

To the extent that Emanuel genuinely wants to make the world a better place for working people, he thinks market forces and business models are the way to do it, and he clearly (and perhaps rightly) thinks that he understands these institutions far better than any teacher or crossing guard or nurse. From that viewpoint, the messy attributes of democracy--sit-ins, protests, rallies, people demanding meetings and information and input--simply slow down and encumber the streamlined, bottom-line-driven process Emanuel knows is best. But many regular Chicagoans see injustice, callousness and even cruelty in this trickle-down, authoritarian approach to city governance. They see the mayor bringing thousands of new corporate jobs subsidized with taxpayer dollars while laying off middle-class public sector workers like librarians, call-center staffers, crossing guards, and mental health clinic therapists. They see him closing neighborhood schools, throwing parents' and students' lives into turmoil. They see him (like Daley) passing ordinances at will through a rubber-stamp City Council, leaving citizens with few meaningful avenues to express their opposition to policies changing the face of their city.

If there's one thing Chicagoans have demonstrated ever since the city rose out of a swamp of stinking onions, it is that they will not quietly acquiesce when they sense injustice. This rich tradition stretches from the Haymarket Affair of 1886 to the garment workers strikes of the early 1900s; from the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests to the first massive immigration march of 2006. Like the proud Chicagoans who came before them, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Mental Health Movement, and other contemporary groups are committed to questioning and shaping the meanings of democracy, leadership, power and justice.

Rahm Emanuel's tenure as mayor of Chicago has provided a stage for these populist and progressive institutions to grapple with other powerful forces in a drama about the continual evolution of a great American city.

Posted by at November 18, 2013 5:55 PM

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