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  March 14, 2016

Sanders Now Leading in Illinois, Says He Doesn't Want the Endorsement of Rahm Emanuel

Kari Lydersen, author of Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago's 99%, says Sanders is tapping into popular anger against the corporate Democrat who has longstanding ties to the Clintons
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JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: I’m Jaisal Noor for the Real News Network in Baltimore.

The election campaign is heating up ahead of Tuesday’s crucial primaries. Donald Trump canceled a rally in Chicago on Friday, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After a diverse array of student groups organized thousands to protest inside of the venue against Trump’s hateful rhetoric and his incitement of violence against opponents and saying he’ll pay the legal fees for his supporters who hurt protesters. Go to for our report on Friday’s rally.

Meanwhile Sanders is now ahead in polls in Illinois, against democratic rival, Hilary Clinton, after being down by double digits last week. Sanders has gone after the policies of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has endorsed Clinton. Here’s a clip of what he said.

BERNIE SANDERS: She has also received the strong endorsement of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. So let me say, I want to thank Rahm Emanuel for not endorsing me. I don’t want his endorsement. I don’t want the endorsement of a Mayor who is shutting down school after school and firing teachers.

NOOR: Well now joining us to discuss this is Kari Lydersen, she’s a long time journalist and author. Her most recent book is Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99%. Thanks so much for joining us again Kari.


NOOR: So let’s start off by getting your thoughts on this latest news. Sanders now ahead in Illinois and him targeting Rahm Emanuel for criticism for closing schools, for firing teachers, that seems to be resonating with the voters in Illinois right now.

LYDERSEN: Yeah, at least in Chicago, it’s definitely tapping into how people feel in Chicago and suburban Chicago and the fallout as you know, a year ago, Rahm was in a tight race with Chuy Garcia, who’s backing Sanders. Since the release of this police shooting video in the fall, the heat on Rahm Emanuel and the discontent has just really continued to spiral. So Sanders is really tapping into fertile territory with that.

NOOR: And the latest news is that Clinton is not going to meet with Emanuel during her campaigning in Chicago. And what you referred to, that was the last time we had you on. Chuy Garcia forced Emanuel into a historic runoff in Chicago and he ran on a progressive platform which parallels Sanders’ platform in a lot of ways. But he lost last year and now Sanders is up and across Illinois.

What’s changed? Talk a little more about what has changed over the last year. I was reading in the polls; a majority of Illinois voters want more progressive policies than we’ve seen under President Obama.

LYDERSEN: Yeah, so last year when Chuy Garcia forced Rahm into that runoff and then actually performed really well in the runoff. Nothing big necessarily changed between the primary and the runoff, last year in terms of what voters wanted. I mean, voters in Chicago, in the Chicago area, I think have made it pretty clear that they are in favor of this more progressive platform and opposed to the privatization of schools and of services.

A lot of the things that Rahm stands for, a lot of what’s really happened both between those two elections last year and then escalating in the last few months has to do with race and the debate on policing all over the country. So last year, there’s some really interesting dynamics going on. Black voters have been really unhappy with Rahm for a while but he did manage to win over a good segment of the black vote between the primary and the runoff last year. And Chuy Garcia has struggled a bit with the black voters or at least he did last year. During the campaign, he didn’t get as much black support as he needed.

So now, people probably know last fall this historic video was released by the city of Chicago, they were forced to release it showing really brutal gunning down of Laquan McDonald. That and the way that Rahm handled it has been a total firestorm and more videos that have come out since and Rahm has just been completely under fire from the black community and I’m sure lost any of that support he had managed to cobble together last spring before the runoff. So that’s a big changed from this time last year. That’s something that Sanders is really tapping into. That probably even more than the policies but then I think that Sanders is in line with Chicago voters and with the voters who back Chuy on things like trade, and labor, and schools, and a host of other issues too.

NOOR: And I wanted to talk a little bit more about what Rahm Emanuel represents. You wrote a book about him and you talked about how he played a key role in the presidency of Bill Clinton. He served as senior advisor to the president for policy and strategy, and he helped push through things like NAFTA. So called free trade deals, which really has been a big issue that has turned on voters to support Sanders and actually even Trump on the republican side. So talk a little bit more about what Rahm Emanuel represents in the democratic party, this corporate democratic. Strong ties to the financial sector and the fact that he was such a party stalwart so long but now the progressive wing represented by Sanders is sort of targeting him, and that message is resonating.

LYDERSEN: Yea, definitely, Rahm was one of the key figures and you can sort of say the founders of the more centrist, DLC, new democrat kind of movement; along with the Clintons. He with the Clintons was really front and center in that whole trend within the democratic party. That definitely, isn’t as popular nationwide now, that approach. It’s something that Hilary and other democrats try to downplay as part of their public image. But in terms of actual policies it’s still very much alive and Rahm’s time as mayor has really perfectly epitomized that more centrist, at least on economic issues, and labor issues, and privatization. Things like that, more centrist, corporate democratic philosophies.

So, I think the police issues have actually overshadowed those sort of things in Chicago recently. But I think that’s definitely still a subtext, obviously to the presidential primary in Illinois and also to how Rahm figures into it and with NAFTA. NAFTA’s one of the policies, as an advisor to Bill Clinton, you don’t know exactly what Rahm’s roll was in different policies. But NAFTA’s one thing he’s really actively taken credit for and even continued to in more recent times. It’s also pretty much assumed that Rahm was a key part in the crime bill under Clinton that had led to mass incarceration and a lot of horrible effects for African American voters in particular. So probably the Clintons and Rahm have never really been held accountable for that to the extent that maybe some people think they should. But there is that subtext too that becomes even more relevant with the policing debate.

NOOR: Well Kari Lydersen, thanks so much for joining us.

LYDERSEN: Thank you.

NOOR: And thank you for joining us, at the Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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