Garcia-Emanuel Runoff in Chicago Divides Unions, Blacks, and Latinos

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report says in spite of the 15% undecideds, with the support of some blacks, Latinos and labor, as well as Obama, it will be difficult to unseat Emanuel

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Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Glen Ford report on the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

Incumbent mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Obama, has been the mayor of Chicago since 2011. His reelection to a second term in office has been challenged by Chuy Garcia in an unprecedented runoff that will take place on April 7th. There are many divides among the public, and here to discuss them is Glen Ford. Glen is the executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. Thank you so much for joining me, Glen.

GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACKAGENDAREPORT.COM: Thank you for the opportunity, Sharmini.

PERIES: So Glen, this time the polling is indicating that Rahm Emanuel is leading with a 51.3% margin, and Garcia is trailing at 33%. But there are 15% undecided out there. Do you think there is any chance of Garcia garnering more votes?

FORD: There’s always a chance, but it does not look good. The lay of the land does not look good. You know, Rahm Emanuel was elected back in 2011 and in that race he got 59% of the black vote. Everyone agrees that the black vote is key here. But Rahm Emanuel got 59% of it when he first ran. Of course, back in those days he was bathed in the glow of Obama and his White House, since Rahm Emanuel was just leaving, having served as chief of staff there.

Since that time, Rahm Emanuel has well-earned the nickname Mayor 1%, and he’s infuriated the teachers’ union, and many members of the community by closing about 50 public schools, almost all of them in black and brown neighborhoods. So it would seem that Chuy Garcia should be looking good. Chicago is a majority black and brown city. It’s also a heavily unionized city, and that’s always supposed to be good ground for people like Garcia to run on.

And it was good enough. It was good enough for Garcia to get into the runoff last month, by denying Rahm Emanuel a majority of the vote. But Rahm Emanuel even last month still got 42% of the black vote. He even got 36% of the Hispanic vote, and he got 2/3 of the white vote. And although Garcia does have strong support, especially among the teachers’ union, but also among the SEIU, which has many, many Latino and black members, labor overall in Chicago is split down the middle, and even AFSCME, which is considered to be a progressive union and is heavily black, AFSCME has been neutralized in this race. Black Congressman Bobby Rush is campaigning all-out for Rahm Emanuel. Barack Obama is campaigning for his boy, as well. And over the weekend, the black mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, Kasim Reed, was in Chicago campaigning for Emanuel.

So the odds are, I think, that progressives are going to be disappointed on Tuesday. They had hoped against hope that they could put together a coalition like the one that elected Harold Washington back in 1983, a coalition of blacks and Hispanics and progressive whites, but the numbers from the last election don’t seem to be pointing in that direction. Not strong enough, I think, to unseat Emanuel.

PERIES: And give us this history lesson here, in terms of the former Black Panther.

FORD: Well you know, back in 1983, Chicago was in between Daleys. The current Mayor Daley’s father, the longtime machine mayor, had passed, and younger Daley had not yet run. So the machine was weaker in 1983 and was more vulnerable to a challenge.

It’s also true, however, that the Democratic Party itself has turned much further to the right. And President Obama is part of that rightward shift, certainly Rahm Emanuel is. He was President Obama’s right-wing hatchet man. And all politics in Chicago is Democratic Party politics, so when the party goes right, Chicago goes right. And that includes the black politicians like Bobby Rush.

Back in 1983 Bobby Rush was only a decade away from having been the acting leader of the Black Panther Party, who took over after Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated. Today, Bobby Rush is a totally sold out corporate politician, and that’s why he’s campaigning with Rahm Emanuel.

And the other issue, and this one is harder to quantify but it really hangs over the election, is jobs, jobs, jobs. And I’m talking about the way black folks perceive job opportunities. Not too long ago I spent some time in Chicago and what struck me was all the construction, residential construction that was going on, especially in the South Side. And much of it was gentrification construction. But what really struck me was that almost all of the construction crews were comprised of Latinos, and this in a black neighborhood like the South Side. Black people see that, they believe that Latinos are taking their jobs.

That’s a, not just a racial divide. That’s a labor problem, as well. That’s a problem of folks not understanding the labor market and how folks can be manipulated by capital in that market and by race. But it seems to be, I think, a strong factor in places like Chicago.

PERIES: Glen, as always, thank you so much for joining us and giving us this update about the Chicago elections. We’ll be watching for the results.

FORD: Thank you

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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