Last night, in a shocking move, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot conceded the race for second place to challenger Brandon Johnson. Now, Johnson will face former CPS CEO Paul Vallas in a runoff on April 4.
Although Vallas is a Democrat, he has aligned himself with right wing ideologies and gained the backing of the Fraternal Order of Police. On the other hand, Brandon Johnson has gained many endorsements including the Chicago Teacher’s Union, who had a contentious relationship with Lightfoot. So, looking ahead, there would be two very different Chicagos with Vallas and Johnson.
A Vallas Chicago might look like an increased police presence and privatized education while a Johnson Chicago would focus on increased social services and more funds for public education. After all, Vallas spent much of his mayoral bid vying for support from a conservative base. He even came under fire for his comments on “taking the city back.”
Lightfoot’s campaign called this the “ultimate dog whistle,” which it was. Vallas telling his conservative supporters to take back their city runs parallel to the replacement theory that the alt right uses to justify “taking back” their country.
Since the days of Donald Trump’s presidency, fascism has been on a steady incline, and it is important to resist it. Really, Democrats could learn a very important lesson from Chicago’s municipal election. By running better candidates, we can effectively resist the rise of the alt right.
The mayoral election ticket was full of Democrats, and Johnson ran the best campaign because he appealed to the working class and listened to community needs. With Johnson and Vallas, there is no debate about one being the lesser of two evils; there is one good candidate and one who supports white supremacy.
Vallas has criticized CRT and supported his son who was involved in a police killing in Texas. Additionally, Vallas’ public school record is controversial at best. He touts his experiences in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans’ public schools, but critics have said that he “made dramatic changes, but left the district with a deficit” in Philadelphia. Then, in New Orleans, “Vallas closed neighborhood schools and opened charter schools,” according to Block Club Chicago.
His record in Chicago matches these failures. Notably, “After Vallas left, the probation policy he put in place was used to close low-performing schools over the course of the following decade.” Really, he set the stage for school closings that defined Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral tenure.
During Lightfoot’s tenure, she was criticized for her similarities to Emanuel, from covering up police raids to her educational failures. Vallas, who has touted policies aligned with both, would only be a continuation of the city’s political machine.
We need a fresh face with new ideas and an open mind if there will be any hope for a brighter future.
Since the days of the Daley’s, Chicago has been besmirched by machine politics that have placed many communities in harm’s way. This includes a 6 story trash heap on the east side, privatized parking meters, a long history of police torture, the failures of public housing, and the displacement of Black families to build highways and airports, in short.
As is clear to many who have been affected by these harmful legacies, it is time for a new Chicago, and Brandon Johnson may just be the one to bring about that change. Moreover, since Chicago is slated to potentially host the democratic national convention next year, Democrats can take notes from Chicago on selecting a candidate.
Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are RNC hopefuls, so the Democrats need to run a candidate that could successfully resist their alt right extremism and red scare tactics. Unfortunately, this will not be Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. As with Chicago, we need a fresh face with new ideas and an open mind if there will be any hope for a brighter future.