What happens when you fill the table with panelists who’ve been around a while? veterans of the Harold Washington years? These are people who love and breathe politics, and you get a surprisingly balanced view.
Right off the bat: Can Rahm Emanuel win?
“He likely will, but I don’t think it’s gonna be like fifteen points. I think it will be close,” asserts Beyond the Beltway‘s Bruce DuMont, one of the sharpest political analysts in Chicago.
“I think we have to be careful, because in the field it looks very differently,” adds Maria De Los Angeles Torres, Director and Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at UIC. “Chuy Garcia is charismatic, he connects with people, and I think we’re not gonna know who’s gonna win the election until the day of the election, because it will be fought in the field.”
“It really is a ground game,” concludes Jacky Grimshaw, long-time political activist and former member of Harold Washington’s Cabinet. “And the union fight – those that are supporting Garcia versus those supporting Emanuel, the the unions that are into giving money versus those that are into giving troops. I think the troops side may be on the Garcia (side).”
Despite his victory prediction, DuMont sees many bumps in the road for the Mayor. And not having many enthusiastic ground troops is a big one. “It’s easy to write a check,” he explains. “It’s easy to make a robo-call. But it’s different from having perhaps thousands of people going into the precincts knocking on doors. I think that’s something that Rahm is not gonna have.” In politics, he says, that energy leading up to the 72 hrs before an election can be so critical.
And he’s seen waning enthusiasm for the Mayor first-hand. He brought up a long-time friend he has in the 19th Ward. “He doesn’t do anything that Mike Madigan doesn’t approve of,” He tells us. “He doesn’t sneeze until Mike Madigan says you can sneeze. And he shocked me when he told me he was out working the precincts for Chuy Garcia.”
So much of politics is rumor, innuendo and trying to stay a step beyond the other guy. And DuMont offers up just such a theory about what we used to call political power-houses.
“The reality is that, in many of those wards where their political leadership is, they’re only concerned about their own political future. They know the changing demographics of the city, and frankly, in their heart, they would probably just as soon have Rahm Emanuel go down to defeat because it would be their perception, at least in the Speaker’s case, that Chuy would need the Speaker a lot more than maybe Rahm might need the Speaker.”
So there’s that.
But ground-game or not, this election, Torres claims,”Has garnered national attention. The Latino Victory fund – Eva Longorio’s nice outfit, and Henry Munoz, big supporters of Obama, are supporting Chuy Garcia. So I think that’s seen as – it is the fight in the Democratic Party. What’s the next presidential election gonna look like? Are cities re-taking, in a sense, a populist approach to what are popular problems?”
For some time we’ve wanted to hear these folks’ take on he likelihood of a “black-brown coalition” heading into this election. One of the questioners at last night’s forum at Chicago State University asked Garcia, in essence, we – this mostly African-American crowd – are black, you’re hispanic, what are you gonna do for us?
Maria Torres is quick with an answer.
“There was never a black-latino coalition,” she declares. “Let’s be honest about it. There was an alliance of African Americans and progressive Latinos and progressive whites and Asians. (Today) we’re talking about young people that all the polls and all the surveys show are much more tolerant of each other. There’s been a huge influence of African-American culture onLatino and white youth. I think that base out there thinks about things a little differently than what we used to.”
Grimshaw’s response? “There are folks out there who’ve been trying to fuel a black-brown fight. And it’s an artificial fight. Because the situation for African-Americans, middle class, the unemployed – people are creating a false fight in terms of self-interest. The self interests of the African-American community and the Hispanic community are, I think, pretty much the same in the sense that they are all have-nots for the most part.”
So what was to be learned from last night’s candidate forum, in which both men showed up separately, and the audience appeared hostile toward Emanuel?
“He showed up there,” says DuMont. “He knew he was going into a hostile audience. And what I liked about what I saw last night – Chuy was making some political comments, and he was getting his cheers, even though they said ‘don’t cheer’ – what I liked? He went into the lion’s den and he was aggressive, he didn’t take any crap from anybody, including the moderators and the questioners. And I thought he was a guy in charge, on fire last night.”
Garcia, DuMont believes, didn’t do enough Wednesday night to make Emanuel accountable for the things he hasn’t handled well. So he gave the candidate some free advice.
“There are some columnists who are holding Rahm’s feet to the fire,” he began. “Not the Editorial Boards. But the principal goal of the challenger has got to be to go in there with a machete and literally slice (the incumbent) down. To remind people that, yes, he promised a thousand police officers. Yes he did this, yes, he backed down on this. And if you’re so great with all your wizards, then why has the city’s bond rating gone down on your watch if you’re so great? I think his commercials should be spent a lot more on that than on reminding people about the closed schools – the people who are upset about the closed schools are already voting for him.”
And DuMont went further, calling out the journalists and critics who have excoriated Garcia for not having a fiscal plan fully hatched two weeks before election.
“It is totally unrealistic for any challenger to really be able to say what they’re going to do,” he claims. “Because when they’re a challenger they don’t have access to everything. And whether it’s Barack Obama inheriting what George Bush gave him, or Mayor Emanuel inheriting the mess – the absolute fiscal nightmare of Richard M. Daley, it’s unfair. But it seems to me the news media, especially the editorial boards, they’re demanding from Chuy Garcia far more specificity, and far more knowledge of things – that you don’t know until you step into that fifth-floor office.”
How will early voting affect the mayoral election? 33,520 – a lot – have already done it.
“I think it’s good news for Rahm,” DuMont insists. “Rahm’s voters tend to be early voters because they’re busy, they’re out of town, they’re vacationing, and there’s more of a tradition of them voting than, I think, in the minority communities.”
Torres sees it differently. “all the ground troops that are out there and are gonna be working on election day, have made sure that they’re voting early,” she says, confident that they’ll be pulling for Garcia.
And the predictions continue.
“I believe that Chuy will likely come back to public safety as the issue leading up to the campaign, asserts DuMont. “Because we don’t know how many people are going to be shot and killed in this city before April 7. But I will bet it will lead the 10:00 news over fifty percent of the time.”
Rahm Emanuel’s “been a bold leader,” he continues. “He’s made a lot of very tough choices. I think the question is, do you want to reward him for that, or do you want him to just take bows and not acknowledge that there’s some pretty bad things that happened on his watch as well?”
The final word – and the final prediction, goes to Jacky Grimshaw.
“We’re getting a property tax increase. The City’s broke. There’s only so much you can do. These additional taxes are Springfield-derived taxes, not local. There’s no way that we’ll be able to pay the pension debt that’s coming due. Or the debt for operating expenses – borrowing for operating expenses…there’s no way that you can get it out of increasing the tax on electricity any more, or cell phones or junk food. You have to have a major source of revenue, and I think property taxes is going to be it. The only question is going to be – how much?”