Good news week | On Politics | Chicago Reader

Columns & Opinion » On Politics

Good news week

Look on the bright side, Chicago: Burke, Lipinski, and Conway lost!

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

5 comments

To cheer you up during this pandemic, I’ve pored over last week’s election results, looking for the good news.

That’s correct—bad news has been quarantined.

So, let’s start with . . . Alderman Ed Burke was defeated! He lost the committeeman seat he inherited from his daddy during the first year of the Nixon administration. A very long time ago.

State representative Aaron Ortiz defeated him—hip, hip, hooray.

I know it’s not nice to gloat. But this is a gloatable moment. On top of everything else, Burke was Donald Trump’s property tax lawyer. He made you pay more in property taxes by using his clout to get Trump to pay less on his tower. So, c’mon, Chicago. Let’s all gloat together.

What else? Marie Newman defeated Dan Lipinski—speaking of powerful Democrats who inherited their positions from their daddies.

Newman’s margin of victory came largely from the suburbs. But she even picked up roughly 44 percent of the vote in Lipinski’s home ward—the 23rd—where his daddy once ran a mighty machine. So, more gloating, everybody.

Anything else? Oh, yes, citywide turnout wasn’t so bad.

OK, it was anemic, at about 31 percent. But that’s better than the 24 percent we had for the 2012 presidential primary. So, you could say things are looking up.

The governing explanation for the low turnout in 2012 was balmy election-day weather. It was so nice that voters were distracted by fun things like walking along the lake.

In this election, turnout was low because of the coronavirus.

Apparently, Chicagoans don’t vote when it’s nice and they don’t vote when it’s nasty. Looks like we’ve got all the bases covered when it comes to making excuses for not voting.

For a while, people called on Governor Pritzker to postpone the election because of the coronavirus. But it seems to me that holding an election may be the best way to get people to practice social distancing—apparently, the last place they want to congregate is a polling place.

How ’bout that? My first coronavirus joke.

The low turnout was a boon for former Vice President Joe Biden. That and strong support from older Black voters, and what pass for white north-lakefront liberals.

Hmm? Low turnout, Black baby boomers, and white liberals—sounds like Mayor Rahm’s coalition.

Biden won roughly 53 percent of the city vote—Senator Bernie Sanders was second with 42 percent. Bernie’s strongest support came from Latinos and white lefties. He won about 69 percent of the vote in Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa’s 35th Ward—once again, the most progressive ward in the city.

In contrast, Bernie won only about 23 percent of the vote in the Black wards. As Biden won upwards of 73 percent in the 8th and 6th wards on the south side.

There are several theories as to why older Black voters didn’t vote for Bernie.

My centrist friends love to tell me—and they tell it to me all the time—”Ben, Black voters are just more conservative than white lefties like you.”

I might be susceptible to such arguments except I’m old enough to remember that Mayor Harold Washington—who was as left as Bernie—won upwards of 99 percent of the Black vote.

Similarly, Jesse Jackson got more than 80 percent of the Black vote in his 1988 presidential campaign, running on a platform that was Bernie before Bernie. Right down to Medicare for All—though Jackson didn’t call it that.

No, I think there’s a more human explanation for Sanders’s inability to connect with older Black voters: social segregation. White lefties and Black voters rarely come into contact with each other. Except during an election, when whites drop in as from Mars to ask for Black votes.

Apparently, not much has changed on the race-relations front since my days as a young scholar at Evanston Township High School in the ’70s.

Ostensibly, Evanston was integrated. But by and large the races existed on either side of a great self-imposed divide—rarely, if ever, coming into contact with one another.

They even had a tracking system that placed white kids in honors classes and Black students in regular classes.

The tracking system was probably created to reassure white parents that it would be OK to send their children to school with Black kids.

You know, I think we can probably strike probably from that last sentence.

Man, thinking about high school self-segregation is a bummer—and this was supposed to be a good-news column.

How about this? Bill Conway lost in his effort to bounce State’s Attorney Kim Foxx from office.

Foxx won more than 56 percent of the vote in Chicago—even though Conway spent more than $10 million of his daddy’s money on obnoxious campaign commercials.

Not surprisingly, Conway ran strongest in MAGA-hat precincts on the northwest and southwest sides, where President Trump did well in 2016.

But Conway also did relatively well in liberal land along the north lakefront where Trump is not so popular.

Think about that—lakefront liberals joined Black people to support Biden and then turned right around and joined the MAGA crowd to vote for Conway. Looks like the Mayor Rahm coalition of older Black people and white liberals is only a one-way street.

Conway’s popularity in liberal land confounded me. As I understand it, the great accusation against Foxx is that she took a call on Jussie Smollett’s behalf from Tina Tchen, a well-connected politico who’s besties with the Obamas.

I can’t see why Gold Coasters or Lincoln Parkers might object to that. Those neighborhoods are crawling with well-connected people who take and/or make these kinds of calls all the time. In fact, there’s probably someone on the Gold Coast making one right now.

You know, I think you can probably strike probably from that sentence, too.

To all those who say Pritzker should have postponed the election, think of this—at least we won’t have to hear any more Conway commercials.

That may be the best election day news of all.

Stay safe, Chicago.   v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment
 

Add a comment