Every so often, a local election comes along that has enormous implications in terms of the national political narrative. Back in the 1980s, Harold Washington’s stunning upset of the Daley machine in Chicago was one of those moments. Bill de Blasio’s surprising come from behind win in NYC a couple of years ago was the most recent example — his win created months of discussion about the rising progressive populist movement in the Democratic party.
If Garcia wins, it will be an even bigger deal than either the Harold Washington or Bill de Blasio races, for the following reasons.
The first is that Rahm is an outsized national political figure, beloved by the national Democratic establishment for his tough talking swagger and his ability to raise money from Wall Street and big business — an example of the latter being the $750,000 hedge fund speculator and major Republican giver Ken Griffin has already invested in re-electing Rahm. If a major national figure known so well by the national media like Rahm went down in spite of all the money he has raised and spent, it would probably be the number one political story of the year. A thousand political obituaries would be written; a hundred stunned DC pundits would be asking themselves how this could have possibly happened. And in all this conversation, a major underlying narrative would be about the rising progressive tide shaking up Democratic politics.
Secondly, electing a Hispanic mayor to a city like Chicago would be a huge political moment all by itself. Chicago is a city with an outsized place in America’s imagination. It is a sort of capitol of the heartland, which is the most important swing region in American politics. And to have a Hispanic mayor in a city whose Hispanic population is not as big as either the white or African-American populations, and whose history has been dominated by black-white political conflict, would create a different level of conversation in America about the rising importance of Hispanics in America.
Third, Garcia winning would profoundly impact the presidential race. Even with Hillary Clinton so far ahead and with no strong challenger yet to emerge, the loss of the ultimate Clintonite, Rahm Emanuel, would change the discussion about presidential election dynamics and force a serious rethink of Clinton’s strategy.
So this is a very big deal. Is it really winnable for Garcia? With Rahm being backed by all this corporate big money like the Ken Griffin 750K, he outspent Chuy 12-1 in the first round of the primary, and has had the airwaves to himself for a while in the runoff campaign, so he has a small lead — although certainly not as big as the ridiculous Chicago Tribune poll several days ago that gave Chuy only 50 percent in the Hispanic vote when every other poll has him over 70 percent. But Chuy is going up with ads this week, and that will cut the margin. More importantly, the underlying dynamics in this race are in his favor: Rahm’s unfavorable ratings are still through the roof; Chuy has picked up some very big African-American endorsements since the first vote, including Jesse Jackson, former IL Senate leader Emil Jones, Con. Danny Davis, and a group of influential black ministers; all the grassroots energy and the GOTV operations of most of the Democratic base organizations (including AFT, NEA SEIU, CWA, Moveon, DFA, and PCCC) are on the side of Garcia.
There is a money bomb today and tomorrow for Chuy. You should throw whatever you can into the hopper. It’s the most important money bomb and most important election of the year. Rahm has his big money guys; Chuy has grassroots progressives. We can win this race, and if we do, it will be a very big deal.