By Adam Gunther
Photos from the Bernie Sanders Rally held at the Auditorium Theater on March 14. Photo Courtesy: Daly Tongren
If you closed your eyes and listened to the chants of “Chuy! Chuy! Chuy!” and thundering of voices yelling “Rahm Emanuel has got to go!” you may believe that for a second you entered a fantasy world where it was Chuy Garcia who won election for Mayor in 2015.
Sadly, upon opening your eyes, you would find yourself at a Bernie Sanders for President rally where Garcia was introducing the delightfully socialist Senator of Vermont.
While both men have seen bitter, hard-fought defeat in our state of Illinois, Garcia has taught us that even in defeat, there is reason for optimism.
As Bernie passionately touched on issues ranging from women’s health to Native Americans, it was clear he was not in our Auditorium Theatre to score political points with the wealthy and well-connected. (You could count the number of attendees in suits on one hand.)
However, he was there to talk about what was morally acceptable in America in the year 2016, and that is where the key difference between a Chicago Progressive and the Chicago Establishment lies.
The Chicago Progressive boldly moves forward towards what is just and achievable in a city with such profound amounts of wealth, while the Chicago Establishment embodies only enough of the progressive movement to make the voters who elect these dishonest and flip-flopping politicians sleep soundly at night.
Voters can tell themselves that Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel are for LGBT rights, progressive tax systems, and a less racist police force, but the simple fact of the matter is that Clinton and Emanuel’s breed only change their opinions when it is politically advantageous to do so.
We (as a city) sat by and gritted our teeth while we entered the voting booths in 2015 and told ourselves that Chuy’s ideals were too idealistic, and that while entrenched in a corrupt political system, Emanuel was simply the sensible choice.
Now, almost exactly one year later, Democratic primary voters did the same thing when they selected the underwhelming Clinton to be the party’s nominee.
One year later, Garcia’s story didn’t get any less inspiring and his messages don’t suddenly ring untrue — in fact I may argue that with Emanuel’s approval numbers in the tank, we understand even more just how great of a candidate Garcia was.
Fellow Chicago Progressives, I ask of you only two things: First: Don’t believe that because Sanders has (almost certainly) lost, that his message won’t carry on for years to come. It lives on through folks like me and you. Second: history will be kind to folks like Garcia who plowed forth a progressive path when it wasn’t always easy to do so, so don’t forget that if/when he runs again for mayor in 2019.