Happy new year and welcome to 2018! After a much-needed break to rejuvinate and shake out some of the cobwebs from my brain and spend sometime ignoring the near-constant drumbeat of negative news I’m back to bring you this weekly wrap up of news, commentary, and more.
Holy shit what a week.
That might as well be an evergreen statement in the era of Trump, but I feel like this week was especially exhausting, even though that too, feels like an evergreen statement because we’re slowly sliding down the hellmouth of the never ending shitstorm we’re going to reside in.
Not even a week into the new year and the President of the United States (or at least whoever is running his twitter account) got himself into a “mine is bigger than yours” dick wagging contest, but with nuclear weapons. And that was only Tuesday. Later in the week he appeared to have a meltdown over the release of the book “Fire and Fury,” appeared to fight with former Chief Strategist and right wing propaganda peddler Steve Bannon, and then assured us that he is indeed, “very stable.”
If 2017 felt like a never-ending spiraling nightmare of news, 2018 is more than likely going to be the part of the rollar coaster where we vomit while we’re upside down. The news cycle has sliced itself more than once over the past year, dropping from 24 hours to 12 to what now feels like between 6 and 8, depending on how much time Trump spends watching Fox News.
While you’ve probably seen the first week of our slow slide into the hellmouth on a national level, here’s a few more local stories to keep your eye on:
Hey Big Spenders
With still 11 months and a few days to go, the price tag for race to occupy the Executive Mansion in Springfield is already a collective $124 million. Fundraising numbers published by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform show that the nine candidates for the Illinois’ governor’s seat entered 2018 with a collective $124,609,046.44 raised.
At the top of the pack is incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner, who’s raised more than $74 million this cycle, the lion’s share of which is his own money, followed by donations from Illinois’ richest man Ken Griffin, the Republican Governor’s Association, the Illinois Republican Party, and billionaire Richard Uihlein, who supported Roy Moore for governor of Virginia. Rauner is followed by billionaire businessman JB Pritkzer, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination. Pritzker’s largest donor is also himself, with nearly all of the $42 million he’s raised coming from his own fortune.
The Illinois governor’s race is poised to go down as the most expensive gubernatorial contest in history. At present, candidates in Illinois have already raised nearly half of the current most expensive race, which was $252 million in the 2010 race between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman in California.
Ultimately, this isn’t an honor anyone should be proud to have bestowed upon them. That most election cycles continually shatter previous electoral spending records (thanks in part to the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court) is a glaring highlight of one of the largest threats to Democracy. In order to even be considered politically viable by pundits and others, potential candidates need to find fountains of money, and most of the time that either comes in the form of having wealth on hand, or making political promises to donors who can cut big checks over a constituent base that simply cannot match the financial influence of the ultra-rich or corporations.
A conversation we should’ve began having years ago
Democratic gubernatorial contender Chris Kennedy took a jab at Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday, accusing Chicago’s mayor of implementing a “strategic gentrification” plan being to push people of color out of the city.
“My belief is they are being pushed out,” said Kennedy when asked about people of color moving from the city to suburban areas. “This is involuntary. We’re cutting off money for schools, cutting off money for police, allowing people to be forced to live in food deserts, closing hospitals, closing access to mental health facilities.”
Despite Emanuel closing half the city’s mental health clinics, 49 schools, and his plan to shutter another four in a community of color, a spokesperson for the mayor said “The noise of this particular election will come and go, and when it does we’ll still be focusing on boosting neighborhood small businesses, investing in our schools, and improving public safety.”
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson also released a statement, saying “I’ve never heard from Chris Kennedy. I’ve never even met him. He’s never visited a police station or asked me or my team for any kind of briefing on what we are doing in Chicago to address the gang violence and ongoing infusion of illegal guns on to our streets.”
Kennedy’s comments aren’t a new sentiment for him – it’s something I’ve heard him say at two separate gubernatorial forums. More importantly, it’s something activists in the community fighting to make our city better have said for years. Regardless, his comments must’ve struck a nerve, because Emanuel and his allies spent the rest of the week decrying the criticism, defending his record, and generally acting extremely offended by them.
In an extremely tone-deaf op-ed titled “Chris Kennedy’s Divisive Fantasy,” the Tribune carried Emanuel’s water, saying the idea that gentrification is pushing people of color out of Chicago is “imaginary” and accused Kennedy of having “hallucinated aloud.” The piece went on to say that closing schools was good, actually, and that even though some city policies disadvantage communities of color, it’s up to the mayor to fix that (spoilers: it’s not and he won’t). Making the circle complete, Emanuel quoted the Trib’s op-ed the very next day.
“As the Chicago Tribune referred to it today as imaginary, hallucinatory,” he said. “I hope nobody ever describes any of my ideas that way.”
The governor of Illinois, of course, has to worry about Chicago, as it’s part of the state, contains millions of people, and is a giant economic engine. Pretending that the city is a separate fiefdom with Emanuel as Lord where the governor of the state doesn’t (or shouldn’t) have input is ludcrious.
Fighting gentrification and the disinvestment in Chicago’s economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of color is a hot-button issue and a conversation we should have been having on a larger, louder leval years ago. It’s also not a problem limited only to Chicago, as Governor Bruce Rauner’s policies for the past years have directly harmed communities of color as well as poor and working class people at large.
Whether or not Kennedy is serious about it or just using the rhetoric to propel his name in the polls is anyone’s guess but for now, that’s irrelevant. What’s important is that we’re talking about the harm neoliberal policies that put corporations and rich people ahead of everyone else has directly contributed to the destruction of communities of color and hopefully, how to fix the damage and lift these communities up.