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Why I Am Hopeful: A Chicago Election Postmortem

2011 March 10
by Guest Blogger

Guest blogger Harish Patel is a strategic thinker, organizer, and activist working on issues locally and globally.

City of Chicago flag

I have been looking at this “loss” as a phenomenal opportunity to build for a vibrant, livable, healthy, educated, just, peaceful, and fair city.

Two thoughts have lingered in my head in the past few days:

  • Change is slow and will not come from either the inside or the outside alone, but from the merger of the two.
  • The Left needs to put just as much thought into unifying our own forces as we put into opposing/defeating the Right or the Tea Party.

I have never, before this moment of Daley’s resignation, involved myself in electoral politics. It was a deliberate decision that I made, hoping for a progressive change. I still stand by my belief that a public servant who is grounded in movement building and neighborhoods must be supported by progressive forces. In the past 5 months, I worked at and attended a lot of meetings and supported various new entities such as Chicago Votes, New Chicago 2011, Chicago A.D. (After Daley), Mayoral Tutorial, Progressive Alliance – Cook County and others. I supported various aldermanic candidates and a couple mayoral candidates. This has all been an amazing learning moment for me.

After hearing that Rahm won, I felt surprisingly rejuvenated, ready to work harder, and to put forth a smarter struggle. This election created an amazing educational opportunity for a lot of young folks–on the community, ward, and city levels. These young people are more connected and more inspired than ever before. These young people have more intergenerational opportunities than those before them had. These young people are watching revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and other places for democracy and are inspired. These young people are sick of waiting to get older to become engaged. These young people are gaining tools, building organizations, and learning tangible skills to run for election themselves on local and statewide levels.

All these aspects of the past 5 months make me happy, energized, and most importantly, hopeful for the Rahm Era.

Here are some more wins that make me hopeful:

  • There is an immense desire, especially among young folks, to be involved.
  • We are getting involved at a younger age. Ameya Pawar (age: 30) in the 47th Ward. Hip Hop Generation is picking up steam, growing up, and getting involved. Example: Che Rhymefest Smith, Brian Sleet, Hector Gonzalez. Younger doesn’t always mean progressive, but in this case, it does.
  • Younger people vote based on issues and not based on race or neighborhoods.
  • Race Matters, but not as much in electoral politics as it used to. (Chicago’s racial demographics are changing.)
  • There are various new networks, entities, organizations, progressive PACs, and c4 advocacy groups. Example: New Chicago 2011 Coalition.
  • 14 runoffs in this election. Let’s especially keep an eye out for progressive forces in the 15th (Foulkes), 20th (Che Rhymefest), 25th (Morfin), 45th (Arena), and 50th (against Stone) Wards.
  • 12 aldermen retired.
  • The power is split into Burke/Chico Collective, Rahm and the “reformers,” Daley and the Democratic Machine, and Del Valle and the Progressives. Possible campaign for progressive electoral campaign, post-Del-Valle camp?
  • The forces around the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance, TIF reform, Clean Air Ordinance, and maybe electoral finance reform are getting stronger.

Let’s get to work. Let’s go back to our neighborhoods. Let’s get back to the movement. Let’s set up accountability structures. Let’s share our thoughts. Let’s celebrate.

“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

— Howard Zinn

In solidarity and with a big hopeful smile,

Harish I. Patel

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