This mayoral election marked the first time in over 20 years that Chicagoans had a real voice in our elections and real chance to shape city-hall politics outside of Daley’s machine. The crowded field narrowed and a true reformer was in the running. Yet, weeks before election-day, columnist Laura Washington declared the race ‘a missed opportunity’ for progressives. This election is not a missed opportunity. It’s a wake-up call.
As Miguel del Valle said in his speech as election results were announced, “we have started something new here.” The campaign saw older progressives activated with renewed vigor in Miguel del Valle’s candidacy. Young people never before involved in a political campaign got inspired to hit the streets. A grassroots network of thousands of volunteers fanned out across the city, posing a viable challenge to the machine’s power that no one believed was possible. Del Valle’s campaign injected substance into the debates. His candidacy raised up our schools, housing, and streets; asking all of us to take ownership of a city that should belong to us all.
And by the end of February 22nd, tens of thousands of voters cast their ballot for the vision of a mayor for every neighborhood and a city that works together.
We had a candidate who supported a responsive government, called for community organizing, and lifted up people’s issues. Del Valle’s volunteer operation was more than impressive, it is a promise of what’s to come. Now is our time for each of us who want an affordable city that takes its residents into account.
This is only a missed opportunity if we roll over and play as dead as we’ve been under the Daley dynasty. We have tasted the beginning of a new city-wide progressive force and we’re hungry and energized to keep that movement moving. As del Valle pronounced, ‘Chicago can be the city of responsive government but we only get there if our communities are organized.’
We will continue to build between young and old so the successes of Harold Washington’s campaign are not nostalgic memories but valuable lessons we can apply to our current work. Our efforts represent more than a campaign for a mayor whose time has come. We represent a generation who has come of age. We have the energy of our youth and the wisdom of our past mistakes. We will fundraise, build strong communications, and strengthen our networks across the city. We have the numbers, the reach to resources, and the connections to form a real progressive bloc that could make any politician shake.
In what could have been a concession speech, del Valle laid claim, “There are people willing and able to fight the battles that need to be fought… We are going to build an agenda that says progress should be for all and not for some. I can feel it coming.”
We haven’t missed our opportunity. Our moment to democratize Chicago has just begun. February 22nd doesn’t mark a loss but a first step toward victory.
– B. Loewe & Josh Prudowsky.