Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lewis Campaign

A Lewis Campaign?

Some in the media have got into quite a tizzy, Karen Lewis has told a few reporters that she is seriously considering a run for mayor. A Lewis candidacy could have a lot of potential. Lewis was the public face of the CTU’s fight to defend Chicago schools against Emanuel’s program of cuts, layoffs and closings. 

The CTU’s strike was the biggest blow struck against the mayor this term, and Lewis has considerable respect: among teachers, among union members in the city, among parents and among working people more broadly. 

Karen running could give many of these people someone to vote for, a way for them to express their anger with the mayor and with politics-as-usual. A Lewis candidacy could be a rallying point to broaden the fight of working people in the city. Teachers made one big fight – a fight that did not stop the attacks on public education. 

But city custodians, sanitation workers, the park and water districts, firefighters, low wage workers, all need to fight to maintain a decent standard of living, a standard that has eroded steadily both under Daley and Emanuel. If this was the purpose of the campaign, the union’s drive to sign up new voters would make perfect sense. 

But will Lewis run in order to lead these kinds of fights? Every indication is no. If Lewis were trying to run this kind of campaign, then she would have already started it. Instead, before this month, Lewis publicly urged Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, or alderman Bob Fioretti to run. Lewis and the CTU leadership have been at best wishy-washy about supporting independent candidates, and have preferred to run Democrats – that is, candidates of the ruling class’s party. 

“Reform Democrats”, perhaps – many of the candidates endorsed by CTU are those who have found themselves at odds with the Machine. But then, Barack Obama himself was just such a “reformer”, and now we can thank him for taking national Arne Duncan’s regime of slash-and-burn privatization and test madness with Race to the Top. 

Lewis’s statement to Lauren Fitzpatrick of the Sun Times came right after the announcement that CPS would be laying of 1150 more employees, including 550 teachers. It smacked of frustration with the fact that despite Emanuel’s abysmal poll numbers, no one is running against him.

Lewis may announce a candidacy. But she may run, campaign for a while, just to make it clear that Emanuel has a race. Lewis would likely then bow out when Preckwinkle, Fioretti, or some other “liberal” career politician takes that as a cue to run. Lewis would then throw her support to that candidate – transferring any energy she generates among working people in the city to a politician who will not serve their interests. A Lewis candidacy could have a lot of potential, but Lewis herself does not appear to be the woman willing to realize that.

*The author of this opinion-editorial wished to remain anonymous. Second City Teachers encourages anyone who supports public education and teachers to submit an article for our website.

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