If was there A soundtrack for Brandon Johnson’s campaign mayor of chicago, it was house music. At their shows, a truck used to follow them honking. at their election-night party, a DJ warmed up supporters with Chicago classics like “Percolator” by Green Velvet and “Your Love” by Frankie Knuckles. Middle-aged women in union hoodies with young men in suits. The queue for drinks stretches across the room. But the most fitting song played at the event was, oddly enough, “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate, a British band, with its chorus “I believe in miracles”. When Mr. Johnson took the stage, he began his speech with one word: Hallelujah.
Mr. Johnson’s victory, by nearly three percentage points, was one of two striking victories for leftists on April 4 on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The second was in Wisconsin, where left-leaning Milwaukee Circuit-Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz won a vacant seat on the state Supreme Court by a nearly ten-point margin, defeating Daniel Kelly, a conservative former member of the body, and giving Liberals have a majority on the court For the first time in 15 years in the state.
The two castes were different. chicago is a deep blue city In a blue state, and voters had a choice between two Democrats, although from opposite ends of the same party. Wisconsin, by contrast, is a de facto battleground state with Republicans dominating the state legislature. Yet the results in both places are a huge boost for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. They also constitute a challenge to the idea that tough rhetoric on crime is a reliable way to win elections.
Mr Johnson’s victory is the more surprising of the two. Some Chicago politicians expected the former public-school teacher and union organizer to reach the second round (the first round of the election was on February 28). In January Chicago’s outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot mocked Mr Johnson’s primary patron, the teachers’ union, for pouring money into his campaign, saying: “God bless. Brandon Johnson is not going to be mayor of this city.” He has struggled to shake off past radicalism, such as when he claimed in 2020 that defunding the police was a “real political goal”, which many believed would sink his campaign.
In the event, however, Johnson’s tangible charisma and radicalism attracted a young, left-wing crowd even as he consolidated the votes of other progressives he defeated in February. And although his leftism may have cost him some votes, he was also fortunate to have his opponent, Paul Vallas, the former head of the Chicago Public Schools. Like Mr. Johnson, Mr. Vallas spent much of the campaign trying to distance himself from past comments—in particular, two he made a decade ago that suggested he was more Republican than Democrat, and that ” fundamentally” were opposed to abortion. In a city that hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since the 1920s, Mr. Vallas was arguably the more controversial candidate.
In Wisconsin, moderate Ms. Protasiewicz also won a race in which her opponent attempted to portray her as weak on crime. Mr. Kelly spent most of the campaign pointing out rapists whom he apparently did not jail. Yet his own extremism cost him dearly. Ms Protasiewicz campaigned on her “personal values” of supporting abortion rights, which are popular but currently non-existent in Wisconsin thanks to an 1849 law that was struck down by the United States Supreme Court last year implemented back. Mr. Kelly was associated with a far less popular cause: an attempt to overturn the results of the last presidential election in Wisconsin, where fake voters voted for Donald Trump. Although Mr. Kelly tried to argue that he was merely an unbiased attorney advising a client, clearly some voters in Wisconsin bought into it, rather than fully participating in the plan.
The question now is whether he can satisfy his voters in governance – or justice. Mr. Johnson has promised radical changes to end Chicago’s “tale of two cities,” including tax increases to pay for social spending. But he will take on a government grappling with a black hole in its pension fund and a hostile police department. Similarly, as part of the new liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Ms Protasiewicz will face demands from the base that chose her to make controversial decisions on legislation, such as overturning the state’s abortion ban, or introduce new Implementing electoral maps that are more favorable to Democrats. Both may disappoint at least some of the people who propelled them to victory.
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