Crime Is the Only Issue in Chicago Mayor's Race; Lori Lightfoot says it's going down,
Crime Is the Only Issue in Chicago Mayor's Race; Lori Lightfoot says it's going down, but all the other candidates said they wouldn't rehire her police superintendent.Epstein, Joseph. Wall Street Journal (Online); New York, N.Y.
I love Chicago. It is the city of my birth and upbringing. But after listening to nine mayoral candidates engage in three hours of political debate in two 90-minute sessions, I have concluded that, were I younger, I would have to think seriously about leaving. With one exception, all the candidates stressed the city's crushing crime, unfair taxation, increasingly unaffordable housing and dismal educational institutions. The exception, of course, was the incumbent, Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Over the past four years she has amply demonstrated her unfitness to govern yet has thrown her fedora back into the ring, hoping for another term.
Seven of the candidates for mayor are African-American. One is Hispanic and one white. Chicago is no longer a white town, run by white politicians. The city is roughly a third black, a third Hispanic and a third white. The Irish political mafia is no more. All those Kellys, Kennellys and Daleys, who once ruled the city with a combination of corruption and competence, are gone. Increasingly, the city's official faces—chief of police, chief of the fire department, head of the public schools—are people of color and women.
Of the current crop of candidates for mayor, all but two have held office or worked in government: in the city council, on the Cook County Commission, in the state senate, in the educational system, in U.S. Congress. All agree that Lori Lightfoot has to go. On a show of hands, all further agreed that, if elected, they wouldn't rehire Police Superintendent David Brown. To hear Ms. Lightfoot tell it, however, things are looking up and every day in every way getting better and better for Chicago.
In the forum, which sponsor WGN-TV insisted wasn't a debate, questions about improving education, raising or lowering taxes, balancing the budget, and attracting investment were brought up and discussed, but there was only one topic of real interest—crime. Ms. Lightfoot weakly insisted that it was going down, but down is still impressively, depressingly high.
For the most part the candidates spoke what I have come to think of as sociobabble, the political equivalent of psychobabble. To curtail crime we "need to invest in youth"; the police need to "reach out to the communities in which crime is flourishing"; education of "a kind that will uplift all is required"; and "safety is every citizen's right."
Only one candidate failed to speak this language. Willie Wilson is a successful businessman. He wanted only to talk about crime. His mantra was "take the handcuffs off the police and put them on the criminals," to which he would occasionally add that each criminal needs to be "hunted down like a rabbit."
Ms. Lightfoot was much put off by Mr. Wilson's simile and told him so. But the mayor's attention has been chiefly fastened on two other candidates: Paul Vallas and Jesús "Chuy" Garcia. Ms. Lightfoot has claimed that Mr. Vallas was dismissed from his job as CEO of Philadelphia's public school system for incompetence and added that he was slow to come out against the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision. She has run ads accusing Mr. Garcia, a congressman, of vast corruption. Lightfoot may be her name, but heavy-handed are her tactics.
If three hours of talk among the mayoral candidates decided nothing, neither, I suspect, would 30 hours. The sad truth is that one can't talk candidly about such matters as crime and public education without being accused of racism, misogyny and the rest of the woke menu of social felonies. To be beset by major problems and denied the right to talk earnestly about them is at the heart of much that has gone wrong in American public life in recent years.
The non-debate showed that none of the nine candidates is likely to lead Chicago out of its current morass of heavy crime, high taxation and the consequent loss of business and population. Chicago has been without political leadership for the past four years, and it appears that the city can look forward to four more years of the same sad absence.
Mr. Epstein is author, most recently, of "The Novel, Who Needs It."
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