In the wake of the recent elections in Chicago, 10% of the 50 seat City Council will be members of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America (CDSA). In these elections, CDSA endorsed four candidates: Jeanette Taylor, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Andre Vasquez, and Rossana Rodríguez-Sanchez.
The first three won their elections outright. Rodríguez-Sanchez is in a too-close-to-call runoff against the incumbent Deborah Mall, with only about 60 votes separating them as of Sunday’s count (7 April). The CDSA candidates enjoyed the support of local organised labour, such as the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), and ran on a platform of ‘Housing for all, Sanctuary for all and Education for all’.
The Chicago elections also made national headlines because Lori Lightfoot has become the first black female and first openly gay person mayor of Chicago. However, local left-wingers warn that we should not welcome this as a victory for all LGBT or black and ethnic minority (BAME) Chicagoans given Lightfoot’s checkered history as a corporate lawyer and prosecutor.
In these professional capacities, Lightfoot represented conglomerates and defended police against misconduct charges. She also recently proposed that vacant buildings left over from school closures in majority black neighbourhoods be converted into police training academies. Since her election victory, she has publicly opposed rent control at the city level.
CDSA’s City Council victories should give socialists further reasons to consider how the class-struggle left should approach electoral strategy in the US. On the one hand, it shows how – at least in significant parts of the US – calling oneself a ‘socialist’ is no longer taboo and left-wingers can make gains on redistributive platforms with union support.
On the other hand, Americans who have recently turned to supporting ‘socialism’ are often extremely loose in their use of the term. It frequently denotes Nordic model social democracy or even New Deal liberalism rather than anything representing a genuine transition from capitalism.
As such, we should view the electoral successes of DSA-backed candidates as promising indicators that elements of a socialist programme can gain traction in the US political landscape rather than as socialist victories in themselves. This is especially true given the problem of DSA endorsing candidates who quickly become unaccountable to DSA itself after getting into office.