IL-05: The Geoghegan Boomlet
One thing that progressives are going to have to show in the coming months is that their electoral resurgence isn't just a function of President Bush's disaster or Barack Obama's charisma - it's that people are thirsting for progressive ideas on a macro level, and if the current crop of Democratic leaders aren't willing to go there, then these same people are willing to find someone who is. There are going to be a crop of new organizations designed to hold Democrats accountable and elect more bold progressives, but the first chance is going to come fairly quickly, on March 3. Rahm Emanuel's seat in Congress will be up for a special election then, and labor lawyer and writer Thomas Geoghegan is among a crowded field running for the seat. This being Illinois politics, you would expect a machine candidate to be a lock. But it's a crowded field, and with the Blagojevich mess swirling everyone's a little gun-shy to try and influence the race. Not to mention that Emanuel and Blagojevich, the last two holders of this seat, are on tape at least discussing the seat in part.
Geoghegan got a great endorsement from James Fallows the other day.
The basic background on Tom Geoghegan is here, written by his Chicago friend Rick Perlstein. Having been a friend of Geoghegan's for most of my life, I couldn't be more enthusiastic about his deciding to run.
To the extent Tom is known publicly, it's mainly because of his books, like Which Side Are You On?, The Secret Lives of Citizens, and In America's Courts. These really are masterful and original pieces of thinking and writing, which most writers would be content with as their entire contribution to the human endeavor during the period Tom has turned them out. Which Side, which was published in 1991, begins this way:
'Organized labor.' Say those words, and your heart sinks. I am a labor lawyer, and my heart sinks. Dumb, stupid organized labor: this is my cause.
The remarkable thing is that in Geoghegan's case writing has been a sideline. Day by day for several decades he has been a lawyer in a small Chicago law firm representing steel workers, truckers, nurses, and other employees whose travails are the reality covered by abstractions like "the polarization of America" and "the disappearing middle class." Geoghegan's skills as a writer and an intellectual are assets but in themselves might not recommend him for a Congressional job. His consistent and canny record of organizing, representing, and defending people who are the natural Democratic (and American) base is the relevant point.
A labor liberal in Congress? Pinch me.
The fact that so many candidates are vying for the seat may actually work to Geoghegan's benefit. I think progressives should get on board with him. There's a Facebook group here (no website yet, but ActBlue is taking donations).