As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

One Week To Go For Tom Geoghegan

Next Tuesday voters in Illinois will vote to fill the vacant seat of Rahm Emanuel in a special election, with 23 candidates on the ballot. With the, er, spotlight on Illinois politics recently, and the fact that this is Rod Blagojevich's old seat, the Democratic establishment and Chicago political leaders have largely stayed out of the race. With no front-runner, there is a real opportunity for progressive leader Tom Geoghegan to win. Harold Meyerson writes a great profile:

Little about Tom Geoghegan resembles Ronald Reagan, but his hard-to-decipher last name rhymes with the former president's. A wry, heterodox liberal intellectual with a lifelong passion for American workers, Geoghegan first burst on to the literary and political scene with a great, slightly crazed ode to Chicago -- in the best tradition of Hecht, Algren and Bellow -- that ran in the New Republic in the 1980s and then with his 1991 book "Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back," which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has since written four other books, some on the shambles that is the American legal system. He's became the go-to lawyer for Chicagoans who've lost their jobs through discrimination or who've been denied the pay they've earned. And now, he's the congressional candidate who supports single-payer health care, expanding Social Security to compensate for the decimation of private pensions, and government investment to rebuild our offshored manufacturing sector.

I confess that I'm both a friend of Tom's and a Geogheganologist -- a distinction I attained when, for a year, I edited the back-page columns he was then writing for the American Prospect. A typical Geoghegan column combined the sense of outrage that all columnists need with broad historical knowledge and a particularly Chicagoan feel for life as it is actually, grubbily, lived. One column on mass transit cut from scenes of Geoghegan stuck in traffic on the way to O'Hare to Henry Clay's case for internal improvements (roads and canals) to a discussion of how much easier it is to get from Dublin to Madrid than it is to get from Chicago to Detroit. In another column he wrote before Wall Street's collapse, Geoghegan lamented the high percentage of elite college graduates who funneled themselves into finance, and he characterized the bank bailout policy of the Bush administration as "the new social contract: In Tribeca, at least, no kid will ever lose his (or her) first (or second) condo." Another time, he wondered "why, in the party of William Jennings Bryan, is there no one demanding an interest cap on our Visa cards and our MasterCards," also noting that in Chicago, "payday lenders charge more than the Mob wants for juice loans." In the collected works of Tom Geoghegan, the value of social and economic ideas and practices is set by the way they play out on the streets [...] while the nation is going through its first real systemic economic crisis since the Depression, a guy who can knowledgeably compare public works programs clear back to the Jefferson administration and who can sniff out a bankers' relief program a mile away seems to me exactly what Congress needs.

Howie Klein gives us the state of the race:

Meyerson follows endorsements in the last couple of days by three of Chicago's legendary progressive reformer elders, Abner Mikva, Dr. Quentin Young, and Leon Despres, and from one of Tom's former opponents, Marty Oberman. Many in the Inside the Beltway Establishment have other favorite candidates. Predictably Emily's List endorsed a woman, basically their only criteria for endorsement these days. And some of the labor unions we've grown to trust came out for those who have scratched their backs in the grubby world of backroom politics. DFA, The Nation, Progressive Democrats of America, the American Nurses Association, the Greater Chicago Caucus, the Teamsters and Steelworkers unions and a long list of progressive writers from Katha Pollitt and David Sirota to Thomas Frank. Garry Wills, Don Rose and James Fallows have come out for Tom.

Geoghegan is the real deal and he can win. You can help.

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