Chicago doubles down on failed efforts

AP Photo/Paul Beaty

As you may or may not have heard, Brandon Johnson will be the next mayor of Chicago, replacing Lori Lightfoot who has been a complete and total disaster. He defeated Paul Vallas on Tuesday.


Now, most of us don’t really follow local politicians in most places. We might be familiar with the mayors of major cities and district attorneys are becoming fairly well known as well. As such, you may not know much about Johnson. After all, maybe he’ll be good for Chicago.

I doubt it.

Brandon Johnson will be the next mayor of Chicago, NBC News projected Tuesday, marking a stunning turn for a staunch progressive and former teacher whose campaign leaned into messages of racial and economic disparities and who overcame blowback over past comments about decreasing police funding.

Johnson defeated the well-financed, tough-on-crime moderate Paul Vallas, a former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools who promised to immediately bulk up the Chicago police ranks to curb a crisis of gun violence in the city.

Johnson ran on a platform of taxing the wealthy to boost citywide services and investing in neighborhoods and schools across the city. He walked back past comments about slashing funding to police departments, saying he wanted to bolster the ranks of detectives but also wanted to invest in mental health response services.

Now, increasing the number of detectives can help solve crimes. That’s a good thing. However, it does nothing about deterrence. That’s what the guys in uniform can bring to the table.

And let’s not pretend he was just talking about cutting funding for the police department. It went well beyond that.

This week Johnson is claiming, “I never said, defund the police.” But that’s not what the record shows. Confronted directly in last week’s Chicago mayoral debate, Johnson sidestepped any explanation of his 2020 comment – shown on video during the debate – that defunding police is not “a slogan, it’s an actual real political goal.”

Those comments by Johnson were one of a series of remarks that were either at odds with maintaining present funding levels for law enforcement, or that excused looting.

In 2020, as a Cook County Commissioner Johnson said, “Reducing the sheriff’s budget is a case that I believe that we want…There is no number big enough.”

Looting stemmed from “frustration and anguish”

As the city reeled from escalating deadly violence and anarchy in the streets in summer 2020, Johnson in a WGN-TV interview also defended looting as “an outbreak of incredible frustration and anguish” tied to “a failed racist system.”

Chicago was becoming a national case study in failed leadership during the urban crime crisis that began after Floyd’s death. Eighteen people were killed in Chicago in one day on May 31 as rioters, looters, and shooters ran free citywide. That same day, neighborhood business districts were attacked by bands of organized criminals. Some backed up large rented trucks to buildings targeted for looting. Others removed and busted open ATMs. Some raided pharmacies for prescription drugs.

In July, 105 residents were murdered. Then in August Chicago exploded in rioting and looting once more. A local TV station posted photos of “a night of unrest and looting.” Shown in this one collection of snapshots were numerous shattered store windows, a smashed ATM, a looted SUV and the detritus of a rampage at a Best Buy where consumer electronics goods were looted. Other nabbed handbags and other luxury items from high-end stores on Michigan Avenue.

These were some of the looters whom Johnson excused as acting in “frustration and anguish.”


That’s right. Johnson excused looters as just being frustrated.

Why do I figure that he has quite a different view of those who took part in 1/6, just to name a counter point. I’m pretty sure those folks were frustrated as well. Should they be excused because of it?

Now, don’t get me wrong. Johnson is entitled to his opinions, no matter how wrong I believe them to be. Yet his excusing rioting and the previous belief that there was “no number big enough” to slash the sheriff’s budget suggests something far deeper at work.

Lori Lightfoot was a trainwreck, but she at least recognized you can’t just wish crime to go away.

That really is what Johnson’s approach feels like here.

So, if you’re living in Chicago, my advice is to either move or, at a minimum, put your valuables elsewhere and stock up on canned goods.

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