Trump's Arraignment Wasn't the Only Major Political News This Week
Crime and reproductive rights took center stage in Chicago and Wisconsin, respectively, on a day when Trump once again dominated the national news cycle.
It’s only Thursday and its already been an incredible week in U.S. politics. First, let’s get this out of the way: Trump was indicted by the Manhattan district attorney on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. We’ll see what happens.
We’re sure you likely got your fill from the corporate media, which went out of its way to capture nearly every second of the former president’s journey from his Floridian palace to the 17-story Manhattan Criminal Courthouse at 100 Centre Street in Lower Manhattan—despite its grandeur, much smaller and much less luxurious than 58-story Trump Tower, where he spent the night before his historic arraignment.
Just so you know how much the corporate media actually loves anything Trump, CNN’s new bosses apparently decided to put a camera operator on a boat to capture a few seconds of his plane arriving at LaGuardia Airport, in addition to an aerial shot of the tarmac. This all comes months after the network fired hundreds of employees, by the way.
Brandon Johnson Wins Chicago Mayoral Election
We get it, Trump’s indictment and arraignment were historic. But perhaps Tuesday’s biggest news largely flew under the radar: On the same day that 45 was getting fingerprinted and brought before a judge in Manhattan, Brandon Johnson, a county commissioner and organizer for the Chicago’s Teachers Union, won the Chicago mayoral race over conservative Democrat Paul Vallas, and Democratic Judge Janet Protasiewicz won an important seat in Wisconsin. Let’s start with Johnson.
It was a historic win for progressives in Chicago, and proved an emphatic counterpoint to mainstream tough-on-crime rhetoric, even though outlets such as The New York Times—routinely accused of engaging in “copaganda”—are cautioning against reading too much into Johnson’s win.
Since the pandemic, the media, corporate Democrats, and Republicans have largely been unified on crime. Both sides have long embraced “law and order” rhetoric that has dominated local and national politics. As has historically been the case, nuance is ignored, if not rejected altogether, as those same forces rally around the police and their powerful unions. Johnson’s campaign focused on a holistic approach to public safety, which involves improving socioeconomic conditions, creating more affordable housing, investing in mental health services, and supporting “violence prevention and community safety programming.”
Meanwhile, Vallas earned the support of Chicago’s main police union, the Fraternal Order of Police. For some context, here’s a little bit about its president John Catanzara, via the Times:
[T]here is nothing quite like Chicago’s relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police, especially with its president, John Catanzara, who expressed sympathies for the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, called Muslims “savages” who “all deserve a bullet” and retired from the police force in 2021 rather than face potential disciplinary actions. He punctuated his retirement papers with a handwritten note, “Finally!!! Let’s go Brandon,” a stand-in phrase for a more vulgar insult against President Biden.
The race also pitted two ostensibly Democratic candidates with divergent views on education. Here’s how Chalkbeat Chicago described the rivals:
Johnson has roots as a labor organizer and progressive politician focused on improving the lives of working class and low-income people. Vallas is a technocrat and policy wonk who built a career as a “fixer” and “turnaround specialist” for large, complex school systems…If voters pick Johnson, his election would be the crowning achievement in a decade-long grassroots battle waged by the Chicago Teachers Union against mayoral control and many of the controversial policies that came with it, like school closures and charter expansion. Johnson opposes adding charter schools and closing small district schools, of which Chicago has a growing number.
During the campaign, Johnson released a 12-point plan to achieve “education liberation,” as he called it. Among his proposed initiatives: making childcare more accessible (though his plan hinges on lobbying the state government for funding), taxing home purchases of more than $1 million to support housing for students who are homeless or housing insecure, reducing the economic burden on families by making public transportation free for all students, and more.
We’re hoping to do more on the Chicago mayoral election, but in the meantime, we encourage you to listen to some of our previous episodes about tough-on-crime politics:
“'That's Quite a Con Game!': The Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Swindle”
Wisconsin Supreme Court Race
The campaign to see who would win a key seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court was perhaps the most important contest that many Americans didn’t learn about. To understand how important this race was, look no further than campaign spending: The figure reportedly eclipsed $45 million, which WisPolitics said was nearly three times more than the previous national record.
The race pitting Democratic Judge Janet Protasiewicz against conservative former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly wasn’t close in the end, despite massive spending on both sides. Protasiewicz, a Milwaukee Circuit Court judge, won by 11 points. More than 1.8 million ballots were cast.
Once Protasiewicz takes her seat on the bench, the Republicans will lose the majority they’ve enjoyed for 15 years. With liberals set to hold a 4-3 majority, Democrats are hopeful that key issues such as abortion and voting rights will land in their favor. As was the case with the 2022 midterms, abortion was among the leading issues in this race—which Protasiewicz embraced on the campaign trail.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, many states revived old laws that banned abortion in almost all cases—Wisconsin among them. Its 1849 law making it a felony to perform an abortion took effect after the court’s controversial ruling. The law has since been challenged, is winding its way through the courts, and could end up before the state’s Supreme Court later this year, underscoring the significance of the race, which one state Democratic official said: “is the most important election in the country before November 2024.”
Democrats are also hoping to challenge the state’s gerrymandered political maps, which give Republicans an advantage electorally despite near-even political affiliation in the state. Republicans have twice in the last 12 years been able to redraw maps to their advantage—first in 2011 and again in 2021. Princeton’s Gerrymandering Project gives Wisconsin an ‘F’ in partisan fairness, noting that its maps give Republicans a “significant” advantage.
During the campaign, Protasiewicz was clear about how she felt about the current gerrymandered maps: "Let's be clear here: The maps are rigged," she said. "Absolutely, positively rigged. They do not reflect the people in the state."
Nervous Democrats are also looking ahead to 2024 and the potential for the since-indicted Trump, and favorite to win the Republican primary, to again challenge the results of the election. In 2020, the Wisconsin Supreme Court narrowly ruled against Trump (4-3), with a conservative justice joining the court’s three liberals.
Before you go, check out our latest episode, which covers the toxic train derailment in East Palestine:
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