Chicago and Nashville: A Tale of Two Cities

Apr 16, 2023 | PDA News

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Both Chicago and Nashville are in the national spotlight right now for very different reasons. Local/state officials and issues have become entwined with national agendas, demonstrating the connectivity of government at all levels and the need for a coordinated progressive approach nationwide.

On May 15, Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson will be sworn in as the 57th Mayor of Chicago. He will be the first Mayor in half a century with no ties to the infamous Daley Machine. His 21 inaugural co-chairs read like a Who’s Who of Illinois elected leaders, blending federal, state, city, and suburban officials, including some who endorsed his rival in the the run-off election.

Likewise, the newly elected Chicago City Council will be the most diverse and most progressive in the history of Chicago—a far cry from the predominantly Caucasian “yes-men” who populated the Council during and beyond the Daley era.

Johnson campaigned as a progressive who can build winning coalitions. If he governs as he campaigned, Chicago could be transformed. This leadership team will shepherd Chicago through current crises and the 2024 National Democratic Convention.

Nearly 500 miles due south, legislators in Nashville, TN, made news of a different sort last week. They expelled two Black members of the State House and retained a white member by a single vote for speaking out of turn on the need for gun safety legislation after a mass shooting on March 27. The Tennessee Three are now national champions, promoting the cause of gun safety and the dangers of authoritarian overreach. Their risk-taking protest will succeed in changing public policy only if they—and like-minded progressive organizations—can galvanize public support for their cause.

It has never been more critical to have progressive leaders and leadership at all levels of government. Today’s mayor may be tomorrow’s U.S. Senator (um, Bernie Sanders comes to mind). Today’s state legislator may be tomorrow’s President. PDA is there, wherever progressive leaders and organizers are struggling against the forces of inaction, short-sighted self-interest, and authoritarianism.

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In solidarity today for all our tomorrows,

Debra Schrishuhn for the PDA National Team