Dems need winning formula

3/5/2015, 8:43 a.m.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel just got spanked. Despite a campaign war chest of more than $15 million and the support ...
Julianne Malveaux

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel just got spanked. Despite a campaign war chest of more than $15 million and the support of President Obama, the former congressman and White House chief of staff could not avoid a runoff in the non-partisan election.

Garnering 45 percent of the vote to runner-up Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s 34 percent, he did not clear the 50 percent bar for victory. Mr. Emanuel, the darling of the mainstream Democratic Party, has earned the dubious distinction of being in the first Chicago mayoral runoff in nearly 20 years. He also runs the risk of being the first incumbent mayor ousted since Harold Washington beat Jane Byrne in 1983.

Mr. Emanuel’s loss is a major setback to the Democratic establishment. Voters are tired of income inequality being acknowledged, with nothing being done about it. Their only recourse is the vote, and on Feb. 24 in Chicago, they used it.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Emanuel rode to victory on the coats of black voters four years ago with 58 percent of the votes in the six wards that are more than 90 percent black. This time, he won 42 to 45 percent of those same wards. African-Americans may determine the victor of the April 7 election.

Another possible Democratic setback is looming as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., weighs the possibility of challenging former Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton.

Sen. Warren has been portrayed as a champion of the people, especially where consumer protection and financial matters are concerned. She has raised her voice against financial skullduggery by banking institutions, been a critic of attempts to weaken the Dodd Frank bill, and a defender of consumer rights.

The architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Sen. Warren has been the darling of the left and has enhanced that status with her travel to many progressive gatherings. While she has demurred when asked if she will run for president, her replies, if somewhat definite, also seem coy. Additionally, there have been efforts to draft her into running, with online petitions and other efforts.

While Sen. Warren seems to have little baggage, Ms. Clinton seems less than invincible. Questions have been raised about the Clinton Foundation and the sources of its money, especially when this money has come from foreign governments that have mixed relationships with the United States.

Other questions have been raised about the high six-figure speeches Ms. Clinton gives and the audiences she gives them to.  Certainly, she is entitled to earn what the market will bear, but some say those who foot the bill are the very Wall Street scions that Sen. Warren rails against.

Could Sen. Warren seriously challenge Ms. Clinton? Is there a chance that she could win the Democratic nomination?  If she chooses to enter the presidential race in the next several months, she will be entering the race at about the time Barack Obama did eight years ago.

Voters are looking for alternatives and Democrats aren’t providing them. Instead, they are offering a party line that inhibits discussion of issues and hews to the inevitability of party favorites. Mr. Emanuel’s defeat and the Warren challenge to Ms. Clinton suggest that the party line is unsatisfactory.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer.