Gun control is the most important issue of the day, and the topic that’s dominating political talk shows these days. Coincidentally, a man whose childhood was rocked by gun violence, Chris Kennedy, is now emerging in the Illinois gubernatorial race.
Kennedy was just five when his father, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1968. Bobby Kennedy was likely on his way to winning the Democratic Party nomination and perhaps also the presidency when he was gunned down. Congressman Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA, 4th District) is Chris Kennedy’s nephew, and a rising star in American politics. He was chosen to give the Democratic Party response to the Presidential State of the Union address earlier this month.
On Tuesday, he spoke on the campus of University of Illinois-Chicago, at a rally for the gubernatorial campaign of his uncle.
“We have seen in the past couple days for the first time since I have held office, a change that is being led not in the halls of Washington and not in the state capitol, but from the voices of high school students who have said, No more.” Joseph Kennedy referenced the movement for sensible gun laws, a movement originating with survivors of the Stoneman Douglas high school shooting, which claimed 17 lives.
They said, “We’re not going to accept the status quo: we’re not going to accept your lame excuses. We’re not going to accept your platitudes; we’re not going to accept your idea that thoughts and prayers will stop the next one because if they could, thoughts and prayers would have stopped the last one, and they didn’t. “
You can watch the video of all three speeches from the rally here at this link. Chris Kennedy’s running mate Ra Joy speaks first; Chris Kennedy starts his speech around the 8 minute mark. Joseph Kennedy comes around the 14:45 mark.
Since that rally at the UIC student center, Chris Kennedy has earned the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, to supplement his endorsement from the Daily Herald.
Kennedy is the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois, former President of the Merchandise Mart and current chairman of a Kennedy family investment firm. It does seem odd at first, the idea of a Kennedy(s) campaigning for office here and not in New England.
However, the Tribune articulated why Kennedy might just be the governor Illinois needs to be strong enough to actually get something done about gun control.
Kennedy has shown a lot more backbone than other candidates when it comes to taking on both parties (yes, even his own if needs be) The Tribune describes Chris Kennedy as a:
“Democrat who has stumbled in that role and, in so doing, demonstrated his authentic and independent character. He answers questions bluntly. He can be awkward. To satisfy angry voices within his party, he backtracked after acknowledging that Democrats’ sworn enemy, Gov. Bruce Rauner, should be applauded for speaking truth to power in taking on entrenched Democratic interests (hello there, House Speaker Michael Madigan).”
They are certainly correct when they say that Kennedy can be quite awkward at times. Although the editorial board really whiffed on this next point, bringing up a topic where they have truly missed the mark:
“We did our own scolding of Kennedy for his over-the-top assertion that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to drive minorities out of the city through gentrification.”
Kennedy is actually spot on about the gentrification issue, and he hit out at it again during his speech.
“The city is becoming smaller and as it’s becoming smaller it’s becoming whiter, we’re pushing people of color out of the city, we’re allowing food desserts to expand, we’re pioneering the concept of pharmacy desserts,” Kennedy said.
“We’re closing schools; 80% of the crime happens in eight of the neighborhoods.”
He also brought up how Chicago police and water departments have both been called out as racist by federal bodies who oversee them, and that the Cook County Assessor has been sued for violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“That’s what’s going on, and it needs to stop, we need to see ourselves,” he said.
Democratic primary voters on March 20 will choose from six candidates, but only three are getting major traction right now. Kennedy is an anti-establishment progressive, but he’s not as progressive as Daniel Biss. He also doesn’t have the visibility of J.B. Pritzker, who is seemingly on television every other second.
Pritzker, who has the endorsement of the Chicago Sun-Times, is reportedly spending up to $1 million per week on television ads, and if there’s a family whose name adorns more prominent buildings in this city than Pritzker, it’s difficult to identify. Of course, Pritzker’s familiarity can work against him and in this case deservedly so.
Disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich made Illinois a national punchline with tapes recording him aggressively trying to individually profit off the U.S. Senate seat that was vacated when President Barack Obama assumed the Presidency.
You can hear Pritzker prominently on those tapes, and it’s anything but a good look.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,” the legendary poet Maya Angelou famously said. The quote was referenced by Joy, who gave us the best quote of all from the rally:
“Instead of a government that serves all people we have a system where a small number of political insiders wield disproportionate power in this broken system. This top down Game of Thrones, winner take all approach to politics is causing real pain to for real people all across the state, from the board room to the classroom to the kitchen table.”
Joy is spot on, but when you look at the bigger picture, it’s easy to be cynical about the presence of a true raging against the machine candidate when the choice is between a Kennedy and a Pritzker.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune corporation blogging community Chicago Now.
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