Thu. May 30th, 2024

Pritzker, Johnson face test with Chicago convention

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May18,2024

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson will face a test this summer with the Democratic National Convention, which protesters of the Biden administration’s handling of Israel’s war with Hamas are already targeting.

The success of the convention could provide a boost to Pritzker, a two-term governor seen as a future candidate for the 2028 Democratic nomination, and Johnson, who has been struggling with a low approval rating and the potential for a recall effort down the line. 

The last thing either need is a Chicago convention that might draw comparisons to the chaos of the 1968 convention, when police in the city battled those protesting the Vietnam War.

Projecting leadership that protects free speech, public safety and a sense of order, on the other hand, could benefit the Illinois and Chicago leaders hosting President Biden and his party.

“The whole world will be watching how the governor performs here, and regardless of his political ambitions, he has an opportunity here to show the whole world what he’s been for Illinois — calm, competent and confident,” longtime Democratic political operative Victor Reyes said.

Political convention protests are as American as apple pie, but the prospect for out-of-control demonstrations is increasingly becoming a worry amid clashes over campus encampments in the past week.

Reyes, who previously worked for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, said he expects protesters would seek to draw the attention of media outlets and observers from outside the convention itself rather than inside. 

Officials responsible for overseeing the convention have already been planning for potential protests ahead of the August convention.

“We got to make sure at all times that people are able to get where they want to go while at the same time respecting the people who are protesting,” Pritzker said at a recent press conference.

A spokesperson for the governor pointed to those comments when asked for a comment for this story.

Pritzker also told CNN in an interview last month that the city is prepared to host the convention. He said Chicago police were able to quickly escort protesters off an interstate highway outside Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after they shut down the street. 

“Our Chicago Police Department was able to get those folks off the highway faster than any other city in the United States. And they’re prepared for the Democratic Convention,” he said. 

The convention comes at a time the national spotlight is on Pritzker, who has been seen as a rising star in the party and sparked rumors about his future ambitions, including the possibility of a run for president in 2028.

He has acted as a surrogate for Biden so far during the 2024 campaign, and he has used his own money for a nonprofit he founded that is working to protect abortion rights in key battleground states. 

“There’s a great opportunity to show the world the kind of leader he has been for Illinois. He’s been stepping out more in the last number of years than ever before, but this one is going to have persistent coverage leading up to the convention, during the convention and all the prognosticating afterward,” Reyes said. 

Johnson is in a different spot.

He was elected mayor last year but has struggled in recent months will low approval ratings.

One poll from November found 28 percent of registered voters approved of his job performance, while another from January found 21 percent approved. 

Johnson’s term is not set to end until 2027, but one activist is circulating a petition to create a ballot measure for November that would allow Chicago voters to recall their mayor before the term ends. Johnson brushed off the effort, accusing the man backing the effort of being part of an “extreme right wing” who is upset that his administration is mostly made up of women and is more than 40 percent Black. 

If the effort is successful, another petition would still need to gather signatures to try to recall Johnson at a future date. The petition will need more than 50,000 signatures to become a ballot measure, but it received the support of the police union late last month. 

A smooth convention, strategists said, would give Johnson the opportunity to demonstrate his ability to manage a huge event.

Democratic strategist Aviva Bowen said Johnson could receive credit or blame depending on the logistical success. 

“If things are logistically difficult, they’re looking toward city leadership,” she said. “On the flip side, if things are smooth and thriving, then he should get credit for that.” 

Johnson emphasized Friday that the city is prepared for the convention, which he said will be “safe, energetic, vibrant.” 

“If there is a mayor that understands the value of protests, it’s me. I’ve led many demonstrations before, and I understand the value of being able to express your political belief or ideas in order to move a government. That’s why I’m mayor,” he said. 

Bowen said Johnson may face the most scrutiny since the convention is in the city’s jurisdiction.

She said “all levels of government” need to coordinate with law enforcement to ensure all attendees have a safe experience, and she expressed confidence in the city’s abilities.

Still, organizers’ plans for protests have stirred some contention, with a few groups suing the city over its denial of their request for a permit. Johnson reportedly said Friday that the permits were denied to ensure a “secure” location for protesters while not overwhelming traffic. 

Some are rejecting any comparisons to 1968, pointing to other major events in Chicago since then like the Democratic convention in 1996 and a 2012 summit of NATO leaders that yielded protests but were much less chaotic. They said officials are better prepared this year than for the events of 50 years ago. 

“There is a mayoral and a gubernatorial leadership in which they recognize not only what’s going on on the national stage in terms of protests happening across the country but also recognizing that it’s summertime in Chicago,” Democratic strategist Ameshia Cross said. “It’s a beautiful time, but it’s also a time where we’re typically on high alert across the city.”

Cross said policies will ultimately be more determinative of Pritzker’s and Johnson’s future success than the convention itself. 

Bowen said Pritzker would more likely be successful because of his record rather than a one-time event. 

“I think if we have a great event, it benefits everybody, everyone up in Chicago and Illinois, but the governor and whatever aspirations he may have for reelection or other office, the perk is in his record,” she said.

The convention itself is not expected to be dramatic. Biden has clinched the delegates needed for the nomination, and the days of conventions being actual stages to select a party’s presidential candidate seem long gone.

That means much of the drama may be connected to the protests — and how they are handled.

“I don’t think people need it to be a coronation, but they also don’t need it and want it to be complete chaos,” Reyes said. 

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

Related Post

2 thoughts on “Pritzker, Johnson face test with Chicago convention”
  1. As a Chicagoan, I believe it is crucial for Governor Pritzker and Mayor Johnson to handle the upcoming convention with tact and professionalism. The success of this event could indeed impact their future political endeavors. Let’s hope for a convention that showcases leadership and fosters meaningful dialogue.

  2. I believe Governor Pritzker and Mayor Johnson will need to demonstrate strong leadership during the Chicago convention to maintain public order and security. It is crucial for them to handle any potential protests effectively and project an image of calmness and competence to the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *