AP Photo

Progressives on the March in Chicago and Wisconsin After Big Electoral Victories

Progressives had a great election night on Tuesday. The progressive candidate prevailed in the Chicago mayoral election and the Democratic-backed candidate won the high-profile Wisconsin Supreme Court race.


Progressives had a great election night on Tuesday. The progressive candidate prevailed in the Chicago mayoral election and the Democratic-backed candidate won the high-profile Wisconsin Supreme Court race, giving the court a liberal majority for the first time in 15 years.

  • Brandon Johnson, the left-wing Cook County Commissioner and Chicago Teachers Union organizer, defeated police union-backed ex-Chicago Schools CEO Paul Vallas in Tuesday’s all-Democratic mayoral runoff.
  • Johnson will succeed one-term Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who placed a distant third in the February general election. Johnson led Vallas 51.4% to 48.6% with 91% of votes tallied.
  • Mayor-elect Johnson, who was endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, has pledged to introduce a new approach to crime by spending more on mental health treatment, de-escalation methods and addressing the “root causes of crime” like education instead of on the police.
  • In Wisconsin, progressive Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz smashed GOP-backed candidate Daniel Kelly by an 11-point margin in the high-stakes race for the open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Kelly was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2016 before losing election to a full term in 2020 by a similar double-digit margin.
  • Protasiewicz’s victory hands progressives control of the high court for the first time since 2008 just as the court is considering the fate of Wisconsin’s ban on abortion.
  • The Democratic-backed candidate’s punishing margin of victory – in a state that reelected its conservative GOP U.S. Senator by 27,000 votes just 5 months ago – was widely attributed to her campaign’s relentless focus on abortion rights.
  • As the New York Times put it, “Judge Protasiewicz all but promised voters that if they elected her, the court’s new 4-to-3 liberal majority would reverse Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban and overturn the state’s famously gerrymandered, Republican-friendly legislative maps.”
  • Progressives won big by tying their opponents – a conservative Republican in Wisconsin and a moderate Democrat in Chicago – to Donald Trump and attacking their positions on abortion. Will this strategy pay off for them in 2024?


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • “When a deeply troubled city chooses to double down on all the policies that aren’t working, it’s like watching sailors on a sinking ship bailing water in instead of out. Welcome to Chicago,” Jim Geraghty wrote in the Washington Post. “It might well be that some of the nation’s major cities have now created a self-perpetuating progressive vicious cycle, where the policies enacted make the residents most inclined to oppose them decide to move out, leaving increasingly larger majorities of the voters who support those policies.
  • The New York Times’ Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith chronicled how Mayor-elect Johnson mobilized voters and pulled off his upset victory. Johnson attacked Vallas as a crypto-Republican and “tapped into the vast network of progressive groups in liberal Chicago — from the powerful teachers’ union to smaller, ward-based political organizations — who focused on field work to rally voters.”
  • Politico’s Shia Kapos and Christopher Cadelago reported Democrats were “emboldened” by Tuesday’s results. Some Democratic party officials are reportedly “sketching out the beginnings of a 2024 campaign playbook that again leans heavily into shielding abortion rights and doesn’t shy away from taking more nuanced approaches to tackling crime.” After Chicago and Wisconsin, Democrats believe “voters were more repelled by the GOP brand — colored by anti-abortion politics and personified by former President Donald Trump — than by accusations that Democrats were soft on crime.”



  • National Review’s Noah Rothman tried to find a “silver lining” for conservatives after Tuesday’s results. “There are no bright sides to Protasiewicz’s victory for conservatives. And yet, her election cannot be written off as simply the result of the right’s failure to mobilize its voters or the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s organizational strength,” Rothman wrote. “The same Wisconsinites who went to the polls to elect a left-leaning justice also overwhelmingly rejected progressive criminal-justice-reform initiatives.”
  • Fox News elaborated on conservatives’ “landslide policy victories” in Wisconsin. “Judges in Wisconsin will now be able to consider past convictions for violent crimes when setting bail for someone accused of a violent crime following a decision from voters in the state,” reported Kyle Morris. “They also will be allowed to set conditions meant to protect public safety when releasing someone before trial. The bail measures, which appeared as two separate ballot questions that each received nods from nearly 1.2 million voters, is the latest victory in a Republican-backed push to enact stricter bail laws across the country.”
  • The Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman analyzed the negative repercussions of Tuesday’s election for the world’s most famous Chicagoan: Barack Obama. “Perhaps former President Barack Obama thought he had finally succeeded in crushing local opposition to his presidential museum on Chicago’s South Side.” Freeman continued, “But Tuesday’s election results suggest that his construction project inside historic Jackson Park could face new challenges.”


Return to Freespoke Freespoke.com

© Dominic Moore, 2023