Wednesday, January 07, 2009

In search of a progressive voice

I like Thomas Frank. I read Whats The Matter With Kansas, a well-written book about why working class, middle-Americans consistently vote against their own interests, when they chooose Republicans, most notably, neocons, like George Bush.

I knew of Frank pre-WTMWK, from his days, editing The Baffler, a journal devoted to cultural criticism, liberally sprinkled with a progressive political bent. The Baffler is no more, but I recommend Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler, a representative sampling of the publication's best writing.

These days, between working on another book (I imagine), Frank writes The Tilting Yard column for the Wall Street Journal, serving as the pro-market, pro-business publication's token progressive. He's a good choice.

Like today's column. Frank let's readers know that not every pol from Chicago is a Blagojevich (or an Obama). In fact, Frank makes a strong case for Thomas Geoghegan, running to assume Rahm Emanuel's vacated House seat (the one that Blago didn't fuck with), representing the city's North Side. He calls Geoghegan, "an unrepentent New Dealer," something that's rarer than an honest Chicago politician and/or lawyer--Geoghegan happens to be the latter, vying to also be the former. Granted, he practices labor law and advocacy for the poor, which if you know anything about the legal profession, is the bargain basement when it comes to getting rich from the practice of law.

This about Geoghegan, from Frank's column today, recounting how he first became aware of a man that he makes it to Washington, might dispel the cynicism that so many of us feel towards national politics:

I first encountered Mr. Geoghegan in the early 1990s, when he was a frequent guest on a Chicago TV show. And I still remember how shocking it was to hear someone defend organized labor in those days when everyone else was coming to accept the post-industrial order.

Maybe that's just what you're supposed to hear when you turn on the TV in a place like Chicago. To me, though, it was new and astonishing, a sort of revelation. Mr. Geoghegan's 1991 book, "Which Side Are You On?" -- the best book on labor to appear in the past 50 years -- continued my education about the blue-collar world. An "anti-world," Mr. Geoghegan called it, a "secret world." And so it was: the silent, suffering antithesis to the great choir then starting its hymn to omniscient markets and the ever-ascending Dow.

Now that conservative orthodoxy has collapsed in a heap of complex derivatives, I can't help but think what a refreshing dose of plain-spoken Midwestern reality Mr. Geoghegan could bring to the nation as a whole.

According to Frank, Geoghegan is a "big thinker," something that DC and just about every other seat of government is experiencing a dearth of.

Apparently Geoghegan is also a writer, and wrote a book, Which Side Are You On? that Frank says is "the best book on labor book to appear in the past 50 years." (Added to my ever-growing list of books for 2009)

Check out Frank's column, and keep your eyes on the crowded field of candidates vying for Emanuel's vacated seat. I'm hoping that Geoghegan gets the nod and heads to DC.

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