Chicago Centrists: Time to Get Back in the Game!

By Juan Rangel

May 24, 2024

Chicago finds itself in a power shift that is testing old political paradigms while imperiling her future. The political center, which once dominated the local scene and was marveled at for its working-class values and voting base, has given way to an extreme left once regarded simply as a fringe nuisance in our city’s historical one-party system of government. Centrist elected officials are on defense, if not on life support, as they try to navigate an increasingly hostile political terrain leaving moderate Chicago voters wondering if there’s still room for them in their Democratic Party.

Gone are the days of the Daley Democrats or as some would put it “the Machine” which built power through patronage jobs in city government in exchange for a vote. The old machine stalwarts and their ways have been put on ice. In their place are teacher union bosses who turned labor contracts and union dues into a new well-oiled machine that doles out government goodies to their allies for their so-called“common good” agenda. The lingo may have changed, but patronage is alive and well. Can you say, “sustainable schools model” or “safe passage workers”?

Let’s be clear, this new machine is led by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and has helped the extreme-left gain a larger foothold into the city and state’s power centers.

They are” the establishment” complete with its own dominant Democratic Socialist Caucus in the City Council, its own political party apparatus in United Working Families (chaired by none other than CTU President Stacy Davis Gates), and its own teacher union organizer-turned mayor in Brandon Johnson. Their most ardent followers are a well-organized alliance of actors whose political pedigree range from social justice warriors to outright anarchists.  It’s the new left where even traditional leftists have been, well, left out. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is Exhibit A. This is not hyperbole, it’s our new political reality that requires a response.

Yet, there is a void of centrist leadership in a city long-known for its blue-collar families, lunch bucket values, and church-lined neighborhoods. Perhaps Chicago grew comfortable with a steady strong-mayor governance model, albeit corruptibly imperfect, that kept extremists at bay. The absence of such a power center has unleashed forces that run counter to what centrists believe in and are antithetical to what our city and state need.

The chief far-left protagonist is of course CTU, whose own radicalization a decade ago led to two teacher strikes in as many years and shut the city’s most vulnerable kids out of their schools for more than 15 months during COVID. Never mind the science which said schools were safe for kids; this was a power move that mattered most to the teachers’ union. Now bolstered by their hand-picked mayor and school board, CTU is on the march to eliminate any competition that gives parents better school options for their children, unless you can afford it. (See Stacy Davis Gates.)

The CTU’s opposition to charter schools, selective enrollment schools and tax credit scholarships for poor kids to attend private schools is only the beginning. Yet, the schools are only part of CTU’s target as they push a broader public policy agenda giving them a hand in every part of life for Chicagoans. Their efforts to “defund the police” have left the city more vulnerable to neighborhood street crime and violence that has also hollowed out Chicago’s downtown economic vitality. Their “tax the rich” mantra or as socialist Alderperson Rosanna Rodriguez’ likes to non-eloquently declare, “eat the rich,” has only added to Chicago’s middle-class tax burden. Just ask employers, property owners, and renters in Pilsen how that’s worked out for them.

While Mayor Harold Washington may have declared the machine “dead, dead, dead,” CTU has breathed new life into it with devastating consequences, especially for Black and Brown communities.  But maybe, just maybe, the recent victory of Eileen O’Neill Burke for State’s Attorney and the defeat of Johnson’s “Bring Chicago Home” transfer tax show signs that Chicago’s centrist working class is recognizing the threat to their values and the quality of life they’ve worked so hard to have. Well, it’s past time for the political center to take action and stand up for our values and interests. This requires the attention of civic-minded leaders from the business, religious, education and non-profit sectors, and means engaging in the raucous political process.

Proponents of school choice and stronger accountability in our public schools, increased and better policing for safe communities, and responsible governing that values taxpayers and promotes neighborhood job development must organize, coalesce and push back on the extremists. It also needs new leaders to emerge and drive the change needed to get back to some sense of normalcy.


Juan Rangel has a 35 year history in Chicago’s community-based and political arenas and now serves as the founder and Executive Director of the newly launched The Urban Center, a non-profit program created to give voice to Chicago’s centrist communities by taking action on a common sense agenda over the extremist leftwing takeover of our city and state. Prior to founding The Urban Center, Juan served as Senior Director of Empower Illinois, a tax credit scholarship organization providing opportunities for low-income children to attend private and faith-based schools in Illinois. He also served as CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization and founded the UNO Charter School Network (now Acero Schools) in 1998, serving over 7500 students at its peak in 2013. Juan began his public service career in 1989 as an elected local school council member of his former grammar school in the Little Village community.


Comments 28

  1. The Chicago I was born, raised and educated in does not exist any longer. I’m all for progress but that is not what the “progress” in progressive Chicago politics means.

    Sadly, Chicago and Illinois has passed the point of no return. It is beyond being corrected.

  2. The City that I love and came to America for is no more. We came for the American Dream, we worked hard, raised our children to love America and God, loved going to the City, we use to go to Oak Street Beach until 2:00 because the Summer Months were hot and no A/C in those days and now we cannot go and stroll down Michigan Avenue for fear of our lives. We have a City full of crooked Politicians, thugs that are raping and stealing and go free, and that is what America was not built on. Honesty, love of God, proud of our Heritage and yet proud to become American Citizens. I do not see an end to this awful way of running the Cities, and I am afraid the young do not seem to care. We worked hard to Educate our children without Student Loans and now the Government needs their Vote and has put America in the 34 Trillion number in debt for Votes. Is this the future you young want? How sad. You know who is behind the curtain running the Country but no one has the guts to expose them. They have taken over the Cable News, the so call Newspapers for greed and control of the Poor. They do not care about the Poor, they only care for their Pension and stealing from the American people. How sad. China owes our Country and Iran is being funded from our Government, and the Poor are paying the price. Homeless people are everywhere while the Veterans are taken to the Streets for the Illegals. Yes folks they are Illegals. We came to America with papers, a sponson and a job and only 25,000 from each Country came to work hard and be part of America. There is no Education any more DEI has destroyed the young wanting to be Drs, they do not even pass the test. Is this the Country you people want? So sad. Wake up please.

    1. Helen, exactly ! The city and everything with it. CTA is screwed up. Metra is screwed up. Sports teams priorities are screwed up (we don’t need new stadiums, just play the damn game). The schools are messed up. Business, what’s left of it, are screwed up and probably more like screwed. Crime and law is messed up. The list goes on and on.

    2. Helen, you properly used the term illegals. I’ve been harping on that for at least a year now. Immigrants follow a legit process. Another term that needs to stop…Progressive. Let’s start referring them as Radicals, since that’s what they truly are. Brandon Johnson is a radical. Stacy Gates is a radical. Kim Foxx is a radical. JB Pritzker is a radical. Progressive means moving forward. These people and people like them are moving backward. Maybe instead of radical we should use the term Regressives. It’s probably more accurate and would probably piss them of more.

      And as was brought out yesterday about Barack Obama (one of those disappointments) being the Regressive behind the curtain on a national level, let’s not forget who is really pulling the levers here on a local level. No, not JB. Toni Preckwinkle is the evil here. She is the one with blood on her hands. She sticks her nose into everything, most where it doesn’t belong. All the trouble, all the issues, all of the hand picked people involved, have her stamp on it. And the media shelters her quite well. When do you ever see or hear of or hear her ?

      If there is evil here, Toni Preckwinkle is Satan, and that’s an insult to Satan. The focus needs to be her, not necessarily the CTU.

      1. “Radicals” is a too broad and nice description for these malevolent actors. They are commiecrats led by former president Obama, who’s now in his third term in office. They engineered a coup d’etat in 2020, and are busy consolidating their position before the “silent majority” fully realizes what happened to the country they once loved. Perilous times are ahead.

      2. You are so correct Ken, progressive is an oxymoron. I have referred to them as regressives for at least 3 years now, radical left is just as good

    3. Helen, YOU ARE SPOT ON!!!
      What I DO NOT understand is…..where is our voice?? We have none as far as I can tell. Oh, that’s right, we vote and that is our voice. REALLY?? We voted in 2020 and we all know those votes were horribly mishandled. So, this 2024 election will be as fair as it can be?? I HIGHLY DOUBT IT!!
      So..where is our voice??? The media snuffs it out. And, sadly, we the white population are too polite and quiet to stir up any “trouble”. Since when is our opinion trouble??
      The illegals are escorted into our country like Royalty….WHAT? How can this be??
      We sit by and just watch our country being taken over.
      Our black population stood up and made their voices heard LOUD AND CLEAR!!
      We need to stand up and fight for our rights as citizens! NOW!!!
      I’m not an organizer but I would be an active participant.
      C’mon everyone…WE NEED ACTION NOW….before it’s too late 🙁

  3. Thanks for the article Juan. Unfortunately, as Chicago’s last mayoral election and the way Chicagoans voted in our last governor’s race has shown the “ centrists” you speak of are all but gone. The state can not do it on their own. Downstate Illinoisans have been pushing for change but can no longer get what they vote for due to the heavy anchor that Chicago and all of Cook County has become. Chicago is getting everything it deserves and then some. This summer should be really entertaining to watch the democrats and extreme leftists battle it out and eat each other up during the DNC and the weeks leading up to it.
    It is too easy to point the finger at the CTU as we all know they are a big problem. The even bigger problem are the citizens who vote straight blue no matter who. We all know people who voted this way. Most of us have family members who have voted this way. Now that the damage they caused by voting like this has come to head, they still try to blame “ the other guy” for all of this carnage. Mayor Johnson himself says so ever so eloquently that none of these problems going on in the city are his fault.
    The last glimmer of hope I have right now is watching the black community stand up and voice their anger at the city council meetings. Let’s all hope that come November, these angry black Chicago Americans keep that anger and fire in their bellies and vote red. That is the only way things will change. If they flip their votes nationally, then the local politicians will know they mean business.

  4. With all due respect, Mr. Rangel, its was the “moderate Democrats” ( Richie Daley et al) who sold the city, nation, the state, the city and their souls out to the Marxists and the Globalists. A pox on them. When you stand for nothing, you fall for anything.

    The author regales against socialistic use of money but EXPECTS the govt to fund families wanting to use govt funds for private education. Why don’t these families save $$$, or work a second job to get their kids in good private schools. My parents did!
    And again, the people voted for these A holes and elections have consequences. These whore pols were put in office by their constituents. They didn’t use the military to get in like they do in socialistic countries. The Chicago of past is long. This site has become so repetitive whoa be us, the sky has fallen. Arent you tired of the same bitching. Is that all you can do? Has anyone of you tried to run for office, organize to help someone who supports your views run for office, etc. Have you gone to meetings of your pol and bitched him or her out. Pols are cowards, you need to challenge them. Most of you are arm chair professional whiners.

    1. Thomas. I so much want to agree with you. You did well and completed my ire. But then you kill it by going overboard in the last 5 sentences and messed it up. Let’s face it, in addition to getting some good point of views, this is a damn good forum. The bitching you refer to is part of it and probably to a point, therapeutic.

      Yes you are correct, absolutely. Your parents were apparently the same as mine. Daley was very weak at the end, unlike his old man. Let’s not forget what and where Rham was before he came back home. That might be where the trouble truely began. And people keep voting for goofballs. Had the chance, yet they made the choice of Johnson over Vallas. Sure there a probably some here who would love to run for an office. But it takes a following, money and name recognition. Not too many have that. Vallas had all of that and where did that get him…and us! ?

      As I said above, Satan has a new name, and it’s Preckwinkle. That is where ire, attention and focus needs to be directed.

      1. Yes Ken they tell you need money but at the local level you really don’t. You need neighborhood support. I ran for coroner of Lake county, il and spent less than 1K. I beat the demorat selected coroner and then the GOP candidate.
        But the point is this. When you announce you are running it scares the scat out of incumbents and that’s half the fun. You get to go to neighborhood meetings to discuss grievances instead of bitching to the choir here on JK. TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE WHINERS AND NOT DOERS. CANT STAND BITCHY WIMPS.

    2. Run for office? Don’t make me laugh. There hasn’t been a Republican mayor in Chicago since 1931. The Republican Party is almost non-existent. Independent parties? Forget about it. That leaves only the Democrat party, which is now run by commiecrats. They’re not going to slate any centrists for office, let alone Republicans. Grabill is right. The city is gone.

  6. Juan, I think there remains a center, but it has been largely silent at the polls. When someone like BJ gets elected with only 17% of electorate, it’s not hard for the radicals to win.

    Talk about systemic, the rise of public sector unions (FDR warned of this), the systematic suppression of an opposition party (gerrymandering, recent legislation prohibiting opposition candidates after primary season, etc), a compliant if not complicit media and this is what we get. A one-party system run by and for radicals that will take their perverse agenda as far as it can go and beyond.

    It’s time for a revolution! Rise up center and restore our middle class, middle American values.

    1. Richard…you are RIGHT ON!!
      I’ve said we need a Taxpayer Revolution for many years now. We support Hamas for God sake…..and who knows what else? The illegals are the chosen people! How wrong is that? Our Vets are homeless… we forgive everyone’s student loans?? HELP!!!

  7. I don’t live in the city, but I was born and raised there. I hope Juan Rangel is really onto a movement that will grow and save Chicago from the far left extremists and Marxists. Sometimes I wonder how Chicagoans let this bunch of far leftists take over their beautiful city.

  8. Wow! I’m surprised to ever see someone like Rangel on the same side as John Kass. He has always been a staunch soldier of the left. My guess is Rangel’s feeling the heat from CTU targeting his charter schools. Since his schools are now representative of the shortcomings of the public school system they are now the target of the teachers union. Success can only breed contempt from the mediocre. Hopefully Juan can now see the error of his ways. Everybody hates the man until they BECOME the man. Viva la revolucion!

  9. I moved away from the Chi Town area almost 30 years ago.
    Annually my wife I would make a pilgrimage to the city for a long weekend, maybe catch a Cubs game or visit the State Street Christmas windows and avail ourselves of the cuisine at LaScarola.
    Sorry, but we ceased visiting about 4 years ago.
    No more. We don’t care to be car jacked, robbed or beaten up in broad daylight on Michigan Ave.
    I always wondered why the black community would continue to vote in the Dems when every election cycle the pols promised to fix the problems and issues facing them and their neighborhoods. They didn’t fix jack.
    Here’s and idea….move or throw the bums out.
    Moving is actually quite therapeutic!

  10. Ken, this quote of yours exposes the real culprit (one who consistently and easily is re-elected to her powerful position):
    If there is evil here, Toni Preckwinkle is Satan, and that’s an insult to Satan. The focus needs to be her, not necessarily the CTU

  11. The CTU only gets bigger with worse test scores in math and reading. Throwing more money at them only causes them to want more money.
    Illinois has the 3rd or 4th worst unemployment in the nation. 2nd worst unemployment for African Americans. So with future students with poor reading and math skills coming into the system expect the city to circle the drain quicker.

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