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Federal Government Sat Jan 03 2009

Tom Geoghegan for Congress?

Rick Perlstein, author of one of the best non-fiction books of the last five years, Nixonland, has started a Facebook group in support of labor lawyer and progressive author Tom Geoghegan running to replace Rahm Emanuel in Chicago's Fifth Congressional District. I don't believe Geoghegan (pronounced GAY gin, with hard g's) has officially announced his candidacy, but an ActBlue page and P.O. Box have been set up in support of a run.

If Geoghegan runs, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him garner national attention from progressive activists.

Geoghegan is beloved of progressives for his strong advocacy of labor and workplace rights and his ability to write about complex issues -- particularly the U.S. court systems -- from a populist vantage and with angry wit. Progressive author and activist David Sirota called Geoghegan "hands down one of the best writers in America." His book Which Side Are You On? is required reading for supporters of workers' rights, and his more recent See You in Court is a devastating revision of the accepted view of liberals as the abusers of the court system. Geoghegan's thesis that the loss of collective bargaining as the means to improve economic conditions has led to an effort to redistribute income through the courts has gained popularity among the Left, and represents a thread of thought that class needs to return to the center of left-wing politics.

For example, a similar view is echoed by Richard Kahlenberg in his 2007 book Tough Liberal, a biography of American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Albert Shanker, whose intensely class-focused influence over labor faded with the encroachment of John Lindsay-style liberalism in the 1960s and '70s. Kahlenberg has argued for a Shanker-style, class-based "tough liberalism."

Perlstein's own work, the monstrously researched Nixonland, details in part how America's political landscape transformed from one based on economic differences -- class loyalty -- to one where cultural relations form the basis for political allegiance. Thus Nixon's "fragmenting of America."

Witnessing how cultural appeals failed so completely in the two most recent national elections, a rebirth of class as the central "identity" in American politics is certainly possible. A nationally watched campaign with a candidate like Geoghegan in serious contention could help embolden like-minded citizens elsewhere.

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