The Ecosocialist Case Against Rahm Emanuel "Rahm Emanuel, Pointing, With Chicago Flag in Background" by danxoneil is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

The Ecosocialist Case Against Rahm Emanuel

The DSA for a Green New Deal Campaign is planning a national day of coordinated action on December 12th. With what will most likely be a divided federal government, it’s urgent that we fight for our lives, and communicate  that our elected representatives are on notice to deliver us a Green New Deal. This action is a response to the November 3rd election that lets our representatives know that we are going to demand what’s right for the working class. This day of action and the Green New Deal introduces a broad people’s agenda. In addition to the Green New Deal, we will be emphasizing the demands of Medicare for All and the PRO Act (a vital fight with Lyft/Uber empowered by the passage of California’s Prop 22). 

As socialists, we know there is no pushing Biden left. We also know, however, that the climate crisis is now. We have been facing crisis on top of crisis – the number of historical, unprecedented climate catastrophes has been growing exponentially in recent years. 2020 brought a record number of hurricanes and devastating wildfires on the West coast, and has been one of the hottest years we have ever seen. On top of this has been the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the uncertainty and turmoil around the election. We are on track to lose almost half a million or more people to COVID-19 by March of 2021. COVID has created the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with a quarter of the country unemployed already. Any one of these individual crises should spur immediate action, but as they all build and mutate on top of each other, we are almost out of time to act. Trickle down market tweaks cannot fix this–only massive public spending can. 

This Friday, The Chicago Democratic Socialists of America will be targeting former Mayor Rahm Emanuel as part of this coordinated action. Given the size of our chapter and the news that President-elect Biden is potentially tapping Rahm Emanuel to serve in his cabinet, it is incumbent upon the city of Chicago to demonstrate that we will not tolerate the promotion of the man who covered up the murder of Laquan McDonald to win reelection and one whose answer to every problem is mediocre neoliberal responses. Though Emanuel is not a target that may immediately come to mind for a Green New Deal oriented action, it’s been rumored that he is being considered for Secretary of Transportation, which has inherently ecosocialist potential. 

When passed, The Green New Deal will grant $300 billion dollars in funding to the transportation sector, which would largely be controlled by the department that Emanuel hopes to lead. The Green New Deal advocates for 100% renewable public transportation by 2030 and decarbonization by 2050. It also, amongst other things, advocates for a comprehensive high speed rail system throughout the country. Transit equity goes hand in hand with environmental justice. Equitable transit at its core guarantees that all residents of a city can access high quality and reliable transportation regardless of where they live in the city. It also guarantees that residents are not disproportionately impacted by the more negative effects of transportation activities, including pollution and elevated noise levels, while not being able to access that transportation meaningfully. 

It cannot be denied that under Emanuel’s tenure, public transportation in the city of Chicago was expanded. CTA stations were restored and routes, particularly in the Loop and North side of the city, were expanded. This was done with neither equity nor sustainability in mind. Rather, Emanuel continually prioritized the wealth of elites and business interests. A long time project for Emanuel was to improve O’Hare, specifically with an eye towards attracting more companies to the city. Infamously, Emanuel supported the Hyperloop, an express transit system from O’Hare directly to the loop, which would have effectively run parallel to the already existing Blue line. Charitably, this so-called “public-private” partnership resembled the sale of city parking meters to a private company, which made over $100 million dollars in profit in 2015. This is money left on the table that the city could have desperately used. Had the Hyperloop come to fruition, it’s hard to estimate just how much in profit Elon Musk’s private company the Boring Company may have made. Such partnerships are inherently undemocratic, and this one transparently was not designed with most Chicagoans in mind. 

Emanuel left office before completing a much-needed expansion of the Red line from 95th to 130th, which would hugely benefit South side Chicagoans. Rahm apologists may argue that this was outside of his control, as the project was timed after he left and during a Trump administration, but the fact remains that he heavily prioritized redevelopment and investment for North side CTA routes before turning an eye towards the transportation and employment deserts on the South and West side. 

In a cost-cutting attempt, Emanuel disbanded the office of environmental enforcement, which led to a subsequent decrease in oversight of heavy-duty polluters, who are disproportionately concentrated in the South and West sides of the city. Key inspections of hazardous materials, air quality, and solid waste fell immensely between 2010 and 2018. As we see today with polluters like General Iron, producers of hazardous materials and pollutants were continuously pushed to neighborhoods already facing poor air, water, and land quality. Though spokespeople for Emanuel tried to push this decrease in regulations to the side, data shows that there was a stark decrease in oversight when compared to Mayor Richard M. Daley’s term, Emanuel’s immediate predecessor. There are many metrics that environmental oversight might be measured by, but the decrease in citations was concerning, and begged the question about what might be slipping by. 

Even before this, when Emanuel served as Chief of Staff during Obama’s administration, he helped to bury the prioritization of climate change at the national level, as it was neither profitable nor popular at the time. Aside from the very real climate destruction this likely helped to usher, it again shows Emanuel prioritizing wealth and popularity over morality and serving the many, not the few. Conversations about climate change in the White House were not just avoided – it seems they were actively suppressed. Emanuel also helped put the kibosh on any green initiatives that would have been included in the 2009 stimulus bill because he didn’t think they would be palatable to the general public. Refusing to talk about climate change didn’t make the problem go away in 2009 and it certainly won’t make a difference in 2020. President-elect Joe Biden has committed to making the climate a priority in his first 100 days but has not spoken meaningfully about what that might look like in reality, and having Emanuel in his Cabinet would only serve to further de-fang the climate crisis. 

Ecosocialists support good stewardship of our air, water, and land. Climate justice, transportation justice, and racial justice all go hand and hand, and former mayor Rahm Emanuel has repeatedly demonstrated that he will always choose lining his own wallet and the wallets of his friends. 

We hope this to be a clear demonstration that Chicago DSA does not support the further public-sector employment of the former Mayor of Chicago at any level in a Biden cabinet or elsewhere. RSVP for the action held outside Rahm’s Ravenswood residence here, or review the full scope of actions this weekend across the country here.