America's Choice: Chicago or MAGA Country
John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune via AP
America's Choice: Chicago or MAGA Country
John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune via AP
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Now-indicted actor Jussie Smollett claimed that Donald Trump partisans attacked him late at night on a deserted Chicago street in January 2019. Though most of the corporate media gladly amplified his concocted tale, to sensible Chicagoans the story reeked from the jump. First, because the bone-chilling polar vortex that night practically precluded outdoor human activities, even for hearty Windy City residents. And even before evidence emerged that he paid two Nigerian brothers to stage the “attack,” Smollett’s story that his assailants screamed “this is MAGA country” seemed farfetched to the point of farce: 21st century Chicagoans are fully aware of the deep-blue Democratic political proclivities of our city.

But that scam prompts a pertinent question for today. Do we, as a nation, want to be Chicago or MAGA country? As societal unrest and economic anxiety grip our land, the ascendant and increasingly aggressive leftists seek a wholesale transformation of America into the harsh realities of Chicago, a place afflicted by violence, bereft of opportunity, and committed to stifling statism.

In recent weeks, agitators have deployed street violence to achieve political power in ways unseen in this country since at least the 1960s, and perhaps since the Civil War. Amazingly, a litany of establishment media voices are providing explicit approval and cover for them. CNN anchor Chris Cuomo declared, “Show me where it says protests are to be polite and peaceful.” Well, Chris, human decency and common sense dictate that protests in a civil society entail neither violence nor vandalism. But, if you are too conscience-challenged for such awareness, the First Amendment to our Constitution also protects, explicitly, “the right of the people to peaceably assemble.” Perhaps Cuomo skipped Bill of Rights day when he attended law school.

It is not a trivial point. This preference and proclivity for violence can reshape America into a brutish nation that soon resembles the dangerous streets of Chicago. In fact, during the height of the recent protests and looting, Chicago suffered the deadliest single day in its modern history, with 18 people murdered on May 31, prompting the Chicago Sun-Times cover headline “Bloody Sunday.” But well before recent unrest, Chicago’s street carnage had grown so intense in recent years, that the U.S. military sends medics to city hospitals to train in gunshot wound treatment before overseas deployments to battle zones.

Much of this violence flows from a lack of opportunity that drives far too many young men to lives of despair, danger, and criminality. A recent University of Illinois study reports that 40% of Chicago black men aged 20-24 were neither employed nor in school. Part of this idleness flows from the scandalous failure of public education in Chicago. At the end of the 2019 school year, per Illinois exam guidelines, only 26% of Chicago public schools students tested ready for the next grade level.   

Much of the dereliction of duty in public education results from a bloated and expensive bureaucracy that exists for its own self-aggrandizement, to the detriment of children and families. Too many young Chicagoans find themselves consigned to lives of underperformance in a digital economy that emphasizes STEM skills and creative capacity.

Those same bureaucrats totally oppose Republican Party efforts to offer school choice for poor parents. They steadfastly fight efforts to empower parents and students to afford alternatives like Catholic schools. Why? Because statist monopolies in Chicago sustain a power structure of politically connected cronies. In most American cities, but especially Chicago, these government-paid charlatans ignore poor performance, eschew accountability, and carefully watch the clock while manipulating a union system that rewards retirees with pension benefits unfathomable to private-sector workers.

The end result of these policy failures? A city that, in many ways, resembles the Third World. Yes, like most developing-country urban areas, Chicago boasts incredible architecture and amenities in prosperous neighborhoods near the water. But many citizens endure a much bleaker and deadlier reality. Chicago has the highest life expectancy gap in America. According the New York University  school of medicine, the denizens of tony Streeterville high-rises (ironically the scene of Jussie’s “attack”) live, on average, to 90 years of age, while only nine miles away in Englewood, on the city’s South Side, the average life expectancy is a mere 60 years old.

In response to this litany of failures, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot predictably deflects blame by castigating President Trump. When Trump tweeted condemnation of the inability, or unwillingness, of Democratic mayors and governors to restore order during recent looting and rioting, Lightfoot responded: “I will code what I really want to say to Donald Trump. It’s two words. It begins with and F and ends with a U.” Her dismissive vulgarity exemplifies the arrogance of local officials, almost invariably Democrats, who have failed in the most basic governmental obligation to provide public safety. Lightfoot embodies the callous indifference to the hopelessness that permeates her city. Nonetheless, both locally and nationally, Chicago’s political leaders find a supportive leftist coalition of race-baiters, public-sector unions, trial lawyers, and corporate media cheerleaders.

So, let Chicago’s sad example proclaim a clarion call to the rest of America. In my city, under Democratic Party domination, wrongheaded policies have plunged a once-great metropolis into danger and deprivation. Chicago should be a warning to the rest of our country about the inevitable results of one-party rule and leftist statism. I highly doubt that Chicago will ever become “MAGA country.” But I firmly believe that America does not want to become Chicago. Instead, in the coming months and in the November election, my hope is that our nation will re-embrace the “America First” agenda to power out of our present difficulties with a renewed patriotism that rejects violence and enables  success for all citizens.  

Steve Cortes is a RealClearPolitics contributor and a senior adviser for strategy to the Trump 2020 Campaign. 

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