Militant Journalism

Senate approves Rahm Emanuel for ambassadorship despite opposition from Chicago progressives

In a rare session of Congress that extended into the very early hours of Dec. 18, the U.S. Senate approved notorious former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to be ambassador to Japan. The vote was 48 to 21, with three Democrats voting against the confirmation, and eight Republicans voting in favor. This vote was part of a deal by Democrats with Senator Ted Cruz who was blocking votes on ambassadors.

Emanuel’s nomination has been opposed by social movements and organizations in Chicago and across the United States. Emanuel suppressed the video of the murder of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke. It took a court ruling to force the public release of video of the murder. Rather than being investigated for covering up a murder, a crime in Illinois, Emanuel has been rewarded with an ambassadorship.

In addition to his role in the murder of Laquan McDonald, Rahm’s policies while mayor of Chicago were devestating for the working class in the city, especially Black and Latino communites. He closed 50 schools and half the mental health clinics in the city. These actions are especially devastating to reflect on two years into the COVID pandemic, as these resources are now needed more than ever.

As ambassador to Japan, Emanuel will be on the frontlines of U.S. aggression in East Asia. In his Senate hearing, he spoke about confronting the supposed threat posed by China and North Korea, and he praised efforts by Japan to double its military spending. Emanuel is not an expert on Japan or East Asia. He received this appointment because his previous roles in government, especially his time as mayor of Chicago, show that he is a ruthless servant of the capitalist class. Emanuel has promised to bring that ruthlessness to help advance the interests of U.S. imperialism in East Asia.

Democrats in Congress have failed so far to deliver on their tepid promises to implement police reform, defend voting and abortion rights, or pass needed social spending, but they were able to strike a deal for Emanuel.

Emanuel’s ascent to ambassador shows how under the current system, struggles for justice need to continue fighting to defend their successes. Van Dyke was convicted because there was a mass movement demanding justice for Laquan McDonald. Emanuel’s popularity was so low he did not run for another term as mayor. Just three years after Van Dyke’s conviction though, Rahm Emanuel was back interviewing for an ambassadorship on the anniversary of McDonald’s murder. 

While a movement developed to stop Emanuel from becoming ambassador, it was not large enough to actually stop his confirmation. The vote occurring in the dead of night and the few Democrat defections shows that there was some impact, but not enough to be decisive. 

Feature photo: Protesters gather in downtown Chicago Oct. 20, on the day of Emanuel’s hearing for ambassador to Japan and exactly seven years after the police murder of Laquan McDonald. Liberation photo

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