For most of his career, Tom Geoghegan has lived a double life. By day he is a Chicago labor lawyer, representing clients caught in the bear trap of deindustrialization, downsizing and unionbusting. He has represented folks who have lost their pensions or been denied their rightful benefits–even union members taking on corrupt union bureaucracies. As the unionized workforce has dwindled and the possibility of making a living in labor law along with it, Geoghegan has branched out, suing payday lenders for their usurious exploitation of the poor and helping represent the City of Chicago in its suit against gun manufacturers.
Meanwhile Geoghegan has also carved out a career as one of the finest, most stylish and profound nonfiction writers in America. His book on the labor movement, Which Side Are You On?, is a masterpiece, as is his elegy on the decline of our civic sensibility, The Secret Lives of Citizens. In article after article (including ones in these pages) Geoghegan approaches the problems of our democracy from so far outside the parameters of ordinary discourse that it sometimes seems he’s arrived from a wiser, more humane planet. His writing has a way of illuminating what our new president has called “the smallness of our politics.”
Now Geoghegan is running for Congress in Illinois’s 5th District, the seat vacated by Rahm Emanuel (the all-important primary is March 3). It is an honor for this magazine to give him our full endorsement. We’re not the only ones who feel this way; since he threw his hat in the ring, a broad and eclectic group of progressive activists, union officials and writers have sung Tom’s praises. Our own Katha Pollitt called him “the next Paul Wellstone,” and David Sirotasaid he was “one of the greatest living progressives in America.”
Geoghegan’s platform should be a model for Democrats in the post-meltdown era. He advocates increasing the payout on Social Security so that those who have watched the stock market gobble up their life’s savings can retire with dignity; single-payer universal healthcare; and full nationalization of the failing financial sector instead of the ghastly corporate welfare that characterizes the no-strings-attached TARP bailout. Geoghegan is a dark horse in a crowded field with thirteen others, some of whom are competent public servants. But none have the vision, the passion or the real-life experience of fighting for people left behind by our post-Reagan economy like Geoghegan. We urge our readers to support him.