LYNDEN, Washington – “They smell blood,” wrote an old friend in an email last week. He was forwarding me the Nation’s e-newsletter, which led with this note to readers:
Dear EmailNation Subscriber,
Kshama Sawant, a Socialist Seattle city council candidate with a $15-an-hour [minimum] wage platform has taken the lead in a “historic” citywide race. Could she actually win? John Nichols has more.
Sawant had already won, de facto if not de jure. Her opponent, incumbent Democrat Richard Conlin, conceded after she took a convincing lead in the citywide vote count for the council seat.
That left it to the leftist magazine’s “Washington correspondent” — meaning the D.C. Washington, not the good one — to lay down the official line of What This All Means to progressive freethinkers. “Sawant,” Nichols wrote, “whose campaign energized young people, communities of color and neighborhood activists to provide its come-from-behind energy, describes her electoral success as ‘historic.’”
Nichols didn’t capitalize the word Historic, but probably should have, to give it extra dialectical heft. People of all political hues are getting worked up over the election of an open socialist in Seattle. They ask “How could this have happened?” and wonder what it portends for the future of the emerald city.
One astonished observer is Alex Berezow, unlike Nichols a resident of Seattle but a fairly recent transplant as these things go. Berezow asked, on his Real Clear Science blog, how it could be that citizens of “one of the most educated cities in America allow themselves to get duped” by voting for such an unreconstructed throwback to Che Guevara, Rosa Luxemburg and Enver Hoxha.
Critics are right on the money when they call Sawant a serious pinko. She would like to collectivize Amazon, one of the state’s largest companies.
David Goldstein, endorser for Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger, got rather defensive on this point, arguing that Sawant “is not running on it, and she freely acknowledged that it’s not going to happen, so it’s not like ‘seizing control of the means of production’ makes Sawant’s list of legislative priorities.”
The schoolyard taunt “Wanna bet?” seems appropriate. Sawant took less than two months to make a liar out of Goldstein. During the current ruckus between Boeing and the machinists union over where the 777 will be built, she charged the aerospace giant with “economic terrorism,” and made clear she wasn’t being in any wise metaphorical.
Sawant speechified on Monday that workers “should take over the factories, and shut down Boeing’s profit-making machine.” According to KIRO TV, she said this “to a cheering crowd of union supporters in Seattle’s Westlake Park.”
Well, of course they were cheering. Washingtonians in much of the rest of the state have come to expect such things from Seattle.
People who have been around the block long enough — and I moved to Tacoma when I was six — know Seattle is full of socialists of one kind or another, from strike-prone Boeing workers to nearly the entire faculty and student body at the University of Washington to the sports nut stadium socialists — now including screaming Seattle Sounders fans.
And let’s not forget Seattle’s health nut socialists. They helped give the whole state a smoking ban so restrictive that bank drive-through windows have “no smoking” signs, and also annoying plastic bag bans in several suddenly dog-crap heavy municipalities.
Seattle is an American city with a statue of Lenin prominently displayed. Folks decorate it at Christmastime and dress it up in drag for gay rights events. The city’s mayors are into doing things like Mau-Mauing Whole Foods. The city council recently voted to seize a functioning, privately owned parking lot from a 103-year-old woman and replace it with a publicly owned lot.
Supposedly exotic Socialist Kshama Sawant should fit right in.