Socialist Kshama Sawant will be on the next Seattle City Council.A Socialist will sit where a longtime Democrat used to sit on the Seattle City Council.
Longtime Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin conceded to challenger Sawant Friday evening, after new election numbers showed her ever-widening lead of 1,640 votes in the race for Position 2.
Now, I could tell you that her name is Kshama Sawant. I could tell you that she is a brilliant woman of color. I could tell you that she came to this country from India to be an American and make a better life not just for herself but for everybody who struggles to get by. I could tell you that she has a PhD in economics. Or that she was an Occupy activist back in the day. I could tell you that her victory was a shocking surprise to the local political establishment in Washington State.
I prefer to tell you something else entirely.
Who was Mike Tyson to her Buster Douglas.
She beat a 16 year Democratic Party incumbent, a man named Richard Conlin, who had not just the support of the Democratic Party establishment in King County but also the support of the Democratic incuments in all seven of the Seattle Legislative Districts. Here's the vexing thing. By almost all accounts that I have been able to come by, he is, and has been, a very good Democratic office-holder. He has not been a Very Serious Centrist. Nor has he been any kind of a Post-Partisan Triangulator. He's apparently not a Democrat who is in the back pocket of Big Business. There are a lot of people who traditionally vote Democratic who live in the area who are truly sorry that he lost this race, but, he lost. There was political room not just to maneuver, but to actually beat him, available on the progressive left of the spectrum.
It is the sort of outcome that should merit a little pause, thought, and consideration.
What did she run on? What were the values and policy positions she offered the voters?
Her platform includes a $15 minimum wage, a millionaire's tax, ending corporate welfare, unionizing service workers, stopping the coal trains, GMO labeling, and rent control.She won by having more of a claim on what should be the Democratic Party brand that the (D).
A good Democrat to boot.
Another little warning to the Democratic Party.
Local, State, and National. The '90s are over.
You have to bolster and maintain your brand to depend on it being there for you.
"This is new territory. There really isn't any precedent," said Stuart Elway, a longtime political pollster. "You think Seattle has a pretty liberal electorate, but you haven't seen someone who calls themselves a socialist win."Let's be brutally honest here. The "Socialist" tag is the media and establishment out.
Sawant, 41, drew attention as part of local Occupy Wall Street protests that included taking over a downtown park and a junior college campus in late 2011. She then ran for legislative office in 2012, challenging the powerful speaker of the state House, a Democrat. She was easily defeated.
This year, she ran against Conlin, pushing a platform that appeared to resonate with the city. She backed efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15; called for rent control in the city where rental prices keep climbing; and supports a tax on millionaires to help fund a public transit system and other services.
"I think we have shown the strongest skeptics that the Socialist label is not a bad one for a grassroots campaign to succeed," said Sawant, who is on leave from her job as an professor at Seattle Central Community College.
She ran against Conlin pushing a platform that appeared to resonate with the city?'Appeared to resonate'? Like David 'appeared to' slay Goliath with a slingshot and a little rock?
It would be really easy to just dismiss this as an outlier, an aberration. "It's Seattle".
Or Whatever liberal bastion you can think of. North Hampton. Vermont. Berkeley.
The problem with doing that?
1. She didn't run as a hardcore Leftist. She basically out-Democrated the Democrat.
2. Her campaign was populist, grassroots driven, and was fueled with ground-level retail politicking of what most Democrats around the country would proudly consider to be Democratic strong points. Lots of hardworking volunteers going out and knocking on doors and shaking hands and talking to persuadable local voters about the issues and what she stood for as a candidate.
3. A lot of people who are going to do that, in government and in the traditional media at large, either don't give a damn if a Democrat ever wins another election again, would prefer the Democrats to just be agreeable to whatever the obnoxiously assumed to be the natural ruling class of the country in the form of the GOP desires, or who prefer the Democratic Party to be the meekest, most terrified, and gratuitously unprincipled ball of self-hating panic of Grover Norquist's dreams. I give a serious damn about the Democratic Party brand.
She won because she had more credibility than a longtime Democratic seatholder in a Democratic enclave on what should be Democratic issues.
That's a warning. A little one. But a warning nonetheless.
You have a brand.
You can lose your lead on what you think of as your political identity, you brand core.
That's a warning about the vital need to maintain and bolster your party and its political brand. It's not immortal. You should be the Social Services candidate. You should have the most credibility on certain issues. That doesn't mean you do. Not if you have left yourself open to somebody else having more credibility than you on those areas. You cannot assume that, as a Democrat, you just magically have the most credibility on progressive issues. You don't bolster and maintain your brand, and suddenly you wake up one day and you have no legacy credibility to fall back on. And you lose to upstart candidates you didn't really fear at all. Credibility. As a candidate and as a party you have to keep it up and maintain it. Always.
You can wake up one day and somebody else has more credibility on defending Social Security. Protecting Medicare. Preserving Food Stamps and other Anti-Hunger Programs. Housing. Education.
The media angle is that she calls herself a Socialist.
The 'very serious' pundits will, inevitably, sneer, minimize, and/or dismiss her for it.
Because nationally, but even in a local media market, you are supposed to be unafraid to run Right, and paralyzed with fear of being labeled as a candidate of the Left. It's as bipartisan as regressive freetrade agreements, brutal austerity, and overblown deficit hysteria.
Democrats could just look at this, and shrug their shoulders, and say it doesn't matter.
But look at what her brand is.
Her platform includes a $15 minimum wage, a millionaire's tax, ending corporate welfare, unionizing service workers, stopping the coal trains, GMO labeling, and rent control.If that is the 'dreaded' oh noes "Socialism" then I'm a country club Republican who didn't realize that he secretly idolized Nelson Rockefeller for all these years.
A successful outsider candidate running on solid progressive positions and having the ability to beat a longtime Democratic incumbent on what should be solidly big city Democratic issues. Good on her for calling herself a "Socialist" if that is what she sees herself as and is 100% owning it by being unafraid to boot. I hope she proposes socialist solutions that make a lot of Fox Newsers shit themselves. But man, it's pitiful that such traditional Democratic territory would even be seen as outside what is possible in our own party anywhere or that this slate of issues could be used to beat any Democrat in a big city anywhere in America.
This is a warning. It's a little one, but little warnings can be a godsend too.
Wake. The. Fuck. Up.
Don't just shrug your shoulders and assume it's an outlier. Maybe it is, but don't assume so.
I have nothing against a Socialist candidate running however they please.
Senator Bernie Sanders is a political hero of mine, and he caucuses with my party of choice. You can build alliances with people to your left and who are true moderates, and not those diet-Republicans who think they can dodge Koch Brothers funded Rove-Atwater smearjobs by kicking their own from Rightwing poutrage to poutrage.
This loss should bother Democrats because this should be Democratic ground.
It's not radical. It's not revolutionary. It's pretty mainstream liberal policy grounds.
There is nothing I see about this now-successful Socialist candidate that should be radical or outlier policy territory for a big city Democratic candidate or incumbent.
A Democrat losing on this ground should be a wake-up call to seriously think about the wisdom of just assuming you have a critical edge on certain issues because you have a (D) next to your name. You don't really want to find out you are oh, so very wrong about how much more credibility you have in certain areas when you lose your seat.
If you don't maintain your credibility and your edge to be able to just lay claim to certain political positions as 'naturally' the territory of a Democrat, and somebody else can, and will, come along and take those mantels right out from under you.
A Socialist will soon sit where a longtime Democrat used to on the Seattle City Council. Her name is Kshama Sawant. Congratulations to her. Good luck to her.
Maybe to some it's just a city council seat in the Pacific Northwest. It's so comfy.
She won fair and square and because she had more credibility than her Democratic opponent on Democratic Party issues. That shouldn't ever be taken lightly by any Democratic voter or party member anywhere.
A canary is just a teeny tiny little bird in a teeny tiny little cage somewhere in a coal mine.
Warnings about issues you might need to think about addressing can be massive or small.
Credit to Kossack Sarge in Seattle for breaking the story the other day about Kshama Sawant's widening lead in the ongoing ballot count of the Seattle City Council race votes. This diary is an expansion of a comment that I made in his comment thread.