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Seattle Election, Socialism, and Amazon
November 11, 2019
by William P. Meyers

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Losers: the homeless and Amazon

Elections have almost never gone well for me, starting with my support of George McGovern back in 1972. The same can be said of the Washington State and Seattle area elections of 2019. Most notably, in Washington statewide votes, the proposal to allow affirmative action was defeated, though by a narrow margin. The proposal to add to greenhouse warming by cutting the annual tax on cars that generates money to use for light rail and other transit passed 53% to 47%. This in a state that recently changed from purple to blue (Democratic), though the rural areas of the state are still mostly red. People, even many Democrats, hate taxes. Think about that, presidential candidates.

More lessons are to be learned from local races, some of which I participated in. Starting with the good news, two people I do political work with won offices in small towns north of Seattle: Corina Pfeil was elected to the City Council of Kenmore, and Phillippa Kassover, an incumbent, to the City Council of Lake Forest Park. Corina was running for office for the first time and showed what a determined citizen can do, sometimes. Further along I will talk about another Lake Forest Park City Council race, won by an insurgent, that illustrates some dynamics within the Democratic Party that I think are particularly interesting.

The headline for most people from this Seattle election is that Amazon lost. It is a good generalization, but the details are of interest too. The main race people point to is the victory of "Socialist" Kshama Sawant, an incumbent who really has always described herself as a socialist (unlike Bernie Sanders, who really mainly described himself as an Independent when running in Vermont). Amazon dumped a lot of money into the Chamber of Commerce, which then dumped it into trying to defeat Sawant and promote her opponent, LGBQT activist and progressive Democrat Egan Orion.

Seattle PAC money, 2019 Source: Seattle Times

Clearly Amazon and the Chamber of Commerce do not know how to defeat someone like Sawant. First of all, she is a woman and an Asian-American, and liberals have been trained to vote for such people over white men, even if they be gay. But more importantly, The normally divided left united around Kshama. Stirring up a socialist opposition to Sawant would have been easy, but apparently no one at Amazon or the Chamber has even been to Leftist Backstabbing University. Anyone from LBU could tell you Sawant could be defeated by a Democratic Socialist or social democrat, preferably female and of color. Because Sawant is a particular kind of socialist: a Trotskyist, a worshiper of Leon Trotsky. You know, the pal of Stalin and Lenin, who specialized in murdering everyone who disagreed with him during the communist phase of the Russian revolution. Quick review: a democratic government led by Marxist Democratic Socialists (Mensheviks) replaced the Tsarist government. Then Lenin and Trotsky staged a violent coup and set up a dictatorship. Killing everyone who disagreed with them. For convenience labeling all disagreers Capitalists or Tsarists. Millions of people die, capped off by the Trotsky-led Red Army refusing to kill a bunch of rebellious peasants in Tambov. So Trotsky took a bunch of left-over World War I poison gas and gassed the entire region

I am pretty sure I would be high on Kshama's list to be murdered if she obtained political power. But I could probably like Sawant if she would just denounce Trotsky and all his works. But she does not, so she endorses political murder and Crimes Against Humanity. No one should have voted for her. But like I said, the Chamber of Commerce can't tell a New Deal Democrat from genuine Communist.

Amazon did have one winner, from my district, Debora Juarez. By accident this race shows how business can maintain control of a mainly Progressive Democratic city. Debora is progressive on national issues. She is a Native American. She was the incumbent, a big advantage. Her first campaign was largely financed with money from outside the district, mainly from Indian tribes and casinos. She spent her first three years in office working on downtown development and palaces for sports teams, which draw tourists who might visit those casinos. That kind of thing also is pleasing to the unions. What she mainly ignored was the homeless crisis, already in existence when she took office, but which mushroomed to over 10,000 homeless in the city during her term. Her challenger, Ann Sattler, who had never held office or even run for it before, wanted to house the homeless, including getting addicts off the street and into therapy. But Debora controlled a lot of city funds, and crumbs thrown at homeless organizations resulted in some of them attacking Ann Sattler. Amazon gave her money the unions gave her money [technically, they spent PAC money independent of Debora's campaign] while Ann's campaign ran on small donations. Debora did something good politicians are good at: taking credit for any money spent by the city in her district, including funding she opposed, while refusing to take responsibility for the things that actually needed doing.

Four other races nicely illustrate challenger v. incumbent and progressive v. socialist dynamics.

In Seattle Council District 4 neither candidate was the incumbent, but Alex Pedersen was clearly the Democratic Party establishment choice for the office. I like him, he is well qualified, and likely to do a good job. But a Democratic Socialist ran against him: Shaun Scott. I gave Shaun one of my $25 democracy vouchers, but mostly lost interest in that campaign when my favorite, a woman, did not make past the primary. Still, it was surprisingly close, with Shaun getting 47% of the vote in his first run for office against a very well-financed opponent.

In King County, which Seattle dominates, a young white woman challenger ran against a 77 year-old white female incumbent and lost, while a young black male challenger ran against a 74 year-old male black incumbent and won. All four candidates are leftist Democrats by any measure; the two incumbents are famous leftist leaders from long ago. Jeanne Kohl-Welles won 74% of the vote to Abigail Doerr's 25%. In this case, Jeanne decided to fight for her seat. But Larry Gossett, received only 40% of the vote to Girmay Zahilay's 60%; Gossett did little campaigning. I saw both Abigail and Girmay give speeches (in fact I nominated Girmay for endorsement at the 46th Democrats endorsement meeting) and both were quite good. Jeanne gave a good speech I heard, and I assume Larry gives a good speech too. So I see the main divider between the races as one of differing levels of determination from the incumbents.

Finally, the most interesting race of all has been overlooked by pundits because it took place in the small town of Lake Forest Park, which is just north of Seattle. I did not pay attention to the race while it was happening, assuming the incumbent Catherine Stanford would win. But instead Lorri Bodi won. Both are Democrats, and both are liberal. Catherine was endorsed by the local Democratic Party, the 46th, which covers an area from Kenmore down through Lake Forest Park and into North Seattle.

In Washington state, in many areas anyway, the Democratic Party has a precinct system. The hope is that each election precinct has a PCO or Precinct Committee Organizer. In most cases there is not a precinct committee, the Party has to work to try to fill the PCO slots. The endorsements in the district are made in a meeting where any member can vote; you do not need to be a PCO. Typically meetings, including the endorsement meetings, are attended by under 100 people. In the 46th only a few of the members are from Kenmore, so in theory the Seattle members can endorse a Kenmore candidate that the Kenmore PCOs do not like. And, illustrated by the case of Girmay, King County districts don't match Washington State electoral districts or City Council Districts, so although only a tiny bit of his district is in the 46th, he was able to get our endorsement with a good speech (Gossett skipped the meeting, but got a dual endorsement).

Lorri Bodi was the challenger, and may not even have known to ask for the endorsement. In any case with an endorsement comes a powerful force: our PCOs take out a flyer with our endorsements to the voters in their precinct. It is pretty effective. In the November election 17 of the 19 people we endorsed won their elections.

But in her district of Lake Forest Park there was a rebellion. Some (number unknown) PCOs supported Lorri Bodi, and refused to take out the Democratic recommendations flyer. This encurred the wrath of some of Catherine's supporters, who felt that the PCOs were obligated to take out the flyer. My own position is that they should have taken our the flyers and given out either Lorri lit at the same time, or attached a personal note. I presume the divide between the two camps was about local issues like development, but I do not know the particulars.

It all depends on what you mean by Democracy, and it is an issue that can only come up in non-partisan elections. Because all the elections I have been mentioning are not partisan, so two Democrats or two Socialists or two Republicans could get into the runoff election. Most states still use a party system, so the run off is between a Democrat and a Republican. I believe people have a right to support whoever they think is the best candidate. Sometimes that may even mean crossing party lines. Parties in America are not supposed to be rival gangs. Nor should they be top-down organizations that order their volunteers to do things they do not agree with.

In any case the losers in Seattle election are the homeless. I expect the new Council to continue to throw out crumbs to keep the homeless alive, not to house them. Hopefully the Council will prove me wrong.

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