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    Murray and Sawant: Allies or antagonistas?

    If Seattle's Democrats and Socialists can get along, the time is ripe for getting things done.
    I promise to play nice with Kshama Sawant.

    I promise to play nice with Kshama Sawant. Allyce Andrews

    Ed Murray is a practicing Catholic, and we learned this week that he wears a rosary bracelet. Murray is proud of his active Catholicism. Our last three mayors have been Catholic — Murray, Mike McGinn and Greg Nickels — but Murray pointed out to me recently that he's the only *practicing* Catholic of the trio.

    He'll no doubt have to draw on his faith for support in the coming $15-dollar-per-hour wage discussion. Already a mini-spat has broken out.

    The Stranger's Dominic Holden reported that Murray sent a tart note to Socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant refusing to cede to her credit for his speedy Day 3 move to ensure city workers get the proposed minimum wage immediately. Sawant indicated that it was her bottom-up movement that lit a fire under Murray. Murray took exception, pointing out that his deep values and political commitment are what's driving him.

    If Murray and Sawant are already fighting over an act on which they agree, how does that bode for what lies ahead when they will undoubtedly disagree? Not well. Murray can be touchy, though whether his note is really a testament to that is a matter of opinion. A mild rebuke can sound like screaming in civil Seattle, but still, the mayor is letting it be known that he won't concede the moral high ground to Sawant.

    Sawant, on the other hand, has let it be known that she's pushing ahead and is not afraid to hold the threat of a citizen's initiative over the process. She's willing to be part of the task force getting the minimum wage adopted, but she's on the team only so far, ready to step off if the effort gets a case of the Seattle slows. She's playing a role that activists often play, and this is a concern for Murray.

    It is common for activists to attempt, or appear to attempt, to work with the establishment, then find cause for a break that will fire up the base and amp up the outrage of betrayal. That's a longstanding tactic, and Murray would be wise to recognize that at some point. The liberal hand that reached out to Sawant might just get bitten. He wouldn't be the first Seattle mayor to fall prey to that. Occupy protesters were enraged at Mike McGinn for backing the use of pepper spray against protesters. And then there was Paul Schell, who was politically pantsed by anarchists during WTO.

    Despite the fact that there must have been a coterie of Murray-Sawant voters in the last election, the mayor and the council member come from very different political backgrounds and temperaments. Murray is a pro-business, mainstream, incrementalist, progressive Democrat. Sawant comes from a party that admires Leon Trotsky.

    It Sawant were a Christian conservative fundamentalist, we would be pulling out the Bible to see which crazy passages she believes in. I will leave it to you to read the tracts of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky. But if you scan the website of her movement, Socialist Alternative, you will find that the core beliefs are a combination of things many progressives agree on ($15-hour wage, more public assistance, more taxes on the wealthy, pro-union) and stuff that should worry Seattle Democrats.

    For one thing, Sawant’s party considers Democrats to be as bad or worse than Republicans. Ok, standard lefty stuff. But they also argue for nationalizing the nation's Fortune 500 companies, which includes the likes of Boeing, Microsoft, PACCAR, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Weyerhaeuser and Expediters International. They believe in global, worldwide Marxist revolution and putting an end to capitalism — not as we know it, but altogether. In other words, Sawant's socialism is the antithesis of Seattle's — let alone the nation's — power structure, and thus the pillars of the local economy. The hearts of Seattle's lefties might be with Sawant, but their paychecks are from Amazon.

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    Posted Wed, Jan 8, 9:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    Let's just hope the left's tendency to split doesn't devolve into a "Life of Brian" type situation. "We're not the Judean People's Front! We're the People's Front of Judea! SPLITTERS!"

    Jon Sayer

    Posted Wed, Jan 8, 10:53 a.m. Inappropriate

    About a month ago I sat through a few hours of a Seattle City Council meeting. What impressed me was the tonnage of incredibly boring yet totally necessary procedural discussion and votes on really boring (did I mention that much of the meeting was boring?) topics. Much of what the City Council does is quite mundane, very needed but tedious and ordinary. During a discussion of moving a Seattle City Light easement I started to ponder just how our newly elected councilperson Kshama Sawant would cope with these small items. Agree or disagree with Sawant’s agenda, the ideas I’ve heard from her have all been big topics. How she deals with the small, mundane, day-to-day issues will prove her worth as a councilperson. Much of our city’s population looks to city government to effectively and efficiently deal with potholes, sidewalks and snow removal. I recall a recently deposed mayor who lost his election because of poor response to plowing the streets of snow.

    Let’s hope for the sake of the city that Sawant is able to take care of city business. I speculate that she will learn that it’s much easier to advance the big ideas from outside the halls of government than to spend a vast majority of her time dealing with potholes and sidewalks.

    Posted Wed, Jan 8, 1:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    Her movement "argue[s] for nationalizing the nation's Fortune 500 companies, which includes the likes of Boeing, Microsoft, PACCAR, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Weyerhaeuser and Expediters International. They believe in global, worldwide Marxist revolution and putting an end to capitalism — not as we know it, but altogether. "

    Ah now I see why Council leadership assigned her the City Light committee chair: in addition to tradition it was gallow's humor.

    The best counter to promoters of revolution is that expounded by Ismael's author, Daniel Quinn near the end of THIS http://www.ishmael.org/Education/Writings/bioneers.cfm

    as Quinn begins to quote Thorstein Veblen: "Social structure changes, develops, adapts itself to an altered situation ONLY through a change in the habits of thought of the individuals who make up the community."

    On the other hand, it's forcing people to change their views that cleared the deck for Murray and Sawant. Time for THIS? http://www.publicagenda.org/pages/toward-wiser-public-judgement


    Posted Wed, Jan 8, 2:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    Sawant is overestimating the voters' taste for socialism. Rather, she got elected because McGinn had a strong effort to harvest younger voters, whose turnout helped Sawant, and because Richard Conlin never tried to define Sawant in a way that would have alarmed many voters. She's more "accidental" than reflective of some big shift in the electorate.

    That said, the novelty factor will keep her in the spotlight long enough to make recruits and generate momentum. The real question is when the City Council and mainstream media decide to marginalize her and the mayor concludes that she can't be gotten into his broad tent. I suspect there will be a Mayor Murray package, quite gradualist and with many carve-outs for strong interest groups, and then a Sawant initiative countered by a pro-business initiative.

    Lots of sound and fury, and once the 2014 election has passed, we'll be left with a marginal boost. Remember, the minimum wage issue is largely a wedge issue to embarrass Republicans in key states and to boost turnout, always a problem for Democrats in non-presidential years.

    Posted Wed, Jan 8, 4:45 p.m. Inappropriate

    Dear Skip...It's too early to forecast what will happen between Sawant and Murray, and what Sawant's relations will be with other lefties. Admittedly, if you weren't to have held forth as you have in this piece, you wouldn't have anything to say today.

    I think both Sawant and Murray have anticipated how their differing objectives might get derailed. They are too canny and too determined to follow your script. Your knee-jerk references to Marxist revolution seem fatuous and are not your style. Neither will Norman Thomas, Eugene V.Debs, and/or Howard Zinn (who are smiling somewhere upstairs) rejoin us anytime soon.


    Posted Thu, Jan 9, 11:26 a.m. Inappropriate

    "The left is notorious for schisms, circular firing squads and infighting"..........."It would be a shame if Seattle politics devolved into that"

    One can hope though.

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