Midday Scan: Occupy goes rude in Seattle, crude in Portland; Court could sway Inslee-McKenna

In Seattle, Occupiers distort a forum. In Portland, though, they leave a destroyed park. Putting the word "marriage" into, well, marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court creates a 2012 wedge issue out of health care, potentially raining on McKenna's sunny poll numbers.

Crosscut archive image.

A 2011 crowd for Occupy Seattle at Westlake

In Seattle, Occupiers distort a forum. In Portland, though, they leave a destroyed park. Putting the word "marriage" into, well, marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court creates a 2012 wedge issue out of health care, potentially raining on McKenna's sunny poll numbers.

Much to the delight of the rapacious 1 percent, Occupy Seattle has morphed into Marlon Brando's The Wild One: Lazlo Benedek's characters all look pretty hip, you just wouldn't want to have them as friends. A Sunday Town Hall panel gave expression to this devolution of the grassroots movement into the acme of the absurd, as Seattle Occupiers undercut Seattle's pro-Occupiers (otherwise known as self-immolation). As The Stranger's Dominic Holden writes, "No sooner had the panel finished opening remarks last night than a woman scampered up onto stage and yelled, 'Mic check!' It was an orchestrated effort by several dozen activists to use the People's Mic to interrupt a forum at Town Hall — a forum in favor of Occupy Wall Street, featuring three wonks and three activists from Occupy Seattle."  

Cannibilizing activists is a cliche that goes back to the 1960s. In response, a lordly William F. Buckley, Jr. would quote Yeats's The Second Coming that "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold," punctuate with King Lear's "How sharper than a serpent's tooth is to have a thankless child," and then encourage young people to stop marching and read Milton Friedman. For Generation X, the Town Hall implosion is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the peasant Dennis tells King Arthur, "Oh, king eh? Very nice. And how'd you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society." Holden gets the sum-up quote that should strike fear (or at least reflection) in the hearts of local Occupiers. " 'I walked in supportive and left unsupportive,' said 69-year-old Mary Ann, who declined to provide her last name. 'I’m turned off by the negative shouts, repetition, and all I can think about is a cult. And I believe in every one of their damn principles.' "

Is Occupy Portland a harbinger of Seattle's future? Hopefully not (epsecially given the public fatigue and the scale of property damage). As the Oregonian's Stuart Tomlinson writes, "Evicted from the parks that acted as a focal point for their movement, the bulk of Occupy Portland members and supporters melted back into the community Monday. But some say they are planning to coalesce this week and come back even stronger." That may take some doing, especially after the group's eviction from Chapman and Lownsdale squares and the attendant destruction and denuding of both parks. The price tag for Portland stands at $50,000. Citing Bob Downing, the maintenance supervisor for the city Parks and Recreation Department, Tomlinson writes, "The effort will require structural repairs, graffiti removal and landscaping. Also, soil will need to be removed in the area used as a kitchen because grease spills have rendered that soil unusable. The majority of both parks will need to be re-sodded and plant damage is extensive."  

Portland's soon-to-retire mayor, Sam Adams, is a polarizing figure criticized for his leadership style. So, too, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Is a tough-on-Occupiers' strategy an opportunity to ignite support from the silent majority? That presupposes the Seattle majority is anti-Occupy, which is probably wrong (more grudging support or indifference). Seattle's first warning sign, however, will be if McGinn calls on activists to stop marching and read Milton Friedman.  

Writers often mistakingly apply the idea that the Chinese character for crisis is "danger plus opportunity." It's a rich metaphor, if only it were true. Nevertheless, the state's budget crisis breathes life into the misused trope. With state coffers in the tank, could there be a better opportunity to revisit a civil liberties (and arguably human rights) question like gay marriage? As the AP's Gene Johnson reports, "In a news conference at a Bellevue community center, a coalition called Washington United for Marriage announced it would lobby the Legislature to approve a gay marriage law next year. The measure would not grant same-sex couples any significant new rights — Washington has had an expanded domestic partnership law, the 'everything but marriage' law, on the books since 2009."  

The word "marriage" is the sticking point, and the legislature has the authority to change that. "Advocates said Monday they decided to take the issue up with Olympia, rather than in a statewide initiative, because they and many other people dislike the notion of allowing people to vote on fundamental rights," Johnson writes. "Asked whether lawmakers are too preoccupied with difficult budget problems to take up the matter, Rod Hearne, executive director of Equal Rights Washington, said he didn't think so." Hearne is right. What better time to act than a "danger plus opportunity" budget session?  

The 2012 wedge issue will not be gay marriage, but President Obama's healthcare law. On Monday we learned that the U.S. Supreme Court will act just as Washington's gubernatorial election is revving up. As David Savage writes, the lawsuit was "brought by 26 Republican governors and attorneys general, including Washington's Rob McKenna, who is running for governor. His likely opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, supports the health-care law and has criticized McKenna's participation in the lawsuit." The overarching question is whether Washington voters will seize on healthcare or focus on more fundamental gubenatorial concerns like higher education and transportation. Everything hinges on what the court does or doesn't do. If McKenna gets pegged as the politico who helped scuttle the president's core domestic achievement, it could tamp down his very impressive poll numbers.  

Lastly, Katherine Long writes in this morning's Seattle Times on the huge increase in international students, especially at the University of Washington, "where freshmen students from foreign countries outnumber out-of-state freshmen for the first time." Take that, you California kids!   

Link Summary

The Stranger, "Occupy Seattle disrupts pro-Occupy Wall Street Forum"

The Oregonian, "Occupy Portland demonstrators say they aren't done yet" 

Tacoma News Tribune, "Effort to make gay marriage legal in Wash. begins"

Seattle Times, "Health care battle to hit high court as election heats up"

Seattle Times, "Foreign enrollment skyrockets for UW"


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson