Politics: Winners and losers of the week

Some unexpected outcomes in a stormy week in Seattle and South Carolina.

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Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn

Some unexpected outcomes in a stormy week in Seattle and South Carolina.

While politicians in one of the most reliably liberal states in the union ponder gay marriage, the most conservative voters in the nation have done something even bolder. 

As Olympia inches towards same-sex approval, South Carolina Republicans voted Saturday to give thumbs up to "open" marriage. Non-conformists can let out a cheer because the slippery slope has been greased and blessed by white Southern evangelical voters who now have to shut up about taking stands on how other people live and love. Lord be praised.

The big win for Newt Gingrich over the weekend is also a blessing for political junkies because the reality show that is the GOP primary just got interesting. The Gong Show's gong has sounded, the contestants are down to a few, and it's just fun to watch the former House Speaker/Millionaire Historian slap Plastic Man around. The hyper-inflated ego of Newt is as riveting as the virtuoso performance of a super villan — Jack Nicholson's The Joker comes to mind. You know he'll self-destruct in the end, but what a great show.

The Republican race has all four of the main GOP archetypes still in it: Clueless Dad (Mitt Romney), Angry Dad (Gingrich), Funny Uncle (Ron Paul), and Extremely Uptight Sweater Guy (Rick Santorum). Florida promises to be a cage-match of looney.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama prepares his State of the Union address, which will be sane and sober by comparison, therefore unwatched except by his enemies and C-Span addicts. Still, he gains while his enemies do damage to each other. All he needs to do this week is give good Teleprompter.
So, the biggest winners of the week: Newt, Obama, and swingers.

In Seattle, the big question was: How did Mayor Mike McGinn do with the snow? I was asked multiple times (on KUOW, at a Greater Seattle Chamber panel) what grade I would give the mayor for the city's storm response. My answer: I went to Evergreen and we don't give grades.

What we Geoducks do do, however, is give a written evaluation, followed by numerous meetings and a group hug. I'll shorten that. Mayor Greg Nickels is not mayor today partly because he was a self-styled Chicago-style mayor who screwed the pooch when it came to snow plows the one time in a blue moon when they were needed (December, 2008). He was also an easy grader on himself, giving his performance a "B" when a solid "D+" was in order. A mayor who prided himself on competence was deemed incompetent at a key moment in time. The Seattle electorate might be snow wimps, but they were not wimpy in expressing their unhappiness at the nearest ballot box.

So Mike McGinn, an inexperienced outsider, found himself in the position of having not to screw up on an area of core mayoral competence. His poll numbers have been poor, his priorities questioned, everyone is looking to 2013 to see which city council members will not challenge him for re-election. Nevertheless, McGinn defied the odds and turned in a passing performance. As someone stranded in the snows of '08, I was personally thrilled to see giant yellow street machines scraping snow and ice off my streets.

So, to McGinn and all the city employees, credit is awarded. Hug. (I once had an Evergreen professor staple a feather to my evaluation to give it a kind of airy, New Age lift, but I will not do that.)

Winner of the week: McGinn and his snow shovel. If the electorate wants to throw him out in next year's primary, it will have to be for incompetence in other areas.

Another winner: Mother Nature, in all her glorious unpredictability.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.