Saturday, November 9, 2013

Seattle, on the cutting edge of community politics on the West Coast

Time to stop picking at the bits and pieces of this and learn some lessons.  We need to start on the local level--the grass roots.  Run for dog catcher. Run for sewer board. Run for City Council. Run for Board of Supervisors.  Run for a LOCAL office and get the Peace and Freedom party name out there in your community.  Enough with paper races, with state-wide races that don't bring us name recognition, much less winning seats.  Except for Cindy Sheehan, whose name is already known to many people, we should seriously reconsider our approach to the electorate and get serious about registering people for a party that is actually on the ballot in their own neighborhoods.  Now, not later.  Today, not tomorrow.

Four-term Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin conceded to Socialist challenger Kashama Sawant late Friday afternoon, after Sawant once again increased a lead that now stands at 1,640 votes.
Read more at: []

“Socialism in Seattle”
by Professor Eugene Ruyle:
As the economy tanks and the approval rating of Congress drops to an historic low of 5%, the city that gave us the Seattle General Strike of 1919 and the WTO Shutdown in 1999 is doing it again. Seattle is on the verge of electing a socialist to its City Council in 2013.
As of Friday afternoon, Nov 15, socialist Kshama Sawant, an Economics Professor at Seattle Central Community College and a prominent figure in Seattle's Occupy Wall Street movement, is leading in the race for Seattle City Council Position 2 by 1640 votes, with 50.30% to incumbent Richard Conlin’s 49.36%.
With about 25,000 votes left to count, she is in a strong position to be the first open socialist elected to city council in Seattle's history, and the first to win a citywide race in any major US city in generations.
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Ty Moore, another Socialist Alternative member, got 43% of the vote for City Council in Ward 9 of Minneapolis. This shows that Sawant’s strong showing is no fluke, but rather an expression of the frustration folks feel with “politics as usual” by Democrats and Republicans, by whatever name. Recent polls
As our comrades in Socialist Alternative observed, “Capitalism is in crisis here and internationally. Mass unemployment and institutionalized racism continue while we face the brink of further environmental devastation. The political establishment is more and more out-of-touch and discredited. This system offers no way out, but there is hope—millions are looking for a fundamental change, and Socialist Alternative is getting a better response for our ideas than ever before.”
There is indeed growing support for socialism, especially among minorities, youth, and the poor. A poll by the Pew Research Group found that socialism out-polls capitalism among Blacks (55% to 41%), Hispanics (44% to 32%), 18-29 year olds (49% to 46%), and those will family income less than $30,000 (43% to 39%). The rich, white, and elderly favor capitalism but not as strongly as one might think, with only 68% of those with family incomes over $75,00 having a positive view of capitalism, while 55% of whites and 52% of those 65 and older do so.
In 2012, socialism was dubbed the “Word of the Year” by Merriam-Webster. Let’s make 2014 the “Year of the Socialists.” It is definitely the year we in Peace and Freedom will be inspired by our comradess in Socialist Alternative.

For additional commentary, see



“Why Socialist Kshama Sawant's Campaign Matters, Win Or Lose” []

“Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative candidate in Seattle, is on pace to be elected to City Council” []

“Kshama Sawant Pushes Ahead of Conlin; The Socialist Insurgent Is Now Beating the Incumbent—Who Already Declared Victory” []

 “This is just the beginning” 2013-11-10 by Ty Moore []

“Why Is Seattle Socialist Kshama Sawant Allowed To Teach Economics?” []

“Socialist Sawant now leads Seattle council race by 41 votes; Kshama Sawant’s momentum in her race against longtime Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin has put her in position to win or to force a recount” []

“Kshama Sawant, Socialist Candidate, Is On The Verge Of Winning Seattle City Council Seat” []



"Socialist in Seattle: City councilor expects not to be a rarity for long; Kshama Sawant, rising from the Occupy movement, hopes to be the first of many new anti-corporate politicians in America"
2013-11-25 by Cedar Burnett from "Al Jazeera" []:
SEATTLE — Kshama Sawant, Seattle's new socialist City Council member, bears little resemblance to the conventional image of a modern U.S. politician whose appearance — and policies — are often burnished by legions of advisers and focus groups.
A small, whip-smart Indian-American woman in faded jeans with a makeup-free face, she holds a Ph.D. in economics and was an early participant in the Occupy protest movement.
Sawant is not shy about her left-wing party affiliation — despite America’s modern habit of reacting with extreme hostility to the word "socialism," which is freely demonized on the right and treated with extreme caution even in progressive circles.
Yet Sawant is a clear exception. She told Al Jazeera that she was already going against convention by siding with the groups she sees as typically shut out of the political conversation — low-wage workers, women, immigrants and people of color — and so chose to identify her socialist affiliation to gain distance from a two-party system she sees as broken.
Now, having won office with a surprise result that captured national headlines, she is triumphant in tone and feels that being a socialist in America is not necessarily a ticket to electoral disaster, as it has been so many times in the past.
"We’ve shown that it’s possible to succeed in an openly socialist campaign, not taking any money from big business, not currying favor from the establishment and openly rejecting business as usual," said Sawant, speaking from a victory rally in Seattle that more closely resembled a religious revival than the glossy parties typically seen in modern politics.
Somewhere between the calls to "my brothers and sisters," the booing and the clapping, supporters rose to pledge donations — or, in the case of one elderly gentleman, denounce the actions of the rich to the rapt crowd. "I just want to say that I'm a member of the 1 percent, and I'm ashamed of my compatriots," said J.P. Shapiro, a retired attorney who forked over the maximum legal contribution for an individual.
A 41-year-old emigre from Mumbai, Sawant grew up observing the consequences of the caste system and abject poverty — though she herself was part of a middle-class family from the Brahman caste. She said such exposure would shape her later views and eventual conversion to socialism after her move to Seattle in 2006.
She said Seattle, like many major cities, is controlled by the Democratic Party establishment, which has abandoned the interests of its constituents and left people hungry for an alternative. She campaigned on leftist policies like raising the minimum wage to $15, taxing the rich and implementing rent control — shocking her opponents and local media, which confidently expected four-time incumbent Richard Conlin to emerge as the victor on election night.
Ever since Conlin's concession on Nov. 15, Sawant's supporters have continued to knock on doors and validate signatures to account for every vote. While the final tallies will be announced later on Monday, the gap has continued to grow in Sawant’s favor, with more than 90,000 votes cast for the college economics professor.
"People who have never voted before not only voted, but also volunteered for this campaign," said Ted Virdone, a Sawant volunteer himself. "Kshama's campaign means something completely different than the politics we've seen before."
For Sawant, "completely different" includes donating much of her new $120,000 salary, leaving her with "an average worker's wage." It also means talking about swinging hard left and attacking the capitalist economy as a failed experiment, unable to deliver the most basic needs for human survival — rare words in American politics.
"We have billions of workers doing backbreaking work all over the world who generate this phenomenal productivity the system enjoys," said Sawant. "These workers only get a little sliver of the wealth generated, and much of that wealth is siphoned off to the tiny global elite at the top."
Sawant said Americans are looking outside the two-party framework and aren’t afraid of socialism anymore. "The American public is well to the left of what the media will tell you, and well to the left of Congress. That’s why the popularity of Congress is at an all-time low," she said.
American socialists do have a long history to look back on. The Socialist Party of America won more than 900,000 votes in the presidential elections of 1912 and 1920, and elected two members to Congress, as well as winning many lesser posts in cities across the U.S. But since the 1920s and 1930s, the political fortunes of American socialists have dramatically decreased and — especially during the Cold War and afterward — the ideology has been routinely demonized and portrayed as unpatriotic.
It is doubtful that Sawant’s election in Seattle marks a sudden reversal of fortune. But her staff is adamant that times are changing, especially in the wake of the Great Recession, which spawned a debate about economic inequality and saw the rise, and fall, of the Occupy protest movement.
Devin Matthews, a staff member for Sawant’s campaign, points to a recent Pew research poll showing that the majority of young people ages 18 to 29 have a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism. "When they grow up seeing (right-wing media commentator) Glenn Beck screaming about socialists, they think, 'I don’t know what socialism is, but if Glenn Beck hates it, maybe I should check it out,'” Matthews said.
But not all are convinced. Joel Grus, a Seattle voter and data scientist, disagrees with Sawant's ideas. He says her policies will make it harder for low-skilled people to find a job in Seattle, and harder to attract entrepreneurial talent.
“I expect her term to be greatly entertaining,” said Grus, “particularly if she follows through on her threat to seize a Boeing factory and retool it to produce transit buses, or whenever she floats the idea of collectivizing Amazon.”

'Anointed by big business' -
However, Sawant doesn’t consider her goals particularly outrageous, and said there is a disconnect between public opinion and what the Democrats and Republicans are willing to deliver. Her campaign was launched with the help of Socialist Alternative, a political party active in at least 20 major American cities; she was supported by unions, the Green Party and the influential local weekly The Stranger. Many of her volunteers and staff were involved in the Occupy movement, both in Seattle and around the country.
"Corporate politicians get people to vote for them, but in reality they’re anointed by big business," she said. "They are not going to vote to tax the wealthy because they’re serving the wealthy."
While her primary focus is on the city of Seattle and its struggles with transportation, housing and wages, Sawant said she is unwilling to completely isolate the local fight from the global struggle in her discussions of the issues. She views the Occupy movement as a precursor to her election, both philosophically and in a literal sense as a generator of volunteers. She said the movement ended a public silence on a lot of things people were angry about, particularly the bailout of banks widely blamed for the financial collapse, high unemployment and an epidemic of foreclosures and evictions.
Those people are becoming increasingly vocal. Chris Gray, an organizer who drove out with a group from Minneapolis to help Sawant after a slim loss by another socialist candidate, thinks there’s nothing special about Seattle or Minneapolis.
“The conditions exist in every city for challenges like this,” he said.
While getting a socialist elected to the city council of a major U.S. city is hardly a political earthquake that will herald the rebirth of socialism in the mainstream of American politics, Sawant does not think it will be an isolated event.
“That’s not how history works,” she said. “This is a continuum where people learn lessons and progress to the next level — their political consciousness evolves and they gain confidence to fight for bigger things.
"Unless we relish the idea of our children being subjected to an endless battle for the same reforms over and over again, and seeing the expansion of poverty between every fight for reforms, we have to look for an alternative to capitalism."

"What's Needed"
2013-11-09 message from the campaign to elect Kshama Sawant []:
It has taken a little while - nine long months of campaigning - but what was almost unthinkable last February is now, three days after the election, close to happening: Kshama Sawant, an open socialist, a voice for all of us who've been shut out of city government, is on the verge of being elected to Seattle City Council. And she will have beaten an entrenched, 16-year corporate incumbent to do it.
So it's only fitting that her victory is going to take a little while longer than we all thought, and cost a little bit more than we expected - and that, as a campaign fully funded by real, live people like you - with not a dime of corporate money - we must once again ask you to donate to help us cover the costs of these critical next few days.
Just as few people saw this coming - even three days ago, let alone nine months ago - Kshama's campaign hadn't budgeted for it, either. Staff is needing to be kept on, and the office kept open. There may be a recount, even legal fees. We will need to fight to make sure that every vote cast for Kshama is counted.
The election is over, but the ballot counting is not. Only a third of this year's ballots were counted on Election Night, when Kshama won 46 percent. Since then, King County Elections has released four more batches of ballots - ones that, like most of the remaining ballots, were cast in the last few days of the campaign as support for Kshama surged. In those, she has gotten, in order, 49 percent, 50 percent, 53 percent, and 56 percent. She is now only 4000 votes behind Richard Conlin. Depending on how many ballots remain, she will need between 53 and 55 percent of remaining votes to catch and pass Richard Conlin and become the newest member of Seattle City Council. She's already receiving those percentages. If they continue, she wins.
And, so, we must once again turn to the people who have already made the impossible so close to reality: you.
We need your financial help to ensure that Kshama's votes are counted and she is sworn in to the office we believe she has won. Make no mistake: There are plenty of people who would like to see her not pull this out. We can't let that happen.
A heartfelt thank you to each of you for all you've done to help bring Kshama's campaign to this point. We're almost there. Please donate now to make sure the impossible comes true!
For a better Seattle, Geov Parrish, Fundraising and Communications Director.
Vote Sawant!

"New numbers show victory is within reach - Now is the time to act!"
2013-11-08 message from the campaign to elect Kshama Sawant []:
The latest King County total ballot count released at 4pm today shows Kshama Sawant at 48.96%! We are closing the gap!
The numbers are undeniable - victory is on the horizon! Now is the time to act. We are launching a massive Voter Protection Campaign to ensure every vote is counted. Current projections indicate that over 8,000 ballots will be disqualified, either because they are incorrectly filled out, not signed, or have other problems. We urgently need your help to reach out to these voters. We will be phone banking and going door-to-door with the necessary paperwork to ensure that their votes get counted.
We need all supporters and allies to dig deep and donate to the campaign so we can maintain our dedicated campaign staff for the final push until election certification on November 26th.
We are having a training session tomorrow and Sunday on how to re-qualify ballots. Join us at 11am at the Kshama Sawant Campaign Headquarters at 1265 Main Street, Suite 205. Immediately following the training, we will start tracking down disqualified ballots.
All Sawant supporters are welcome! No special skills are required, just a willingness to help get Kshama Sawant elected! Will you join us?
Together we will win this!
 PS. If you have a car, please bring it! It will vastly increase the efficiency of our Voter Protection Campaign operation. To volunteer, email us at or call Devin at 360-507-1321. Now is when it truly matters the most!

"Why Socialist Kshama Sawant's Campaign Matters, Win Or Lose"
2013-11-05 by Isolde Raftery []:
City Council candidate Kshama Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative Party, with Democratic Party supporters Daniel Norton and Jeanne Legault. Photo Credit KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang

Kshama Sawant didn’t have to identify as a socialist.
Seattle City Council races are nonpartisan, after all, and her views aren’t particularly revolutionary, as far as Seattle goes: She supports a $15 minimum wage (as do both mayoral candidates), unions for low-wage workers and rent control.
But branding herself as a socialist – still a dirty word in many corners of American politics – may have helped her rake in 35 percent of the primary vote with little money []. (She had raised about $110,000 as of Monday night.)
Councilmember Nick Licata, who has been on the council for 16 years, said Sawant’s message resonates because a section of voters are tired of risk-averse Democrats and Republicans. Sawant, he said, has managed to make socialist ideas appeal to voters.
“We don’t have a mature socialist political movement in the country, and probably the last time we did was literally 80 years ago,” Licata said. “To Sawant’s credit, she has been able to craft a message that is understandable, simple and eschews most of the rhetoric.”
Sawant ran against Richard Conlin, 64, a darling of the Democratic party with left-leaning views. Conlin appeared to be winning on Tuesday night with 54 percent of the vote when King County released its first results. Sawant received about 46 percent of the vote.
Sawant stayed on message throughout her campaign, using dry, academic language to discuss the issues she wants addressed. The roots of homelessness are within the roots of our capitalist society itself, she said at the October debate.
Later, on the social media site Reddit, she addressed rent control []: "What rent control would do is provide housing security for tenants, who are at present continually forced to move due to rent increases demanded by price-gouging real estate companies. It would also address the serious income and race segregation in Seattle housing and enable low-income people, people of color, and immigrant communities to not be red-lined out of the city."
It appears that Sawant, 41, won support on the strength of her message alone. She is a Mumbai-educated economics professor who rarely strays from her platform and who avoids discussing her private life – although she has grudgingly admitted that she is separated from her husband. She doesn’t wear pantsuits or coiffe her hair, and she rarely points to her past experiences or to endorsements.
Sawant’s political campaign director, Philip Locker, an organizer for the Socialist Alternative party, said that by running for office, Sawant pushed neglected issues into the spotlight.
“We’ve gotten an enormous response – we’ve even forced both Mayor Mike McGinn and Sen. Ed Murray to discuss the $15 minimum wage,” Locker said of the mayoral candidates. “That’s powerful.”
When Sawant speaks, her supporters cheer. The Stranger has endorsed her enthusiastically, and The Nation magazine, based in Washington, D.C., wrote about her this week in equally glowing terms [].
The Nation noted that Eugene V. Debs, the socialist candidate for president in 1912, received more than 10 percent of the vote in the Western states, including Washington.
Sawant’s campaign in Seattle speaks to a similar sense of disgruntlement with the two-party system, The Nation wrote, saying that a “bold rejection of austerity has significant popular appeal.”
But even a century ago, when Debs won more than one million votes nationwide, no socialist was this close to winning a city council position in Seattle, Scott Cline, the city’s archivist said.
City council elections have been nonpartisan since 1910, Cline said, but “I have never seen any records that indicate a city council member has self-identified as a socialist or belonged to a socialist party.”
Cline said that before 1910, a number of socialist candidates ran, but none seem to have made it out of the primary elections.
“It is certainly possible that after 1910 there might have been a serious socialist challenge,” Cline said in an email to KUOW. “However, no name from general elections stands out as a strong socialist candidate; certainly not on par with Kshama Sawant.”
Cline searched through the available voters’ pamphlets dating back to 1983 and found there has been just one other socialist candidate for Seattle City Council who did well – Yolanda Alaniz. Alaniz came in second among four candidates in 1991. She lost to Sue Donaldson, 131,872 to 27,991.
“Nevertheless, nearly 28,000 votes is quite amazing for a socialist candidate,” Cline said.
Licata said he believes that Sawant won’t be an anomaly and that more fringe candidates — on the left and the right — will run for office in coming years.
“My hope is that she doesn’t disappear after the election if she loses,” Licata said on Monday, before Tuesday night's results. “She represents the poor, the immigrants, the refugees – the folks who are not in our City Council offices lobbying us.”
On Tuesday night, Sawant told her supporters that she's not going anywhere. She hinted that she might run against Conlin again if she loses. And she said that she views the passing of the $15 minimum wage in SeaTac as evidence of the left rising up.

"I almost voted, credits socialist Kshama Sawant with cracking open one-party Seattle"
2013-11-05 by Bruce Ramsey from "Seattle Times" []:
For years I’ve grumbled about living in a one-party town, all Democrat all the time, where the range of acceptable opinion is “about this wide,” as a Democratic politician once expressed to me with his thumb and index finger. Maybe that changes. Maybe Seattle will have two parties: the Democrats and the Socialists.
That would not be my choice; it might be Seattle’s.
Left-wing candidates run fairly often around here, usually for nonpartisan seats. Three socialists were on Seattle ballots this year in addition to Indian immigrant and college instructor Kshama Sawant. The difference is, she runs. She holds rallies. She is a sharp speaker and has a way of putting her opponents on edge. She challenged both mayoral candidates to promise a $15 minimum wage.
Her red signs are everywhere.
A rule of practical politics is that a novice should aim for an open seat or a damaged incumbent. Sawant defies that rule. This year she took on longtime City Councilmember Richard Conlin, Democrat, who was not damaged. Last year she took on state House Speaker Frank Chopp, Democrat, who has a safe seat in Seattle’s 43rd district. Backed by The Stranger, Sawant made it into the top two as a write-in, identifying herself on the November 2012 ballot as “prefers Socialist Altern Party” — a Marxist party — and collected 29 percent of the vote.
 Sawant appeared to be losing Tuesday night by a significant margin, not surprisingly because she had to run citywide. But if Charter Amendment 19, the districts initiative, passes, she can run next time from Capitol Hill, and maybe Seattle will have a socialist on the City Council.
And that would be a remarkable thing. Seattle has not been ill-treated by global capitalism. Its metro area has the headquarters of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco and Amazon. It has biotech. It has venture capital. It has sushi bars, craft distilleries and a Tesla dealership. Of the 39 counties in Washington, King County has the second-lowest rate of unemployment (San Juan is lowest) and the highest median household income.
The logical place for an anti-capitalist would be somewhere the economy left behind — downtown Yakima, maybe. But Seattle?
Sawant raised more than $100,000, most of it in the richest county in Washington. It was individual money. Among the $500-plus contributors, the most common occupation was software engineer. Her big donors included technical people who worked for Microsoft, F5 Networks, Google, Robbins and Boeing — all world-competitive companies. Sawant also went after endorsements. Who would endorse a candidate from a Marxist party? A former head of the King County Democrats did, as did an official of the Washington State Labor Council. Among donors is former state Sen. Eric Oemig, the Kirkland Democrat who in 2006 called on Congress to impeach President Bush.
Seattle has always had a left, though in the 20th century it learned to camouflage itself. Years ago, I wrote a profile of an activist who told me privately she was a socialist. If she were in Canada, she said, she could say it for publication. Not here. Later she won nonpartisan public office, where she was known as a progressive. I see her name among supporters of Kshama Sawant.
The candidate’s doctrines are not mine, but I give Sawant credit for what she has done. Under the guise of nonpartisan government, Seattle is a one-party town. Sawant raised $100,000 in small donations and attacked the monopoly head-on.
I almost voted socialist.