It looks as if Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has barely avoided being recalled by her constituents. Since she represents what is, arguably, the most left-leaning council district in the city, her victory is not what is surprising; the surprising thing is that she squeaked by with so few votes to spare.
Will she learn a lesson from this experience? Will she gain just a touch of humility? Will she become a more collaborative legislator and less of a confrontational activist? If any of that happened, it would be the biggest surprise of all.
Here is what she told her constituents when the vote count turned her way: “It appears we have defeated the combined efforts of big business, the right wing, corporate media, the courts and the political establishment who sought to remove our socialist council office by any means necessary.”
That pile of tired cliches encapsulates why her vision of the city and its citizens is so skewed.
Yes, large businesses are not fans of Sawant, but neither are many small business owners, such as those in Little Saigon who are plagued by criminal activity yet cannot get the attention of their representative on the city council.
Right wing? Like too many fervent activists on the left, Sawant caricatures anyone who questions or opposes her as right wing, despite the fact that most of those who are offended by her antics are liberals and moderates in a town where true right wingers are as scarce as spotted owls.
Corporate media? Is she talking about the local, family-owned Seattle Times with an editorial board that, over the years, has backed a wide range of progressive goals (just not everything on Sawant’s wish list)?
The courts? Is Sawant alleging that the members of the State Supreme Court who ruled on the validity of the recall charges against her were in cahoots with her opponents? That is a spurious allegation of Trumpian proportions.
The “political establishment?” Does she mean local veterans of public service – most of whom are Democrats – who prefer good government to grandstanding?
The problem with Sawant is not that she is a socialist, it is that she is a socialist who cares more about ideology and protest than broadening her appeal to those who agree with many of her goals but are appalled by her tactics. If she were a socialist with the bargaining skills, political realism and attention to the long game of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, for instance, she would not be barely clinging to her council seat – she would be mayor.
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