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John Batchelor


Sawant is savvy, but Socialist movement is toothless

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (AP)

Another election, another stinging defeat for the Seattle Socialist movement.

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Council candidate Jon Grant, for a second time, was handily defeated despite the backing of Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and Seattle activists. This after Nikkita Oliver was unable to break out of the primary, losing to a mainstream Democrat pretending to be a Progressive and a Progressive activist who bought her way out of the primary. And, of course, don’t forget the failed attempt by Socialist Jess Spears to unseat Frank Chopp.

In other words, the local Socialist movement is toothless.

Kshama Sawant’s brand is strong and she should be commended for being so influential on the council. You may disagree with her positions, as I strongly do, but for her to be so effective on a council filled with feckless hypocrites is rather impressive. But she’s the anomaly. Socialist activists in the City of Seattle are loud in voice, small in number.

We constantly hear how powerful the Socialist activists are because Sawant is such a powerful voice to the movement. But her power is confined to the Capitol Hill-area district where most of these activists live. They don’t live in West Seattle, Ballard, or Northgate in meaningful enough numbers to have a major impact on elections. Oliver came in third because nearly two dozen candidates were running. Grant? His campaign was a dud despite having the backing of the Socialist contingency and having already run previously, so his name recognition was higher.

The reason Grant lost so spectacularly was he ran a city-wide race in a city that, as a whole, isn’t filled with Socialists; we just think it is. This city is undoubtedly activist-oriented, but Progressives aren’t Socialist. And they have so few numbers that they won’t ever be major players outside of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

They should have a place at the table, but just that: a small place. Their opinions are worth discussing, and I think they help make local politics a lot more interesting. I’ll almost never get in the way of a good political debate with people who think differently than I do and I love that they challenge my thinking; it helps keep me on my toes. But we really ought to stop treating them like they have more power than they do. And we should certainly stop fearing them.

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