I supported Kshama Sawant. I didn’t really think she would win. But now that the deed is done I’m pretty excited about the possibility that an activist, representing an activist movement, can transition into a politician creating a legislative blueprint for long-term societal and political change.
I think a lot is at stake in Sawant’s victory. Primarily we have a possibility to model an alternative to capitalism. Movements make noise, but politicians and the legislation they create can transform the system. One of the reasons democracy is so seemingly worn-out is that there are no new ideas, nor is there any fundamental change in what is being offered by Republicans or Democrats. For example, both parties will cater to corporations when it comes to tax policies. Perhaps one might cater less than the other, but in the end, Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and the rest will continue to exploit labor, land and resources to fatten their purses and flatten our wallets.
With a real socialist alternative the conversation changes. Maybe we really will push back on the predators who bully us.
Maybe we really will regain the benefits we gave up and honestly start to rebuild an economy geared toward sustainability rather than exploitation.
Secondly, I think it will be important for Sawant to stay true to her socialist worldview, even as she learns how and when to compromise. With Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien on the Seattle City Council, Sawant will have opportunities to move the city toward hard-fought but winnable goals such as the $15-an-hour minimum wage. If she learns how to work with allies she may not totally agree with, she will build a much broader base for larger, long-term goals. Our city, state and nation need to see what socialism looks like when it is embodied in legislative form.
Nevertheless, all sides will likely savage Sawant. From the left, other socialist factions might call her compromised and might chip away at her efforts. From liberals, she might hear pleas to tone down her class analysis and her radical calls to push back against corporations and developers. From the moderate majority, she will be seen as a threat to business as usual. The media could attack her relentlessly, and business will fund a continual propaganda campaign against her during these next two years. And then, of course, an well-funded, smiley-faced liberal might run against her in 2015.
All of which is to say how important it is that those of us who supported her “against all odds campaign,” now increase our support through actually joining and helping her build a true socialist alternative.
Much is at stake in building a true alternative to corporate-and-developer driven capitalism. We have an amazing opportunity here in Seattle to model radical and hopeful change.
I hope Sawant, and her supporters, see the larger picture.