Illustration by SDSA organizer Brian Reindel.
By SDSA organizer Chuck McKeever
In a perfect illustration of how privilege functions in politics, Seattle is not going to get the mayor it deserves.
Cary Moon–though clearly a better choice for the office than Jenny Durkan–nevertheless stepped over Nikkita Oliver into second place in the race in cringeworthy fashion. Oliver refused to accept corporate money as a principled stand against the influence of money in Seattle politics; wealthy heiress Moon feigned the same high ground while feeding tens of thousands of dollars of family money into her own campaign. Our underground paper of record, The Stranger, eventually endorsed Moon, who had previously polled around 3 percent. It proved to be enough of a bump to squeeze Oliver out of the race by the slimmest of margins.
(To the PoC anti-carceral activists like Block the Bunker, unions like the Transit Riders Union, socialist groups like Socialist Alternative, and all the others who fought hardest to get Oliver elected –a hearty thank you. All of you know how difficult working for the common good can be, as well as how rewarding it can be.)
We all deserved better. But the deck is going to be stacked against the Left in every election nationwide from now until… well, name a year. Electing officials we trust and can hold accountable is important, but electoral politics must never replace organizing. All this election talk obfuscates the larger point: even if Nikkita Oliver had defied the odds and made it to this November’s final election, the work would still need to continue. She didn’t, in the end, and that makes it all the more clear what must happen next.
Where there is no state or structural incentive to provide real help, the Left must provide it. Where there is no justice to be found, the Left must facilitate it. We need to keep showing up, and there are clear models in place for how to do that:
- Because no one else would do it, the Black Panthers showed up to feed the hungry in their communities.
- Because the cops won’t do it, leftist groups like Antifa and IWW show up to oppose fascism.
- Because the Democrats wouldn’t do it, Jon Grant’s campaign leveraged the democracy voucher program to reach out and register previously-disengaged people to vote.
- Because the city won’t do it, anarchists are showing up to fix potholes in Portland, Oregon.
- Because people can’t afford it, DSA comrades in New Orleans are showing up to provide free brake light fixes in their community to help reduce the number of (potentially-deadly) interactions between police and the black community.
- Because the healthcare industry doesn’t serve them, the PSL shows up to provide healthcare for residents of Harlem.
Elections matter, but so do the everyday things that avowed Leftists (and those who just want to help) can do. Our own chapter’s work with the Low-Income Housing Institute, serving on behalf of and alongside a population in dire straits that has routinely been failed by our two capitalist parties, is one building block.
It’s up to us to continue building. The mayoral primary is over. The work is not.