By Mark Wachtler
November 18, 2013. Seattle. (ONN) On Friday, the race was still too close to call as votes for Seattle’s City Council seat trickled in. This morning, it’s all over. Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative Party upset a 16-year incumbent Democrat in what the victorious candidate calls a “political earthquake.” The 41-year-old educator and Occupy organizer won by over 1,100 votes.
Kshama Sawant, Seattle's newest City Councilwoman-elect. Image courtesy of ClassWarfareExists.com.
The little known professor from Seattle’s tiny Central Community College took a leave of absence to run an energetic full time campaign. Showing a social and political trend, her primary campaign issue was raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Sawant ran on an openly pro-socialist platform and repeatedly pounded home the fact that voters have been the victims of the largest wealth transfer in human history, from the poor, working and middle classes to the rich.
Victory rally at the SEIU headquarters
In an indication of who her major voter base is, the victorious Kshama Sawant wasted little time bringing her progressive coalition together and celebrating their victory. As detailed by the SeattlePI blog, the Sawant campaign gathered yesterday at the local SEIU union offices for a victory rally. The newest Seattle City Councilwoman spoke to the energized crowd of supporters which included social activists, unions, teachers and an assortment of independent media outlets including Al Jazeera.
”This movement also belongs to the activists and students and everyone who worked hard on the information campaign…all the working class everywhere in the US and the entire world,” Kshama Sawant told the gathered crowd, “We’ve shown that its possible to succeed…in a grass roots campaign, with an openly socialist campaign, not taking money from big business. Having an unapologetic campaign platform for improving the living standards of Seattle’s working people and rejecting the business as usual. This movement belongs to that way of organizing.”
Illustrating her commitment to a grassroots, people-oriented tenure in office, Kshama Sawant’s first act as Councilwoman-elect was to turn the microphone and stage over to the activists and individuals who made her victory possible. One speaker was Abdi Mohammed of the Somali American Public Affairs Council and a leading proponent of the $15 minimum wage campaign. Another was workers rights activist Carlos Hernandez who is currently taking on Subway restaurants. And not to be left out, a statement was read from Seattle School Board Director Sue Peters. Union activists were also well represented.
Meet Kshama Sawant
With the Socialist Alternative Party logo proudly and prominently displayed at the top of Kshama Sawant’s campaign home page, the first statement on the site’s ‘About’ page is a quote from the candidate that set the tone of her successful campaign early on, “At a time of budget cuts, the Seattle City Council pays themselves nearly $120,000 a year, more than any other council in the US except LA! If elected, I will only take the average worker’s wage and donate the rest to building social movements.”
The site prophetically goes on to try and convince voters that electing an openly socialist candidate isn’t impossible. Kshama Sawant ran for the Washington State House against the body’s powerful Speaker. She shocked the state by not only capturing over 20,000 votes and 29%, but doing so while running as the Socialist Alternative Party candidate.
Look out Democrats
Another portion of Sawant’s campaign website illustrates what may soon be a major problem for Democrats around the country. After capturing a virtual monopoly on elective office in America’s major cities, the old adage comes true – power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. With nobody but rich, establishment Democrats to vote for, progressive voters are increasingly desperate for a voice of opposition. Instead of battling non-existent Republicans on the right, Democrats are quickly finding out the true threat to their power in America’s major cities is from the left.
‘The Democratic Party has run this city for decades,’ Sawant’s campaign site proclaimed throughout the race, ‘The mayor and all the city council members are Democrats and are representing only a tiny spectrum of political opinion and the interests of the people of Seattle, namely Paul Allen and the richest 1%, along with Amazon, Starbucks, big property developers, and downtown business interests. The 99% have no political representation.’
The big question American political pundits are now asking themselves is, was Kshama Sawant’s victory in Seattle a fluke? Or are Americans’ political views really shifting that far, that fast? We’ll find out soon enough as the first round of 2014 primary elections begin in just a few months. While corporate news outlets strategically pound home the division in the GOP between the billionaires and the Tea Party, the real party civil war next year may just be on the Democrats’ side.
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