Seattleites who follow city government shenanigans closely know all too well that the word “progressive” has become the ultimate empty semantic vessel in recent years here within The 206.
Apparently, each new municipal election season here inevitably brings a fresh cavalcade of candidates crowned with that appallingly ubiquitous term. Just as one must publicly eat bagels in New York City, chitlins in Atlanta, and chorizo in Los Angeles to achieve genuine imitation authenticity on the campaign trail in those major American cities, one must declare oneself a progressive in Seattle to qualify as a genuine contender for high municipal public office here.
While the word itself essentially denotes great civic qualities — genuine desire for social and economic justice chief among them — several candidates and electeds within Seattle’s recent political history have now made the word “progressive” cause for great suspicion.
Consider Jenny Durkan.
When the former U.S. attorney announced her candidacy for Seattle mayor on May 12, Seattle’s political establishment instantly fell in line to support Durkan’s candidacy, both rhetorically and financially, contributing $321,630 to her campaign as of July 5, with an average donation of $236.57. Comprising many of the same economic fundamentalist folks who conspired to oust the genuinely progressive outsider Mike McGinn from the mayor’s office in 2013 in favor of longtime local Democratic party hack Ed Murray, that establishment has now obviously anointed Durkan as our fair city’s next executive leader. Durkan’s noteworthy endorsements currently include our controversial retiring mayor, along with retiring city councilcritter and kindred fair-weather progressive Tim Burgess, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s PAC, and — most predictably — The Seattle Times. Same as it ever was, indeed.
The Times editorial board, in their July 7 endorsement op-ed, argued that “[Durkan] is progressive, but pragmatic.” Does Seattle’s longtime genuine progressive activist community agree with the Times? Just as our city’s entrenched downtown business community has rallied avidly around Durkan, social and economic justice firebrands here have largely rejected her, wisely recognizing that her alleged progressive credentials come from the tower and not the trenches. Meanwhile, The Stranger‘s Heidi Groover called Durkan “the calculating candidate who knows when to tack left and when to embrace Seattle’s political establishment” in Groover’s June 21 Durkan profile.
Genuine progressives understand that systemic problems demand systemic solutions. Nothing within Jenny Durkan’s civic history convinces this writer that she understands our city’s prevailing problems — obscene economic inequity, cancerous real-estate development, patriarchy-addled cops — as systemic phenomena. Despite having never previously pursued elected public government office, she’s already becoming a classic cynical careerist politician. Electing Durkan as our next mayor will guarantee that Seattle’s political establishment will continue to nurture the lingering circa-1997 Sidranist status quo. You now know for whom not to vote.