When Frank Sinatra starred in the now-classic 1962 political thriller film The Manchurian Candidate, could he possibly have known the future municipal fate of the city that hosted the world’s fair that same year? As the 2019 Seattle City Council election season arrives de facto following last Friday’s candidate filing deadline, dark money’s already casting new shadows within our fair city, setting a scene worthy of the best paranoid cinema.
Within that wonderful film’s entertaining intrigue, Sinatra portrayed a Korean War veteran who discovers a bizarre political conspiracy involving an international assassination plot whose plotters intend to replace the United States federal government with something much more sinister.
Would such a diabolical thing be possible here circa 2019 in Seattle, where everyone’s a progressive according to downtown urban legend? Replace communism with Sidranism and watch what slowly unfolds municipally between now and November.
What is Sidranism? Seattle citizen, that’s a very good question. Sidranism is a longtime local ideology wherein one can other the most vulnerable and politically powerless portion of any given city’s population — namely, homeless people — and cleverly blame them for that city’s myriad municipal ills for electoral and/or legislative advantage.
Such was what Mark Sidran, Seattle’s now-former city attorney, did when he drafted and sponsored the so-called “civility laws” beginning in September 1993. Elected on November 7, 1989, and holding that office until January 1, 2002, Sidran became infamous among our fair city’s progressive activist community for championing the aforementioned ordinances, which effectively criminalized poverty within the Seattle city limits. Specifically, the “civility laws” targeted public drinking, public urination, aggressive panhandling, sleeping in parks, sitting on sidewalks, and driving with a suspended license. Sidran and his local supporters claimed that those ordinances would make Seattle a more civil and therefore safer place to live, while his opponents countered that they unjustly demonized homeless people. The majority of Sidran’s ordinances were passed by the Seattle City Council with minimal opposition among the council members — an harbinger of the apocryphal progressivism of several Seattle council clown cars to come.
Sidran was an avid acolyte of the controversial “broken windows” philosophy that New York City employed during the 1994-2001 mayoralty of Rudolph Giuliani to “clean up” Times Square and other such downscale parts of NYC. The “broken windows” theory of urban crime prevention, birthed academically and introduced popularly in a 1982 article in The Atlantic magazine, maintains that cracking down on small crimes — such as vandalism and vagrancy — prevents larger crimes later. Sidran’s popularity among mainstream Seattle citizens during the 1990s economic boom was symptomatic of the creeping classism that then pervaded the city, once a stronghold of genuine working-class progressivism.
Apparently, here in Seattle circa 2019, Sidranism has discovered the potent persuasion of Heisenberg’s infamous crystal blue methamphetamine, as amply evidenced by the recent rancid rhetoric of certain current and erstwhile city council hopefuls.
Consider Mister Christopher Rufo.
When Rufo declared his candidacy for the District 6 council seat way back in September 2018, while he cleverly framed his platform in the generic-progressive campaign language that’s become boilerplate for Seattle municipal candidates ever since Mark Sidran’s glory days, morning-after scrutiny of Rufo’s actual policy agenda would quickly reveal him to be a de facto arch-conservative — a Manchurian Sidranist, one might rightly declaim.
Yes indeed, Christopher Rufo is in fact a former fellow at the infamous local right-wing creationist-deregulationist think tank the Discovery Institute, among other appalling ideological markers. Just like Sidran circa 1993, Rufo’s constantly equating homelessness with criminality in his online rhetoric and published writing, stoking thus the nascent fires of wealth-aspirational hatred of Seattle’s homeless population, and joining thus the likes of Safe Seattle, the local extremist hate group that’s recently advocated violence against our fair city’s less fortunate citizenry.
While Rufo’s no longer running for council (dude quickly canceled his campaign after falsely claiming that his critics were “stalking” him and his family), he’s actively still seeking to influence the outcome of this year’s council elections in favor of broken-windows theory and policy — and he’s not the only one.
Seattle’s 2019 municipal election season shall soon swallow us all, flush with both dark and dork money. Meanwhile, when any given member of this year’s establishment council candidate cadre claims to be progressive whilst blathering standard vapid campaign clang, stop them politely, look them straight in the eye, and ask them whether they condone shooting homeless people.