After Seattle’s incumbent mayor withdrew from the race amidst nasty allegations of purchasing sex from a minor and abusing his foster son, the field was wide open. Three candidates ran in a primary, Jennifer Durkan (the closest thing to an establishment candidate), Cary Moon and Nikkita Oliver. They ended up in that order, with Durkan and Moon to have a run off.
The voters spoke. Sam Keller didn’t care for what they had to say, so she wrote Moon an open letter.
A few weeks ago, you said something that made me respect you: “We think: Oh, we’re all good liberals, and give ourselves a pass. I believe it’s our shared responsibility to work with people of color who have been leading this effort for decades, and support them and listen to them to make changes.” Now, with the numbers in, it’s time for you to live up to those words and honor the leadership of people of color. You need to end your candidacy for Seattle mayor and boldly support Nikkita Oliver.
The rhetoric of inclusion put to the test. A very bold proposition, to ask a candidate to withdraw and “boldly” support another candidate. Who is Sam Keller to ask such a thing?
I’m not a person of political importance. I’m a queer, mixed race, light-skinned Latina living in West Seattle. Everyday I work to make the world a better place at my non-profit job, and I raise my son the best I can. You, Cary Moon, have real power. You can change the landscape of this city with a few simple words: “I am intentionally stepping out of the race for Seattle mayor.”
There was once a time that political propositions weren’t premised on how many intersectional points a person had. It doesn’t appear that Keller was elected spokesperson for “queer, mixed race, light-skinned Latina living in West Seattle,” such that she spoke for all, or even the majority, of those sharing her victim points.
But by wearing her intersectional identity on her sleeve, she both immunized herself from challenge and struck the chord that will make progressives sing. How can you not listen to and support a “queer, mixed race, light-skinned Latina living in West Seattle,” even if every other “queer, mixed race, light-skinned Latina living in West Seattle” disagrees? Only someone with the same or greater victim points can challenge this voice. Moon was merely a woman, which trumps a guy, but that’s about it.
This must sound ludicrous to you. It sounds a little ludicrous to me as I write this. It sounds especially ridiculous given King County election law states that even if you drop out, Oliver’s name won’t appear on the general election ballot. She would have to run as a write-in candidate. Some will say this will hand Jenny Durkan the election on a silver platter, but I think you understand this system will never present an ideal path to power for women of color, unless white people like you give up some power and take a risk. We have to start somewhere.
The allusion to the silver platter is a curious one. Should Durkan be elected, it will be because she won the primary. That’s democracy. You run. People vote. If more people vote for you than the other candidates, you win. While Keller seems to understand that in the absence of the second place candidate, the first is handed the election on a silver platter, she doesn’t grasp that her solution is to seek a silver platter for the third place candidate.
There is an “ideal path to power for women of color.” Run for office on a platform reflecting what the voters want and get elected. If the contention is that being a “women of color” is all the qualification Oliver needed, then she should just repeat that over and over on the stump. If the voters agree that hue and vagina are the most important criteria, they’ll vote for her. They didn’t.
This is your only path to Victory. I don’t mean victory in the mayor’s race, I mean Victory in moving this city forward. Victory in being a real white ally by surrendering your power for the betterment of people of color, namely black women in Seattle.
And the ally card gets played. It should. You see, the woke whites prove their devotion primarily by hearing the clarion call of the vulnerable and shrieking names like racist and sexist at the unwoke. Fun though it may be to renew their membership in the tribe, it costs them nothing. Keller put her ally to the test: give up your candidacy to the “black, queer, lawyer-artist with lived experience most of us can relate to.” If not, “two wealthy white women [will be] deciding what working-poor people of color really need.”
Well done, Sam. You put the screws to Moon to put up or shut up, just like Adele and Beyoncé’, whose Lemonade album should have won the Grammy, which is the perfect political analogy.
So what did Moon do? As it turned out, she was saved by the law.
Nikkita Oliver can’t run as a write-in candidate, as it turns out, even if Moon were to step aside…
Take it away, Revised Code of Washington 29a.24.311:
(3) No person may file as a write-in candidate where:
(a) At a general election, the person attempting to file either filed as a write-in candidate for the same office at the preceding primary or the person’s name appeared on the ballot for the same office at the preceding primary;
If Oliver attempted a write-in campaign, votes for her wouldn’t be counted and she wouldn’t be mayor even if she somehow wound up getting more votes than Durkan.
Cary Moon was spared the test of her beliefs and rhetoric this time. Of course, if she wins the mayoralty, but says she would have handed her candidacy to Oliver but for the law, she’ll find herself in the same position when re-election time rolls around. So what if Nikkita Oliver couldn’t eke out a first or second place finish in the primary on her own. There’s no ideal path to power for a “black, queer, lawyer-artist” when the voters choose not to vote for her.
Democracy, so horrifying and exhausting. If it wasn’t for the patriarchy, the ally card might well have done the trick to put a woman of color in power who the voters didn’t want but had the most victim points. And that’s what makes equality great.
H/T Jason Ellis Anderson