Democracy Distorted: A Seattle Progressive’s Political Plea

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

26 comments on “Democracy Distorted: A Seattle Progressive’s Political Plea

  1. JAV

    Reasoning from SocJus types usually looks like a child’s reasoning. It’s not that it’s inherently illogical, but since it starts with a bad premise, the output is bad too. Like how a 5 y/o boy thinks her mom is the Tooth Fairy because he caught her slipping the quarter under the pillow.

    1. SHG Post author

      Therein lies the problem, that it starts with a flawed premise. But what’s the flaw? Analogies are fun, but unilluminating. So what’a wrong with using one’s privilege to enable a marginalized person to come to power that would otherwise be denied because of their lack of privilege? And what’s wrong with using the ally card to shame a putative ally to forsake their privilege and self-interest, and put their money where their mouth is?

      1. el profesor presente

        “what’a wrong with using one’s privilege to enable a marginalized person to come to power”

        Because marginalized demographics and “marginalized person” are apples and oranges. Conflating the two on the basis of identity is not just a logical fail, it perpetuates the problem. This is why current “social justice” activism represents an evolution of white supremacy, not an antidote.

          1. el professor presente

            That’s one flaw, but maybe not “the flaw” you were looking for. No doubt there are many others, but this one seems both deeply embedded and in a popular blind spot.

  2. DaveL

    Victory in being a real white ally by surrendering your power for the betterment of people of color, namely black women in Seattle.

    I don’t pretend to be Sun Tzu reincarnated, but I’m pretty sure that somebody who demands your surrender is not your ally.

    1. Ross

      How about betterment for black men in Sesttle? Or poor white women? Or poor white men? Why are only black women deserving?

  3. David J Ziff

    This part of your intro is a bit unclear: “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.” If I didn’t know more, I’d think this was a three-person race, and that perhaps the result was something like 40-35-25 (or whatever). In that case, regardless of the reasons, it would be ridiculous for the second-place candidate to step aside for the third-place candidate. But this race had *twenty-one* candidates. Durkan, Moon, and Oliver were indeed the top three, but they only pulled 28.8%, 17.4%, and 16.1%, respectively. Moon and Oliver are both on the more “progressive” side of things. So it’s not like anyone ran away with it here. And the question was which candidate had the best chance of bringing together the “progressive” wing of the electorate in November. I think that’s relevant context for your discussion—that there was some thinking about a strategy here.

    1. SHG Post author

      I appreciate how hard you strained to try to make a sensible argument out of gibberish, but the post was about the call to Moon to drop out so that Oliver could run solely because she was a “black, queer, lawyer-artist,” and for no other reason.

      So no, it’s not relevant, even though it hurts your sensibilities that you came up with an argument that wasn’t made and really, really, really want yours to replace the idiotic one that embarrasses the tribe. Then again, there is no evidence that your argument is valid, particularly, as the update notes, that the SECB would support Moon and not Oliver regardless.

      I give you an A for effort, even if a C- for substance (no gentlemen’s B here, you know).

      1. Miles

        This is why academics don’t like to comment here. You’re supposed to start out with a phony tummy rub, call their comment “interesting” or “curious,” then slowly back into a soft explanation of why their thoughtful idea might not be valid, leaving them a backdoor to escape humiliation.

        Instead, you savagely rip their lungs out through their asshole. What were you thinking?

        1. el professor presente

          I feel the need* to speak up and set the record straight on this matter. There are multiple phony tummy rubs in that response.

          *oops I did this part wrong

      2. David J Ziff

        Hold on, I just need a second to get my lungs back up through my asshole.

        Okay, good; I’m back.

        I wasn’t making an argument against your general point. I decided against that; life is too short. And to be honest, I’m not even sure what your point was, other than just to inform your readers that on the other side of the country, someone had written a letter to the editor of an independent/progressive weekly paper, and the weekly paper didn’t even agree with the letter, but everyone should know that the letter was WRONG WRONG WRONG. Anyway, given that you’d used the Seattle mayor’s race as a jumping off point for your post, I thought your readers might benefit from a bit of background/context. They have that now, in the comments, if they want it. I think that’s worth the savage humiliation and disembowelment that I’ve endured here. Though I’m not sure it was worth watching that YouTube video.

        1. SHG Post author

          See? And you said you didn’t see the point. No doubt my readers will deeply appreciate your informative, if orthogonal, but interesting and curious lecture.

          Oh, and don’t mind Miles. His genitalia were destroyed in a tragic kiln explosion in ’63.

          1. Miles

            Fake new!!! I still have one ball left.

            Dear Mr. Ziff,

            You are a mean shitlord academic person. The letter in the indie weekly was not wrong at all, and if SHG had suggested anything of the sort, I would have attacked him with my prosthetic member. Rather, the letter was quite right, too right in fact, in its reflection of exactly what progressives demand.

            Your apology is accepted, mostly because I feel pretty darned awful about the time you had to spend addressing your hiney issues.

        2. Davix

          What an interesting reply, Ziff. Yet, why am I left with the distinct sense that it’s completely disingenuous and you hope that readers here are stupid enough not to realize how full of shit this rather sad attempt at spin is? But your penmanship was very nice, even if you have paragraph break issues.

  4. Ron Skurat

    Complete non sequitur from Sam Keller – par for the course, though. As if a Beau Geste has ever affected an election outside of the movies.

  5. Ken Mackenzie

    One popular false premise is that the purpose of an elected legislature is to “represent” the proportions of gender, pigmentation, ancestral background, religion or whatever other demographic measure seems important that day. Lawmakers are elected to represent the policies of the electors.

    1. SHG Post author

      The argument is that, if theory played out in real life, all groups would generally reflect the demographics of the people they serve. If not, then something must be done to make it so, even if it means electing people based on their pigment or genitalia rather than positions, policies and competence.

      1. Ken Mackenzie

        That’s the old idea. Now it’s shifting to identity as constituency; the female reps should be there to represent the interests of women, the McSomethings for the people of Scottish descent etc.

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