Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Superdelegate Problem

Okay, so Bernie Sanders destroyed Hillary Clinton in Washington State’s caucuses last weekend. He still trails Clinton by nearly 300 “earned” delegates (those allocated on the basis of actual voters, expressed in primaries or caucuses), and his backers are convinced he can close that gap with several major states among the 22 states remaining. (I spelled out the math as to why that in itself might be difficult in this article, but that’s a separate issue.)

The real problem for Sanders is the superdelegates.

The Democratic Party allocates 4,051 delegates to the primaries and caucuses, and Clinton or Sanders needs 2,384 – a simple majority – to win the party’s nomination. The remaining 715 delegates are “superdelegates,” mostly elected officials or Democratic National Committee members, and they’re overwhelmingly supporting Clinton. Nationally, the current count is that 473 have publicly announced their support for Clinton, 209 are unannounced (including ten positions for which the superdelegate hasn’t been named yet), one poor soul is wed to Martin O’Malley, and only 32 are currently supporting Sanders.

Despite Sanders’ overwhelming victory here, Washington State’s superdelegates are even more lopsided in their support for Clinton. Not one of Washington’s 17 superdelegates is supporting Sanders; every single one is either committed to Clinton or hasn’t announced a choice.

Here are Washington’s superdelegates, with their choices to date:

Sen. Maria Cantwell (Clinton)
Ed Cote, Democratic National Committee [DNC] (uncommitted)
Rep. Suzan DelBene (Clinton)
Rep. Denny Heck (Clinton)
Gov. Jay Inslee (Clinton)
Rep. Derek Kilmer (Clinton)
Rep. Rick Larsen (Clinton)
Juanita Luiz, DNC (uncommitted)
Sharon Mast, DNC (uncommitted)
Rep. Jim McDermott (Clinton)
David McDonald, DNC (uncommitted)
Sen. Patty Murray (Clinton)
Rion Ramirez, DNC (Clinton)
Jaxon Ravens, DNC (uncommitted)
Valerie Brady Rongey, DNC (uncommitted)
Rep. Adam Smith (Clinton)
Lona Wilbur, DNC (uncommitted)

There you have it. If the superdelegates were to vote in proportion to how their constituents voted. 13 of these 17 delegates would be in Sanders’ corner. Instead, the ten public office holders – Gov. Inslee, both senators, and all seven Democratic US representatives, including Seattle’s own alleged progressive champion Jim McDermott, have signed on for Team Clinton. Of the seven DNC members, six are uncommitted and one, Rion Ramirez, has announced for Clinton.

This is an institutional issue. The elected officials all have things they want from the party – fundraising resources and connections, committee assignments, help with their ambitions. The party should be neutral in a contested primary like this, but functionally, it’s not. Hillary Clinton has fundraised in the past for several of these officials, especially Sens. Murray and Cantwell, who in turn exert influence on the state party. Clinton has also worked hard over the years, dating even before her work on the Senate Armed Services Committee, to start wars and win contracts for Boeing, and that still matters to these folks. And that’s not even counting the loyalty some of them still have to Clinton’s ex-president husband. The DNC? That’s the same body that at every turn has skewed the nomination process in Clinton’s favor. It would take a lot for the unannounced ones to break for Sanders.

This is the pattern that repeats itself in every state. None of these superdelegates are worried about being accountable to voters who disagree with their choice; none of the public officeholders are concerned that supporting Clinton will result, Tea Party style, in a primary challenge that will cost them their jobs. Until they have to start worrying about that, there’s no reason for them to switch allegiance other than fairness. And, you know, the good of the party and the country. But this is politics – fairness is a marketing gimmick, not a principle.

Sanders supporters, here and around the country, are deluging superdelegates with demands that they change their votes. As well they should. If they don’t, Clinton wins the nomination, easily. And the higher you go in the Democratic Party, the fewer people you find that agree with or even understand Sanders’ populist message. It’s hard to envision any scenario where a majority of these hacks will turn away from their corporate gravy trains, and support Sanders instead. Democracy? Good luck with that.

Sorry, Bernie Fans, But Wishing Doesn’t Make It So

Last weekend, after Bernie Sanders’ enormous Key Arena rally, I threw something of a wet blanket on the exercise, writing that the nature of America’s media landscape and oligarchic politics meant that Donald Trump had a much easier path to the presidency than Sanders; that no amount of huge rallies or enthusiasm would change that; and that what really matters is whether the movement Sanders has spawned can survive the election and become an ongoing political force.

Sadly, that’s all still true. It’s not going to change, today’s enormous wins for Sanders notwithstanding. But I had no interest in dampening the local enthusiasm for Sanders in the days leading up to today’s caucuses. So, I’ve held off all week as I’ve read one after another impassioned and/or angry rant that Bernie can win, here’s the math, you all are wrong and/or biased and/or corporate sellouts for writing off his chances for the nomination.

After today’s successful results, that noise is only likely to increase. But it’s delusional. Last weekend, I didn’t get into the numbers and mechanics of why Hillary Clinton has the Democratic Party nomination virtually sewn up. Unless a major scandal or incapacitation befalls her before the convention, it’s in the bag. Even if those things do happen I don’t think much of Sanders’ chances.

I don’t like it – I think that Clinton is both a terrible candidate and a prospectively awful president, and that she could get beaten by Trump much more easily than Sanders could. There’s no way I could in good conscience vote for Hillary Clinton in November over a third party candidate like Jill Stein for a dozen different compelling reasons. But all that still doesn’t mean the Democratic Party won’t pick Clinton. Even if it’s electoral suicide, they will.

I bring this up not to dismiss Sanders or his supporters; quite the opposite. I want to see this movement survive and continue to grow after Clinton is handed the nomination, and after the November election. It’s the most promising opportunity to bring sanity to large-scale American politics I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I don’t want to see it lost because too many people have unrealistic expectations of how politics work, especially in America’s farcical imitation of a democracy. I don’t want to see happen what I’ve witnessed countless times over the years when a candidate or movement has inspired support from people new to electoral politics, up to and including not just Occupy, but many of Hillary Clinton’s passionate supporters in 2008 (who are notably absent this year): people becoming discouraged, cynical, or disabused and dropping out after their effort doesn’t succeed. There’s a lot of reasons to keep fighting and keep adding to the progress that Sanders’ campaign has already generated, starting with the stark reality that the next President of the United States isn’t going to be Sanders, and she or he is going to suck.

Here’s why:

First, let’s concede that Sanders is not only far better than Clinton (let alone any Republican) on issues I care about. He is a more formidable general election candidate, he has a lot more momentum right now than Clinton, he’s done far better than anyone expected, and Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate on both style and substance. All of these things are true, and none of them are likely to come into play in determining who wins the Democratic nomination.

The closest any actual data comes to relevancy in making the case that Sanders could still win is the factoid that even before today, according to the number-crunchers at the invaluable, Sanders projected to nearly 90% of the delegates he’d need to have a majority of “earned” or “pledged” delegates, i.e., delegates generated by voter or caucus results and committed to supporting their candidate on the first ballot.

That sounds closer than it is. On the Republican side, all of the remaining contests are winner-take all, making it far likelier that Donald Trump will go to his convention with an absolute majority of delegates. But the Democrats allocate all of their earned delegates proportionately according to vote or caucus results. That makes it much more difficult to gain a lot of ground quickly. You can win 60 percent of a 10-delegate state, for example, and only gain 2 delegates (6-4), whereas in a similar Republican contest, Trump would get all ten.

Here’s a handy chart of the numbers that are most important in following the math below:

All delegates 4,763 (2,382 needed to win)
Total pledged delegates 4,051 (2,026 for a majority of pledged)
Pledged delegates in contests after 3-26 1,747
Superdelegates 712

Pledged delegates through 3-26 1,263/1,041 (Clinton/Sanders)
Delegates still needed for majority pledged 763/985
Current superdelegate projection 556/156
Total delegates using current projections 2,872/2,165


Prior to today, Clinton led Sanders in pledged delegates, (i.e., not counting superdelegates) by nearly 300 – 1,229 to 933 – with 2,382, a simple majority of the total of 4,763 voting convention delegates, needed to win the nomination. A total of 4,051 of those are delegates pledged – i.e., committed by party rules to vote for their candidate on the first ballot; the remaining 712, nearly 15 percent of the overall delegate total, are the superdelegates.

The numbers aren’t final, but of the 142 delegates at stake today in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, let’s say Sanders has won 108 of those delegates today – probably a bit higher than the final tally, but close enough for our purposes and a phenomenal result for him. Let’s say that after today, Clinton has 1,263 pledged delegates, and Sanders has 1,041.

Looking better for Sanders, right? However, before today, to keep pace with the state-by-state projections, Sanders would have needed to win 1,048 pledged delegates; he’d actually won only 933. Should today’s result stay at 108 delegates, that’s a remarkable 76 percent of today’s available delegates, but the projection expected him to win 82 – so he “only” overperformed the projection by 26 delegates, and remains 87 behind his projected needed-to-win pace.

With 22 primaries or caucuses remaining, including the major coastal states of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and California, that should be achievable, right?

Not so fast. The same projections show Sanders needing 967 pledged delegates in the remaining states to get his majority, and Clinton needing 1,072, because she projects as stronger overall in the remaining 22 contests than Sanders is. After today, Sanders would need to win 985 of the remaining 1,747 pledged delegates – about 56.4 percent – to go to the convention with a majority of pledged delegates. Instead, Clinton is currently favored to win a majority of those delegates.

One can argue that the projections, which are similar to those of most other objective analysts, underestimate Sanders’ strength. Maddeningly, a lot of Clinton’s support is shallow and resigned, arguing that Clinton isn’t great, but she’s a stronger prospective opponent for a Donald Trump. I disagree, but that myth will persist simply because Clinton has been a national political figure for far longer.

Nonetheless, with more favorable states upcoming than the overall electorate to date, and with his very strong caucus performances, Sanders will easily go to the convention with enough earned delegates to require whomever wins the nomination to have superdelegate support.

That’s where it all falls apart, because a strong majority of the 712 superdelegates are in Clinton’s camp, a lead of an additional 400 delegates beyond Clinton’s current lead of 222 in pledged delegates. Even though they can legally change their support before or at the convention – the key to any case that Sanders could win – there’s no evidence that any of them will, let alone the majority needed to win a close contest among earned delegates.

Many of those superdelegates are elected officials who have publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton, and lots of them owe nothing to Sanders and quite a bit to the Clinton machine. The superdelegate system was set up by the Democratic Party establishment after McGovern won the nomination in 1972 for precisely this scenario – to prevent another McGovern, some other progressive, populist candidate (like Sanders), from getting the nomination. That’s its function, and that’s why so many superdelegates are Clinton allies. There’s no precedent for them flipping in any significant numbers for a candidate who hasn’t already outright clinched the nomination (as, for example, Obama did in 2008). None. And it’s even that much less likely for a candidate with virtually no establishment party support.

In short, Sanders needs to catch up by 222 pledged delegates, or 56.4 percent of the remaining available pledged delegates, just to make the case at the convention that he reflects the will of the majority of Democratic voters. But he’d finish behind by 707 delegates overall using current projections.

Sanders would need to win nearly 80 percent of remaining pledged delegates (1,385 of 1,747) to win with Clinton’s current level of superdelegate support. That level of support didn’t even happen today, in three of Sanders’ strongest states. Anything less than that 80 percent winning – an unprecedented level given that the contest to date has favored Clinton, not Sanders – requires flipping superdelegates committed to Clinton. If Sanders wins 70 percent of the remaining earned delegates, he’d need 173 more superdelegates. If he gets 60 percent, he’d need 343 more. And so on. With no precedent that any will flip in that way.

Not. Going. To. Happen. Sorry, Bernie’s been a far closer race than most expected, but Clinton’s current delegate lead is insurmountable in any realistic scenario.


Even with, essentially, a tie in the popular vote and the resulting earned delegates, Hillary Clinton has the active support of the entire party leadership, including having worked for the current president and being married to the previous Democratic president. The likelihood in that case that an absolute majority of superdelegates would flip, even with a compelling case that Sanders is a far stronger candidate, is nil. Reality check: Sanders is NOT a far stronger candidate for the deep-pocketed corporations that are the party establishment’s only true constituency. Quite the opposite – they’d vote for Trump before they’d vote for Sanders.

Moreover, because it’s basically been a two-person race with sharply different candidates, the number of delegates who are uncommitted or pledged to, say, Martin O’Malley is fairly small. Earned vote delegates must vote for their pledged candidate on the first ballot. Changing that would require action by the convention’s rules committee, which is also dominated by Clinton loyalists. It’s even unlikely that Sanders delegates and delegates who are uncommitted and undecided would be enough to deny Clinton the first-ballot majority she’d need for the nomination – even if they ALL broke for Sanders, which they wouldn’t.

But if that does happen, and things move to a second ballot, it’s true that voter-generated delegates are free to vote for whomever they like. Those votes are more likely to flip to Sanders than the superdelegates are, but they’re still picked for their devotion as Clinton loyalists. And even that’s assuming the Clinton-run rules committee doesn’t change the rules in her favor on the second or even the first ballot, which is far more plausible than a Sanders win. Hell, even if Clinton dropped dead, they’d find some establishment retread to take her place.

That’s the convention strategy Republican establishment types are hoping to use to stop Donald Trump. They won’t succeed – he’ll have enough delegates to win on the first ballot – but that’s exactly what happened on the Democratic Party side in Chicago in 1968. Robert Kennedy was assassinated, and rather than go with the second-place candidate, the anti-war Eugene McCarthy, the Democratic powers-that-be drafted the moderate sitting vice president, party stalwart Hubert Humphrey. They did so despite the now-infamous police riots that ensued outside the convention center. Humphrey then proceeded to lose the general election to one Richard Nixon.

It’s ancient history worth remembering, because today’s establishment Democrats are just as devoted as the ones a half-century ago to hanging on to their gravy trains, and just as convinced that everyone else adores them as much as they adore themselves. The same outcome as in 1968 would likely happen this year with Joe Biden, or whomever, in a similar scenario. Establishment Clinton loyalists, and the big money donors they serve, would still rather risk losing to Trump than letting Sanders get the nomination.

But there’s still a lot for Sanders supporters to fight for.

There is no clear path to Sanders winning the nomination short of multiple acts of (insert your favored diety here). National pundits have been saying it’s over for a reason; not only is the math formidable, but they understand that the process itself is rigged. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. Sanders could get 60% of the earned delegates – he won’t – but if he did it would still be an uphill battle to win the nomination.

There’s zero reason Sanders should give up, and a lot he can do to create progressive momentum going forward, by taking his case all the way to the convention. I hate to be the cynical killjoy, because there’s tons of positive things that can come out of this year’s enthusiasm for Sanders. If the coalitions Sanders has assembled can continue to work together, they have the potential to fundamentally change American politics, away from Reagan conservatism and boomer narcissism and cronyism and toward a more inclusive, sustainable society. Both grass roots and electoral political activists can learn a lot, and will have gained valuable experience and momentum, from Sanders’ run. This year’s Democratic platform will have a heavy Sanders influence, and there’s the potential to influence a lot of downticket races. But the real prize is the potential for what can happen after the November election comes and goes. Someone has to provide the pressure that forces Congress and a President Clinton to the left. And envisioning a better world is a bottom-up project; the politicians wind up following, not leading, such a movement. That’s the far likelier path for Sanders’ revolution.

But hoping and wishing Sanders will win this year doesn’t change political reality. Winning the Democratic Party nomination is not, in the end, a democratic process, and it isn’t democratic precisely to prevent someone like Sanders from winning without overwhelming party support. Which he does not and at this point, mathematically, cannot have. Sanders isn’t going to win the presidency – but the movement he’s galvanized can win much, much more.

Upending the Oligarchs

As Bernie Sanders held forth this evening for tens of thousands of supporters inside and outside Key Arena – yes, an arena whose name was purchased by the same predatory banking industry Sanders regularly denounces – my mind kept going back to a recent political science study that should have received a lot more attention than it did.

In April 2014, a Princeton study was published that compared poll results by income level on a variety of issues with how Congress acted on those issues. The authors found that the policy preferences of the extremely wealthy correlated very strongly with what Congress – under the control of either party – actually did. Conversely, the policy preferences of ordinary Americans were within the margin of error of never having any correlation at all. This led the authors to conclude that, in function, the United States is an oligarchy, not a democracy.

Bernie Sanders was correct today when he labeled the US an oligarchy rather than a democracy. Sadly, that’s why the size of today’s overflow crowds won’t matter. That’s why when Sanders wins our state’s caucus next weekend – which he will – it won’t matter. The Democratic Party’s leadership, on behalf of the corporate titans who are their only real constituency, have fixed this contest from the beginning, even though Sanders would be a far stronger general election candidate than Clinton. A contest that features a charisma-free, wealthy has-been against an even wealthier, megalomaniacal reality TV star would be no contest at all were it not for the minority of Americans who fear the idea of an unqualified, openly fascistic bully having the single most powerful job in the world. But since the Democratic Party’s nomination process is, far more than even the Republican side’s, a top-down affair, that’s likely the match-up we’ll get.

It’s a political truism that most voters don’t decide who to vote for based on issues. Tribal identity, perceived values, good branding, and personal likeability are all more important. Does anyone, to borrow a phrase that helped George W. Bush get close enough to steal the 2000 election, ever want to have a beer with Hillary Clinton? For all his negatives, Donald Trump is charismatic and appealing to some specifically because he’s a walking id of unfiltered, non-PC resentments and bullying.

It hardly matters that, aside from being a straight white man, he is a demographic nightmare for most of his fans – a thrice-divorced, four-time bankrupted con man who expanded his inherited fortune mostly in the mobbed-up gaming industry, a hyper-wealthy East Coast elitist from this country’s most visible multi-ethnic city. All that is forgiven because he’s made it socially acceptable again, at least in some circles, for his fans to express their bigotries. In a warped way, that’s empowering, and that’s where the Sanders-like enthusiasm for his campaign comes from. Also: Winning campaigns almost always offer hope: Morning In America, Hope and Change, and yes, “Make America Great Again.” “My husband was a breath of fresh air a quarter-century ago” just doesn’t pack the same punch, figuratively or literally.

Sanders, in short, has a much more difficult path to the presidency than Trump does. Against a weak opponent like Clinton – who has literally never won a seriously contested election and, unlike Trump, blew one in which she was the prohibitive favorite in 2008 – Trump has the potential to change the Electoral College math that currently makes any Democratic Party nominee a heavy favorite to win the presidency.

Clinton’s best general election hope lies in communicating just how serious a threat that would be – but plain speaking is his style, not her’s. There’s a reason why, even in corporate media, putting Trump, fascism, and Hitler in the same sentence no longer sets off Godwin alarms. Hitler was originally elected – by appealing to German voters battered by a bad economy (in his case, the fallout from World War I and the Treaty of Versailles), strong appeals to nationalism and to making radical changes in leadership, and punching down at the relatively powerless, often defined by ethnicity, as representing the internal enemies holding Germany back. Sound familiar?

Worse, if Trump wins in November, he’ll almost certainly inherit a Congress controlled by his party and a Supreme Court that, by stonewalling Merrick Garland and confirming a Trump pick for Supreme Court, would also likely ratify his actions. All Trump needs to do – remember that Princeton study? – is promise to do everything to favor his billionaire colleagues that they want, and he’ll likely face little elected opposition on anything else. (Remember the principled, unified congressional opposition by Democrats to the worst excesses of Dubya, even when the Democrats had absolute congressional majorities? Yeah, me neither.) Meanwhile, the term “fascism” comes not from Hitler, but from his contemporary, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini; fascismo referred not to strongman authoritarianism or the bullying and intimidation, and eventually elimination, of opponents – Hitler had that, too – but to a government run by and for rich industrialists and other corporate interests. Those interests are now more globally powerful than most countries. A President Trump could literally be the worst of both worlds.

Hillary Clinton has neither an enthusiastic base nor a hopeful message. American history is littered with major party nominees whose message was, essentially, “It’s My Turn!” Most of them lost – Kerry, Dole, Mondale, etc. Clinton herself can tell you what a weak candidate the only successful nominee in recent history with such a message was (George H.W. “I can’t believe I lost o that guy” Bush.)

In such a hype-driven political environment, an issue driven campaign like Sanders’ just doesn’t fit at all. Yet.

Today’s rally changes nothing in these equations. But what will matter, NO MATTER WHO WINS, is what comes next. Past progressive presidential candidates – Ralph Nader, Jerry Brown. Jesse Jackson, even going back to George McGovern – all said they wanted to build a lasting movement that would transcend any issue or candidate. All of them withered once the presidential campaigns were over.

If the tens of thousands who came to hear Sanders today, and those who’ve attended all of his other madly enthusiastic campaign stops. dedicate themselves to the long-term process that any successful revolution requires, then we’ve got something.

It would be a positive message of inclusion, not one, like Trump’s, defined by resentments and punching down. It offers hope – a lot more hope if this year’s movement can, in 2018 and beyond, also more progressive champions elected to Congress and to state legislatures and governorships, providing the logistical support essential for meaningful public policy changes. And it would be a lateral, grass roots movement that’s not only more inclusive and creative, but far more difficult for oligarchs to disempower – whether led by Donald Trump or anyone else.

As much information as our government and private companies now collect on each of us, and as easy as it remains for insecure governments around the world to censor or control not just traditional but also social media, “consent of the governed” still means something. And when the policies of our government consistently work against the interests of most Americans, it is, as Sanders says, time for a revolution.

Revolutions, the political scientists tell us, usually don’t come when there’s no hope. They happen when there is hope, and then that hope is taken away. Currently, among other things, that’s the American economy in a nutshell.

Today’s rally doesn’t matter, but the people who came to it very much do. Get busy. Don’t get discouraged when things don’t change overnight; keep at it. Or, as Mohandas Gandhi said in very different times, “Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.” In politics, things can change very quickly, but only when people have worked for that change for a long, long time.

Treating Homeless People As Symbols

You knew something like this was bound to happen.

Late Wednesday morning, March 2, Andrew Harris was sitting in his legally parked car in Magnolia Village, where he has worked at a local gas station for over a decade. Suddenly, says Harris, a uniformed security officer rapped on his window.

The officer, James Tooney, works for a private security company called Central Protection that has been retained by Magnolia residents dissatisfied with the Seattle Police Department’s unwillingness to confirm some of their wilder theories concerning the menacing hordes of homeless people in cars and RVs infesting their quiet neighborhood. And so, Harris claims, Tooney told him that his car was parked illegally and he would need to move. Harris replied that it wasn’t, and started filming the encounter with his cell phone. That’s apparently when things got ugly. Harris says Tooney – a private rent-a-cop with no more legal authority than any other citizen, pulled Harris from his car and swatted the phone from hia hand, shattering it when it fell. As Harris stooped to pick up the pieces, he claims, Tooney pepper-sprayed him “seven or eight times,” tackled and handcuffed him, leaving him in the back of Tooney’s SUV while SPD was called.

Central Protection has refused to comment other than to say that Tooney’s version of events differs significantly – but paramedics did treat Harris for pepper spray to the face and eyes, SPD did not arrest or charge Harris; and Harris had every right to sit quietly in his vehicle. He’s reportedly considering assault charges. But this is what happens when private companies are given orders to run off people who “don’t belong,” and Central Protection’s client, the Magnolia Patrol Association, has already been notorious for bizarre accusations at public hearings and was outed by local blogger Erica C. Barnett as using the NextDoor app to fan their collective anti-homeless paranoia in rather unhinged ways.

Magnolia and Ballard residents are the constituents Sen. Reuven Carlyle was most directly catering to when he spearheaded introduction of a bill in Olympia last month that would spend $1 million to build a razor-wire-topped fence around the now-swept site of The Jungle, a notorious homeless encampment between I-5 and Beacon Hill that has persisted for at least two decades despite various city efforts to clear it out. Carlyle’s bill would then spend another $600,000 a year to retain – wait for it – a private security firm, to ensure that former residents don’t try to climb, cut, or dig their way back into the forbidden zone.

Now, if our ongoing national brouhaha about illegal immigration has taught us anything, it is that no fence or wall actually works if people are determined enough. Portions of the US border with Mexico not only have fences and razor wire, but walls, rivers, motion sensors and cameras, satellite imagery, roadblocks up to 100 miles inside the border, and numerous militarized patrols of roadless areas. And people still get in.

Beyond wasting money, however, there’s another issue with Carlyle’s bill: it has no provisions for spending any of its rare state funds on shelter or housing for the homeless at all, let alone specifically for the over 400 people formerly living in The Jungle. The state says that housing the homeless is the city’s responsibility; Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray has for months begged the state and federal governments to help with funding because the scope of the problem so clearly exceeds the Seattle’s ability to throw money at it.

All that is not to say that folks living in vehicles can’t pose legitimate problems. And plenty of people purporting to help are also being reckless these days. A formerly legal encampment now calling itself Camp Dearborn has evicted Nickelsville as its sponsor, neglecting, in the process voiding its city contract and failing to reliably provide toilets, garbage, or sufficient food. The land’s owner wants them gone. Across town, an activist group called “common cents” called publicly for homeless people to break into and squat in unused buildings around Seattle. Inviting homeless people – many of whom have physical or mental health issues, disabilities, and/or outstanding warrants, and carry their important possessions with them – to court confrontations with police and entanglement with the legal system, without providing any significant support for the resulting calamities, is hugely irresponsible.

What all of these developments have in common is an apparent willingness to treat people living in shelters, encampments, vehicles, or on the street as an abstraction, convenient for scoring personal or ideological points. The only ones who get hurt (other than bystanders like Harris) are the homeless themsleves, each of whom has their own histories, stories, and needs. They’re human beings – not gaming chips.