Monthly Archives: October 2016

General Election 2016 Recommendations: The Good, the Bad, and the Horrifying

The ballots are all mailed, and November 8 is finally upon us. You wouldn’t know it from the media obsession with our dreadful and interminable presidential campaign, but locally and statewide, there’s actually a chance to elect and pass a whole bunch of really good people and ballot measures this year. Among many other things, Seattle will get a massive upgrade in congressional representation (no matter who wins!), and there’s a half-dozen ballot measures that range from good to phenomenal. Don’t let the presidential circus get you down; at almost every other point, this year’s ballot is bursting with opportunity.

And, so, I’m here – again – to help. And as has been true for each of the 21 (!) years I’ve been passing on my recommendations, the usual caveats apply: this is one opinion. Take it for what it’s worth, which is, well, one opinion. Do your own research.

And be sure to vote by Tuesday, November 8, but don’t think for a second the job of changing the world, or even our city, will be over when you do. Social change comes from below. Voting becomes most useful when people have already organized, not when the people and policies we empower are then ratified. Get out and make yourself heard all the time, not just by mailing in a piece of paper.

As for which lines to fill in the bubbles for…


US President and Vice-President: Hoo Boy. I’ve written an entire long-ass article exploring just why our choices this year, all seven of them on the Washington State ballot, are historically bad. Go read it. My short recommendation: Vote for Clinton or Stein if you feel you must. Especially vote for Clinton if you live in a state where Trump has a chance of winning. Since that doesn’t apply in our state, I’m not voting for any of them. Why? Because they all suck.

US Senator: Patty Murray is a reliable Democratic incumbent who rarely makes waves. Chris Vance is her opponent, and it’s a measure of how badly Republicans are out of step with our state’s voters that he lists a lot of past jobs in his voters’ guide statement, but somehow leaves out that bit about being head of the clown car that is the Washington State Republican Party. Patty Murray.

US House of Representatives, District 1: Suzan DelBene won this seat six years ago as a moderate Democrat by dumping a boatload of her personal fortune into last-minute TV ads. It was a good investment for her personally, but hasn’t done much for her district; she’s been another reliable Democrat, in the best and worst senses of that phrase. Word is she wants to run for governor next. That can stop now. Skip it.

US House of Representatives, District 7: The last time Seattle’s congressional seat was seriously contested, Ronald Reagan was president. Think about that. After almost three decades on the other Capitol Hill, Jim McDermott is finally retiring from one of the safest seats in Congress.”Sunny Jim” is a friendly guy with frequently progressive rhetoric, but almost nothing to show in actual accomplishments for his long career. Seattle deserves better.

That history is important in evaluating the two Democrats seeking to replace McDermott. They’re both a massive upgrade, and the differences are primarily in style.

Brady Walkinshaw, in his short time in Olympia, has been dynamic and effective. He also deserves big credit for entering the race before McDermott’s retirement, and quite possibly triggering it – a civic accomplishment that in itself merits our gratitude. The last-minute bogus TV ads and racist-y dog whistles haven’t done him any favors, but I still suspect he’d make a fine Congressman.

But I’m going with the riskier choice here. Pramila Jayapal, dating to her time as founder and executive for Hate Free Zone, now One America, has a strong reputation as insanely ambitious, and as not treating the people around and below her particularly well. Frankly, I don’t entirely trust her. I wouldn’t be shocked if, once elected, she decided establishment comfort was more important than principle, or if she served a few terms and then cashed in for a more lucrative lobbying gig, as so many Congresscreatures do.

However, I had those same concerns when she was elected to Olympia, and was pleasantly impressed – she’s used her prodigious ability to network and fundraise to make things happen in Olympia and to get progressive goals accomplished in a way that McDermott, long a pariah in his own caucus, never did. With such a safe seat, Seattle needs a Congressional rep willing to take risks and fight unpopular battles until they become popular. We really can’t go wrong; a lot of people I know who personally know Walkinshaw rave about him. But Jayapal is the one who’s shown a willingness to take policy risks, and it makes her the best choice here. And Lord knows Congress needs a strong voice who will go to bat for immigrants, too. Pramila Jayapal

US House of Representatives, District 8: Dave Reichert is taking even longer to retire than he took to “catch” the Green River Killer. His Congressional career has been marked by a reputation (pushed hard by the Seattle Times) as moderate and independent – but he votes with his batshit crazy caucus most of the time. The Eastside also deserves better. Unfortunately, what it’s getting this time is former sportscaster and political centrist Tony Ventrella, who dropped out of the primary but finished ahead of two other challengers anyway because he’s a media celebrity and he interviewed Seahawk players once!!!11!!.

Ventrella then decided, eventually, that Congress was good enough for him after all. But that doesn’t mean he’d be good for Congress. Next time, maybe the Democrats can put up a real candidate in what ought to be a swing district. This year they’re a bad joke. Skip it.

US House of Representatives, District 9: Adam Smith, like Suzan DelBene, is a moderate Democrat. He’s been in Congress longer and has done more, rising to become ranking member of the House Armed Services committee. That was a good fit when his district included the sprawling military facilities south of Tacoma. But in 2012, District 9 was redrawn to shift north, and with the inclusion of the Kent Valley is now the state’s only majority minority district. Smith is no longer such a good fit. But then, neither is his Republican challenger. Skip it.


Governor: You’ll mostly remember former Port of Seattle commissioner Bill Bryant as the Republican dude who brought Shell’s enormous arctic drilling rig to Elliott Bay and then bashed the protesters who drew national attention demonstrating against it. That pretty much sums up what he was about during his entire tenure overseeing one of the most corrupt and corporate-friendly agencies in the state. Now he wants to run the state. No. Fucking. Way. And he has the gall to run – I am not making this up – as an environmentalist, proving once again that in politics, words have no meaning.

Incumbent Jay Inslee has had some flaws as governor. Some but not all have been a function of a disastrous, Republican-controlled state senate refusing to work with him. (Hint: We can fix that RIGHT NOW.) But he’s been solid on a lot of fronts and far better than his two immediate Democratic predecessors, Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke. Jay Inslee.

Lieutenant Governor: This is a useless position that really should be abolished. It’s only functions are to chair the state senate and to succeed the governor if he or she doesn’t complete the term. Brad Owen is finally retiring after two decades of using his copious state-funded free time to indulge his hobby of promoting the Wat on Drugs. Good riddance.

In August, I endorsed Cyrus Habib over the equally well-qualified Karen Fraser. I did not endorse Republican Marty McClendon, who has dabbled in Birtherist musings about whether Habib – who emigrated as a child from Iran in 1979 – is really a US citizen. I guess we know what McClendon’s hobby would be. Yuck. Cyrus Habib

Secretary of State: This seat promotes state trade and oversees the state’s elections. It’s been held by Republicans pretty much since statehood in 1889, and is currently held by moderate Republican Kim Wyman. Like her two longtime predecessors, she’s been unassuming and competent. She faces a challenge from Tina Podlodowski, who basically used her time on Seattle City Council over a decade ago to make corporate shilling a thing for ambitious gay politicians; you can thank her for helping pave the way for our current mayor. Ideologically, she’s more conservative than Ed Murray is, but they have a lot in common. I don’t mean that as a compliment.

That said, Wyman has overseen the state’s disastrous shift to a less-inclusive August primary, and has opposed the state’s Voting Rights Act, a package of reforms (such as same-day registration) that would increase turnout. When Podlodowski – who supports the Voting Rights Act -nearly beat Wyman in the primary, Wyman’s response was to pander to her base by pledging to submit to the legislature a new package of Voter ID laws – and claimed they were needed because the confessed Burlington mall shooter wasn’t a US citizen and had voted illegally. (He is, and he hadn’t.) Expanding the electorate should be this position’s highest priority, and Wyman should be fired for, like so many of her Republican colleagues, preferring to depress turnout. And for having incredibly bad taste. Tina Podlodowski.

State Treasurer: The top two primary finishers here were both Republicans. One wants to run government like a business; the other wants to run it like, you know, government. Vote for the guy that understands the difference. Duane Davidson.

State Auditor: This has been the noisiest race for an obscure technical statewide office in memory. You may remember Republican Mark Miloscia a few weeks ago for traveling to Belltown to pledge state legislation that would supersede Seattle’s ability to decide how we want to address our homelessness crisis, because Seattle needs “adult supervision.” This publicity stunt had everything to do with running for statewide office and nothing to do with being an auditor. The homeless? They’re stage props for his ambition. Fuck you, Mark. Meanwhile, his opponent, Democrat Pat McCarthy, was called the “Anti-Christ” in a recent Tim Eyman e-mail. That’s good enough for me. Vote several times for Pat McCarthy.

Attorney General: Bob Ferguson is the best AG our state has had in a long, long time. If nothing else, he deserves a medal for being the person who’s finally prosecuting Tim Eyman’s long-running initiative scam operation. He’s unopposed except for some Libertarian Party dude. Why would you elect as the state’s head person in charge of defending and enforcing our laws, someone who’s opposed to all laws? Duh. Bob Ferguson.

Commissioner of Public Lands: This position oversees the state’s huge land holdings; in the past it’s mostly been a sinecure for the state’s forestry and ranching interests. This year, finally, a candidate with strong climate change credentials, Hilary Franz, is bidding for the seat. Her opponent, Republican Steve McLaughlin, seems unsure about the whole climate change thing.anyway. No contest. Hilary Franz.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Somebody has got to advocate for our state’s criminally underfunded (just ask the state supreme court) public schools. In August, I narrowly went with Chris Reykdal over Erin Jones. Jones would be a strong advocate for the state’s many non-white students, and that would be hugely valuable, but her campaign has also hit major problems over some unfortunately ignorant LGBTQ comments she made. Jones has also attracted the bulk of the corporate privatization lobby’s donations. I’m sticking with Chris Reykdal, who’s the choice of the Washington Education Association and the state’s beleaguered public school teachers. Having an advocate for teachers in that role would change a lot of things for the better. Chris Reykdal.

Insurance Commissioner: Incumbent Mike Kreidler is a rock star. His Republican opponent, as usual, is a tool of a health insurance industry that is basically a vast criminal enterprise. That’s why they don’t like Kreidler. You should. Mike Kreidler.

Washington State Senate: There are a number of reasons why Olympia is a hot, dysfunctional mess, but the most obvious is that the state senate is controlled by a party that is batshit crazy. Republicans have 26 seats – officially 25, but somehow “Democrat” Tim Sheldon always votes their way, too – and the Dems have 23. Mind you, a fair number of those Democrats are useless tools, but at least they generally acknowledge that things like climate change, taxes, and gay people actually exist. And this year is the best chance voters have had in several years to return reality-based governance to Olympia.

But that means flipping at least two seats currently controlled by Republicans. There are a few such seats in suburban Seattle, but most of them are Elsewhere. However, if you, family, or friends live in any of these locales, do whatever you can to support the following candidates. And you can donate money from anywhere. Just sayin’: Tim Probst (Legislative District 17, Vancouver); Karl Mecklenburg (LD 25, Puyallup); Marisa Peloquin (LD 28, University Place); and last but not at all least, hopefully replacing the execrable Steve Litzow, Lisa Wellman (LD 41, Mercer Island).

Washington House of Representatives: Most Seattle legislative races are recurring coronations of useless Democrats, but there are exceptions (Bob Hasegawa, Gerry Pollet, and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, to name three). There are also a couple of interesting local House races this year:

Legislative District 5, Positions 1 & 2 (Issaquah):: This is far suburban Eastside, but both races in this traditionally Republican district merit attention, and both have strong Democrats running. In Position 1, Jason Ritchie would caucus with the Dems but is hoping to win the seat as a member of the Working Families Party, the latest attempt to establish a progressive third party in Washington. That’s worth supporting all on its own, but he’s also running against openly racist and Islamophobic Republican Jay Rodne, who badly needs to be retired. And in Position 2, Darcy Burner, a personal friend and former colleague who’s simply sensational, has come out of electoral retirement to try to unseat Republican Paul Graves.Vote for both Burner and Ritchie early and often – and if you don’t live in the district, consider throwing some money or volunteer time their way.

Legislative District 43, Position 1 (Capitol Hill/University District/Wallingford): It has long been an oddity of Seattle politics that arguably the state’s most liberal district has consistently sent some of the state’s more conservative Democrats to Olympia (Frank Chopp is unopposed in the other seat again this year, for example.) Finally, with this race for an open seat, that could change. By far the best choice for doing that is Nicole Macri, a dynamic activist and executive for the Downtown Emergency Services Center, the largest (and gnarliest) homeless shelter in the state. She’s worked first-hand to help some of the worst victims of our state’s economic, housing, and tax priorities. Her opponent, Dan Shih, is a more mainstream (read: Chopp-allied) Democrat getting lots of money from all the wrong people. This district needs Macri’s voice. Nicole Macri.


Washington State Supreme Court, Position 1: Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and Tim Eyman didn’t get an initiative qualified this year, so instead he’s trying to replace incumbent state supreme court justices with reactionary replacements who won’t keeping finding that his initiatives are unconstitutional. Republicans who resent the state court’s continuing insistence on adequate public education funding are also involved, and charter school outfits, including those of Paul Allen and Bill Gates, have also poured a lot of last-minute money into supporting the Eyman slate. How much longer do we need to keep repeating the phrase “Don’t let Eyman get away with it!” – “it” invariably being something that, like this, would badly harm the state? In Position 1, Eyman’s choice is David DeWolf; the rock star incumbent is Mary Yu.

Washington State Supreme Court, Position 5: The Eyman proxy here is Kittitas County (Ellensburg) prosecutor Greg Zempel, challenging one of the best of the justices, incumbent Barbara Madsen. Barbara Madsen.

Washington State Supreme Court, Position 6: The vote-for-him-on-general-principle incumbent here is Charlie Wiggins, who, as author of the ruling that found charter schools unconstitutional, is a particular target of the Allen/Gates money. Charlie Wiggins.

Superior Court, Position 14: Nicole Gaines Phelps has a ton of good endorsements and far more experience than her opponent, David Greenspan. Nicole Gaines Phelps.

Superior Court, Position 26: David Keenan is the choice her, a social justice veteran who would bring a badly-needed real life sensibility to the courtroom. David Keenan

Superior Court, Position 31: Long-time incumbent Helen Halpert is running against some dude who apparently holds a grudge against her because of some case she heard once. Seriously. Helen Halpert.

Superior Court, Position 44: Cathy Moore is the incumbent, a competent judge who deserves to keep her job. Cathy Moore.

Superior Court, Position 52: Both candidates are well-qualified, but the better set of endorsements, and more explicit voters’ guide statement (does someone just do a standard judicial…zzz…templ…zzz…ate for these?) goes to Anthony Gipe.

Superior Court, Position 53: Mariane Spearman is the incumbent here. If it ain’t broke, et cetera. Mariane Spearman.

District Court Southwest Electoral District Judge, Position 3: Her opponent doesn’t seem to actually be running a campaign, so you’d better vote for incumbent Laurel Gibson.


Seattle I-124 “Seattle Protects Women”: Okay, first off. a complaint: I hate cutesy, marketing-driven, and often misleading names for bills or initiatives. The PATRIOT Act…anything Tim Eyman does…this. This initiative’s title is designed to make you think it’s about domestic violence or somesuch, or at least, that gender is central to its purpose. It’s not. But who could be against “protecting women”? See how that works? It’s bullshit.

Bu*t it’s still a good initiative: a union-backed measure designed to force local hotels (especially certain notoriously anti-union big chains *coughHyattcough*) to offer safety and health insurance options to their housekeeping workers equal to what standard union contracts require – things like panic buttons in rooms, protection against reprisals for reporting attacks from guests, and – a big one – health care. This is good. Most – not all – of those affected would be immigrant women. But the title is still bullshit. Yes.

King County Charter Amendment 1: Would make the King County Prosecuting Attorney a nonpartisan office, in line with most other elected county offices (e.g., County Council, Sheriff, County Executive) that have already made that transition. This can be misleading – c.f. Susan Hutchison insisting, in her run for County Executive in 2009, that she was “independent.” Now she’s chair of the Washington State Republican Party. Republicans in general have a toxic rep hereabouts, and the last two prosecuting attorneys, dating back decades, Ken Satterburg and Norm Maleng, have both been Republicans of the sober (i.e., exxtinct) variety. But on principle, this initiative is still the right thing to do. Party politics don’t belong in the justice system. Yes.

King County Charter Amendment 2: Changes language in the King County Charter so that it’s gender-neutral. You mean this didn’t happen a generation ago? Yes.

You know it’s a bumper crop of statewide initiatives when there’s no steaming pile of Eyman in the batch, and Eyman himself is raising the alarm to his followers about how awful they all are. Translation: it’s a historically good set.

I-1433 raises state min wage to $13.50 over the next five years. This will help a huge number of people – and Seattle’s higher wages, so far, haven’t exactly ruined local businesses in the way the usual reactionary suspects predicted. Remenber this initiative the next time you hear Ed Murray patting himself on the back for getting Seattle’s minimum wage hike stretched out to ten years. Yes

I-1464: This is the statewide version of the clean elections initiative Seattle voters passed last year, with vouchers that voters can use to direct campaign contributions and limited public financing. Unlike the minimum wage initiative, this one isn’t even particularly watered down from the Seattle law. The entire approach is groundbreaking and somewhat unproven – but unquestionably a big step in the right direction. Yes.

I-1491: Washington voters get another, er, shot at enacting a sensible gun law with this initiative, which allows for “extreme risk protection orders” in which a judge can require that individuals judged to pose a threat to themselves or others – in cases of domestic violence, potential suicide, etc. – may not own weapons. This will save lives. Period, end of story. Yes.

I-1501: This odd little SEIU-backed initiative protects the privacy of seniors their caregivers – from identity theft but also from right-to-work organizers. Given how vulnerable disabled seniors are, the fact that this totally benefits the union in an industry that badly needs unionizing is just a nice side bonus. Yes.

I-732: This is a big one. It would enact a carbon tax on greenhouse gas-emitting products and industries, and it’s a complicated mess. Tellingly, most major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Washington Conservation Voters, and, are urging a “no” vote, essentially because it doesn’t go far enough in combatting climate change. There’s also the issue that its sponsors claim I-732 is revenue-neutral, but others (including the state itself) estimate it will cost the state between $80 million and $200 million in lost revenue – money that would have to either be raised elsewhere or saved by cutting inevitably essential services (because that’s ll there’s left to cut.)

There’s no question that this initiative is a half-measure at best, market-based and not always clearly drafted. Fortunately, efforts to improve the langugae are also underway, and as much as I respect the opinion of the groups, this is a statewide vote when a sizable chunk of state voters don’t even think climate change is a thing, let alone that government should address it. These groups are making the perfect the enemy of the good on an issue where good may be our best hope of getting anything passed. And that these groups are working against I-732, rather than working to improve its implementation, reminds me a lot of the behind-the-scenes work done by alleged allies to kill the first two statewide attempts at cannibis legalization, essentially because the “right” groups wouldn’t get credit for the win. Climate change is too important for that sort of internecine nonsense. With reservations, Yes.

I-735: This is a totally non-binding, symbolic resolution in which Washington state would call on the US Congress to pass a constitutional amendment repealing the infamous Citizens United decision allowing, essentially, unlimited corporate financing of political campaigns. Now, Congress is not going to scramble to do this just because a deep blue state like Washington suggests it. But this is part of building a national movement that just might, some day, make repeal possible. Yes

Advisory votes 14 & 15: These are, again, the meaningless Eyman-mandated “advisory” votes that waste tax dollars every time the legislature passes a tax-related bill. It’s telling that there’s only two here. For what it’s worth, #14 sets health insurance taxes for dental plans, and #15 sales tax for electric cars, but on general principle, vote Yes.

Sen. Joint Res. 8210: Advocates for this measure point to the problem of gerrymandering in the every-ten-year congressional redistricting process – but the truth is, every state does the process differently, and Washington’s is one of the most nonpartisan and fairest processes in the country. However, that doesn’t mean we’re perfect; because both major parties effectively have to agree to the plan, the result is that the districts are drawn here in a way that tends to protect incumbents of both parties, not just whichever one controls the legislature. This is why Dave Reichert is still in Congress despite his original suburban district trending more Democratic, for example; the 2010 plan simply added Republican Kittitas County to Reichert’s district in exchange for a Democratic-leaning new district. This measure wouldn’t fix that problem, but it would start the process earlier and allow for more public input (and, hopefully, less insider precinct-trading). Yes.

Regional Prop. 1: This is ST3, the massively expensive expansion of light rail through 2040 with some additional money for other transit modes as well. This year’s highly popular extension of light rail to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington – much more heavily used transit routes than the airport run that was built first – should lay to rest any doubts that light rail can get a lot of cars off the roads. With this area’s rapidly growing population, and a climate crisis that, globally speaking, still isn’t being addressed with any urgency, this is a no-brainer. Yes.

The 2016 Presidential Race

Last month was the 20th anniversary of the founding of my best-known and longest-running independent media project, the community newspaper Eat the State!. The sorely missed (in a few quarters) newspaper ceased publication a couple of years ago, but it spawned a whole bunch of other projects, including the weekly Saturday segment on KEXP’s Mind Over Matters that continues on. For all those years, across print, radio, and the web, the feature that generated the most interest has always been my twice-annually recommendations for the primary and general elections; and among those, the most heat is always, always generated by the presidential elections.

This year will be my sixth time around the presidential conundrum central to US politics: Anyone smart, capable, and principled enough to be a good president is almost by definition incapable of selling themselves often enough to be in a position to win the office. In four of the previous five times, I’ve recommended third party candidates. Generally, my thinking has been that ours is such a deep blue state that the Democratic nominee is all but assured of its electoral votes – and if it’s even in question it means that candidate is facing a national collapse, so in any scenario, Washingtonians are free to vote for what we actually want.

If, for instance, the Democratic nominee is, say, a proven or prospective war criminal (hint: they all are), and that bothers you, you can cast your vote for someone better, secure in the knowledge that your vote and those of other progressives carries no risk of putting an even worse Republican war criminal in office. On the flip side, if, say, a strong Green Party showing can help build that party as a more viable future alternative, that kind of tactical vote also carries no cost. We’re not Florida or Ohio or Virginia; Washingtonians have the luxury of voting our consciences, secure in the knowledge that enabling the greater evil, even if you worry about that sort of thing, isn’t an issue here.

The exception to my third party picks was equally instructive. It was 2004, when I urged a vote for John Kerry not because I liked him – I didn’t – but because George W. Bush’s crimes against humanity in only four years had been so extensive and odious that I reasoned only the biggest possible margin of popular vote repudiation could serve as an adequate deterrent for future would-be war criminal POTUSes. And that was before Dubya drowned New Orleans, crashed the global economy, and poured four more years of gasoline on the regional Middle Eastern conflagration that has killed over a million people, displaced at least five million more, and continues to plague Iraq, Syria, and their neighbors to this day.

So I take presidential elections, and the people who would ascend to the most powerful job in human history, pretty seriously. But in 20 years of doing this, I’ve never encountered a race like 2016. In assorted local races over the years, I’ve urged readers to skip the race – when someone is unopposed, or when the candidates are both or all so odious that only a protest write-in or no vote at all makes sense. But the presidential races are when the most people are paying attention, here and around the world, to American politics. The stakes are so high that even if the candidates themselves are less than ideal, usually at least one of our choices is worth voting for simply to make an ideological statement that has a chance to be heard. I’ve never urged people to skip voting on this most important of races.

Until this year. This year, there are four major candidates who, practically or ideologically, could make a difference: Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump. There are three other fringe candidates on Washington’s ballot: two socialists and a troglodyte.

None of them, sadly, is worth voting for.

In reverse order of electoral probability:

The Fringe: The troglodyte is Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, a far-right outfit, strongest in the South, whose most famous past presidential candidate never formally ran for the position: Judge Roy S. Moore, who has now been removed as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court three times for his assorted bigotries in defiance of federal law. Castle is cut from the same cloth, with U.N. hostility, return to the gold standard, and various other Bircherite orthodoxies as well. Uh, no.

The two socialists are the Socialist Workers Party’s Alyson Kennedy, and Gloria La Riva of the Socialism and Liberation Party, a relatively recent offshoot of the Workers World Party, which itself originally split from the Socialist Workers Party, a splinter from the People’s Front of Judea. La Riva is fulfilling her ambition to be the new Gus Hall, but little else: she’s run for president or vice-president under various banners in every presidential election since 1980. SWP and WWP are two of the flakier of the country’s endlessly fractious socialist and communist parties; combined, they will likely get less than 10,000 votes nationally for president. That doesn’t even make them effective ideological advocates.

So that leaves us with the four you know:

Jill Stein: What the hell has gone wrong with Jill Stein’s campaign? 2016 should be a perfect storm for her. Millions of disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters were hers for the taking. The Democratic Party nominee (spoiler alert!) is not only a corporate centrist, but is also the second most widely disliked presidential candidate since American polling firms started asking the question – and #3 isn’t even close. (Neither is #1, an unhinged loon who – spoiler alert! – is this year’s Republican nominee). Stein is personable, articulate, and she was also the Green Party candidate in 2012, so she’s had experience at the whole candidate thing without becoming a La Riva-style joke. Seattle should be littered with Jill Stein signs.

I haven’t seen one. And nationally, she’s not even doing as well in the polls this year as she did in 2012.

The two biggest factors, I suspect, are Stein and her party. When she’s attracted attention at all this year, it’s mostly been for saying dumb things. Her vaccination comments, for example, were overblown but unfortunate coming from a licensed doctor, doubly unfortunate from a two-time presidential candidate who should know what kind of weight her words can carry, and became instant justification for the sorts of science-fearing lefties that made a measles epidemic in our state a reality a couple of years ago. The nicest thing you can say is that she should have known better. And compared to four years ago, a number of Stein’s stances seem either poorly thought-out, designed solely to make ideological points, or are wholly impractical. I don’t get it.

The Green Party itself is the other issue. Locally, the GP these days is two decades removed from its biggest local success (the 1997 Seattle City Council elections), and these days exists almost entirely for presidential campaigns, eschewing most local elections. (Washington’s top-two primary system, which keeps most third-party candidates out of November elections, is a major problem.) In much of the rest of the country it’s even weaker.

I endorsed Stein four years ago, and given the nomination of Clinton, as recently as this summer I expected I’d wind up doing the same this year. But I just can’t. It pains me to write this – particularly because I have good, long-term friends who’ve poured their hearts and souls into trying to make the Green Party relevant. But even as an ideological place-holder, I’m not comfortable recommending Stein this year. When longshot candidates like Bernie Sanders and Kshama Sawant have demonstrated how rich the possibilities are, progressive politics in 2016 deserve a better standard-bearer than Jill Stein.

Gary Johnson:
Thirty years ago, the Libertarian Party was about evenly divided between cultural libertarians and free marketeers. Then, Reagan happened, and a generation of admirers of bad science fiction inexplicably decided that Ayn Rand was serious.

The Randian fanboys, aka Glibertarians, have long taken over the LP, and Gary Johnson is the result. His running mate, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, would actually be a better president, but no matter; Weld essentially gave up on this campaign a couple of weeks ago when, after another in an endless series of demonstrations of his profound ignorance of global affairs, Johnson admitted that he really couldn’t be bothered with that boring stuff. Which was fine when he was governor of New Mexico; he didn’t need to know what a leppo was. When he wants the job of running the biggest economy and most powerful military in the history of the world? Not so much.

Johnson, alas, is not just a gaffe machine; he’s also truly terrible on the issues he does care about. I wrote a whole article last month detailing why anyone flirting with supporting Johnson – because they like weed or guns or whatever – should think again. Some years, we get lucky, and the Libertarian Party spits up a viable protest vote. Not this year.

Donald Trump: Can we get off the ideological purity bandwagon long enough to acknowledge that sometimes the Greater Evil is, like, Really Fucking Evil?

Donald Trump, despite it all, still has a puncher’s chance of being elected President of the United States. (Think something catastrophic happening on November 2.) He’s also claimed the election will be rigged and refused to say whether he’ll honor the results should he lose. As such, he’s set himself up to lead a movement of uncompromising obstruction (best case) or violent insurrection (worst case) if Clinton wins. He’s been more forthcoming about his plans, if elected, for Clinton. He wants to jail her.

That’s nuclear-grade evil by itself, but it’s not isolated. There’s also the credible allegations from over a dozen different women and children of sexual assault or rape. And the long trail of people, most recently including the New York state attorney general, claiming fraud in Trump’s business and charitable dealings. And his uncountable campaign lies and dark conspiracies. And the alleged mob connections, East Coast, Vegas, and Russian. Abd the attacks on the powerless, the misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and bigotries of all kinds that have animated his campaign. And then there’s his policy preferences, which have ranged from opaque to ludicrous to disastrously ill-conceived.

There has literally never in US history been a major party presidential nominee less appropriate for the job.

In the end, though, Donald Trump isn’t the problem; it’s that despite all of the above, tens of millions of Americans support him anyway. We’ll see how many of them are willing to grudgingly accept a Hillary Clinton presidency, but given that John McCain and Mitt Romney were light years more respectful toward Barack Obama, it’s not likely to be a majority of the Republican Party. Even if he loses in a landslide, the damage Trump has done culturally – normalizing hatred of the Other as a socially acceptable “problem,” and violence as a legitimate remedy for it – will last a generation. Ditto for his damage to the legitimacy, tattered as it is, of American democracy.

Despite the myth of exceptionalism the US tells itself, there is nothing unique about the US that insulates it from the appeals of fascism or totalitarianism. Beyond any issues or questions of temperament, that’s what Trump represents, and the next Trump – because so long as his voters are alive, someone will follow the path he has built – will be savvy enough to avoid some of Trump’s more obvious baggage and pitfalls. Politically speaking, this shit has to be killed with fire, and the time is now.

Hillary Clinton: What does this mean? It means that Hillary Clinton could have a forked tail and horns growing from her temples, and if I lived in a state where Trump had a shot at its Electoral College votes, I’d put on a hazmat suit and vote for Clinton. My differences with Clinton are because of her policies; my differences with Trump are because he has no place in the political life of this or any other country. My policy differences with Clinton are enormous, but we have a bigger problem.

That said, Washington state, as noted above, isn’t about to support Trump. Should increasing the size of Clinton’s otherwise meaningless popular vote victory in our state, or other non-competitive states like California, take priority over her policy shortcomings?

Well, first of all, let’s be fair. Most progressives loathe Clinton, but both her campaign as nominee and Democratic Party platform this year are the most progressive in many decades. Some of this is due to the influence of Bernie Sanders’ improbable primary challenge – it doesn’t seem likely that she’d be talking about student loan reform, for example, without his influence. And she’s also taking some cues from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as with her announced intent last month to vastly expand the Department of Justice’s anti-trust enforcement division. Clinton is reliably socially liberal, meaning that culture war issues like women’s health care are starkly better under her watch than Trump’s, but she is also venturing into progressive economic waters that are new for her. And that’s good.

But these are campaign promises. Clinton’s actual record, in private life and as senator from New York and running two major presidential bids, is that she has been a complete creature of Wall Street. The only real revelation of interest so far from this month’s WikiLeaks release of transcripts of Clinton speeches to bankers is that she showed a lot more personality in them than in her usually cautious public demeanor. She’s comfortable in rooms full of millionaires. They’re her people.

There’s zero evidence that Donald Trump knows or cares how a global economy is managed, but his criticisms of Clinton’s zeal for multilateral trade agreements aren’t wrong. And those rooms full of millionaires are the primary – make that the only – beneficiaries. Similarly, climate change has been a non-issue between Trump and Clinton precisely because Trump’s circles think it’s a nefarious conspiracy, and Clinton’s circles are still trying to figure out how best to monetize it.

In general, the people closest to Hillary Clinton are the same types of people who surrounded her husband 20 years ago: corporate centrists, happy to throw ordinary people under the bus for a buck or for more power. Who she appoints to her Cabinet and all the other leadership positions a president controls is a big deal. Trump is unthinkable on that score. Clinton is business as usual, which ought to be unthinkable.

The real deal-breaker for Clinton, however, is the area over which the White House has near-total control: foreign policy. Clinton would likely have won the presidency in 2008 if not for her entirely predictable vote to invade Iraq – predictable because on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where her nickname was “Madame Yes,” there was never a weapons system or foreign adventure she didn’t support. And even with the huge cost of her Iraq vote, as Secretary of State she showed that she had learned nothing, pushing for armed US intervention in both Syria and Libya. Obama wisely rejected her recommendation for Syria, a decision she will likely be able to reverse soon; enjoy the proxy war with Russia that drops us in. And Libya? That only turned into an ungovernable, failed state thanks to her bigzeal for dislodging Col. Moammar Qaddafi. She hasn’t learned from that, either.

Are all of these shortcomings outweighed by the need for a popular vote repudiation of Trump? No. The biggest battleground this year is Congress, and the Republicans in Congress will continue to be obstructionist assholes regardless of the size of Clinton’s mandate, because they fear a primary challenge from their right more than losing in a general election. A half-century of whipping up the politics of hate has created this Republican frankenstein, and Trump big won’t dislodge it or even give it much pause. They’ll start working to disempower Hillary Clinton – as well as any Republicans showing insufficient zeal for the task – on November 9.

Clinton’s propensity for expanding on her war crime resume is the single biggest reason I can’t bring myself to vote for her. If I lived in, say, North Carolina, I’d feel differently. The electoral votes matter. But because the popular vote margin doesn’t, I can vote my conscience here. And I can’t support any of these candidates. Nor is Sanders an option: Washington state law bars counting votes cast for someone who lost in a party primary or nominating process.

I’m leaning hard toward writing in my late, deceased dog. Or something. And focusing on the rest of the ballot, where the choices are much, much better. Then, it’ll be time to start working toward better choices in 2020.

Trump the Sexual Predator

There are so many different new allegations of sexual misconduct today involving Donald Trump that it’s easy to lose track of them all. Here’s a partial list:

* A makeup artist alleging in the Guardian that Trump attempted to rape her:

* A reporter for People Magazine alleging that Trump sexually assaulted her during a 2005 interview;

* A New York Times story detailing similar allegations by two other women;

* A CNN anchor relaying a friend’s story of a similar encounter with Trump in a corporate boardroom;

* A BuzzFeed report that five separate Miss Teen USA beauty pageant contestants allege that trump repeatedly entered contestants’ dressing rooms while they were dressing. The youngest contestant involved was fifteen;

* In 1997, the year Trump celebrated replacing “Miss Piggy” Alicia Machado as Miss Universe, a then-21-year-old Miss USA contestant alleges that Trump sexually assaulted her and several other contestants;

* In addition to his decades of lecherous behavior at his beauty pageants, Rolling Stone reports, Trump told Howard Stern in 2005 that as pageant owner, it might be his obligation to have sex with the contestants;

* A local Palm Beach, Florida woman who is claiming that Trump groped her.

The new allegations span three decades, including as recently as 2013, and range from instigating numerous unwanted kisses, including with minors, to groping, to attempted rape and leering at a ten-year-old girl. Most have come forward as a result of Trump’s explicit denial of such behavior in the presidential debate Sunday night. They are of a piece with the video released last Friday of Trump bragging to Billy Bush about his unwanted sexual exploits, and of his first wife’s allegations that Trump repeatedly raped her.

Any one of these allegations would, by itself, pose a problem for Trump. Taken as a whole, they’re a political death warrant. At this point, there are so many different allegations that most people (and especially sane people) won’t track them all – but the narrative is clear, and so overwhelming that no efforts at denial or damage control will help Trump. Politically, he is now radioactive outside his fanboy base. Even worse, culturally, he is becoming both a punchline and a figure whose exploits parents want to shield their children from hearing, let alone experiencing.

There’s no way, politically speaking, that Trump survives this. And with ballots printed and already being distributed in a number of states, there’s no way at such a late date for the Republican Party to substitute a less toxic nominee.

The unfortunate part of this – beyond Trump’s alleged crimes themselves, of course – is that those crimes so overshadow the other reasons he’s a dangerous and grossly inappropriate candidate that it will be impossible, no matter how overwhelming the electoral verdict, for those other elements to be repudiated. Half of the country has been seriously willing to elect to the presidency a man who is clearly a con artist in his business and media dealings, whose public policy preferences would be globally disastrous, and whose many seemingly legitimized forms of racism and bigotry pose an enormous and direct risk to women, people of color, immigrants, sexual and religious minorities, the disabled, youth, the poor, and just about everyone else in the world who can be plausibly labelled an Other. Half of the country is still susceptible to some other future candidate whose appeals to the worst in us don’t come linked with such clearly disqualifying baggage.

That candidate will come. The problem posed by Trump’s ascendance has never been Trump; it’s the tens of millions of Americans who’ve supported him, who’ve thought that electing him would be a good idea (or at least not so bad), and who are still with us after he falls.

The task right now for progressives, for Democrats, and for the Clinton campaign isn’t to gloat, or to look away in disgust. It’s to tie Trump to every Republican running for state or federal office, whether they’ve explicitly supported Trump or simply continued to ally themselves with the party that nominated him.

Short of slow-moving demographic change, this is the best chance Democrats will have in the foreseeable future to regain control of Congress, and with it, the Supreme Court as well, to end the campaign of hate and obstruction that has gridlocked the federal government during the Obama presidency, and that has made life unnecessarily miserable for those many millions of people trapped in states dominated by Tea Party Republican officeholders. If this can’t shake loose Republicans’ base of power, nothing will.

Sadly, Hillary Clinton is one of the weakest imaginable standard-bearers for such an effort. Her campaign has, until very recently, shown little interest in generating the kind of grass roots enthusiasm needed for significant coattails. It’s the Clinton wing of the party that has, over the past decade, dismantled the “50 State Strategy” that would have allowed her party to take advantage of a red state political opening like this. And while her campaign platform, especially on domestic issues, has been far more progressive than many activists give her credit for, much of the tone of an administration is set by its appointments – and the people surrounding Hillary are largely the same elitist corporate technocrats responsible for the worst elements in her husband’s policies.

Right now, none of that matters. The task now is not only to defeat Donald Trump – which Trump himself has helped make nearly inevitable – but to deal a mortal blow to the whole structure of know-nothing obstructionism that has, for example, prevented a coordinated federal response to climate change for three decades.

The flaws of Clinton or any other single Democrat pale by comparison to this once-in-a-generation political opening.

Seattle’s Closing Progressive Window

The new progressive coalitions helping pass Seattle’s pioneering bills, addressing urgent social ills, are already being jeopardized by demographic change

Bob Santos, the “Mayor of the International District,” passed away last month after a long illness. His death got lots of attention in the local media organs that still think it’s 1970 in Seattle, but for most current residents, his name meant nothing. Bernie Whitebear, Roberto Maestas, and a whole generation of civil rights leaders that challenged the complacency of a bizarrely white and fiercely segregated major US city are now lost to time. Larry Gossett, winding down a long career on King County Council, is the last reminder of an era that fundamentally changed Seattle. Now, it’s changing again.

Santos’ passing raises the question: who will be the private citizens who are viewed, decades from now, as seattle’s iconic civic activists? With every passing year it becomes increasingly likely the answer will be, “Nobody.”

The Seattle of a half-century ago resembles Tacoma more than Seattle itself in 2016. Seattle in the ’60s was the whitest major city in the US. Boeing was the dominant employer, with the port and forestry companies like Weyerhaeuser supplementing it. The North Pacific fishing fleet was a significant employer, Amazon was a river in South America, and “Microsoft” and “Starbucks” were compound words meaning nothing. Labor unions still ran much of this city.

Slowly, in fits and starts, Seattle’s local economy has diversified. Boeing is on its way out, outsourcing and shipping jobs to low-wage countries like China, India, and South Carolina as fast as it can. Weyerhaeuser is just another company, albeit one with a lot of real estate holdings. To walk on any given weekday through the Seattle Labor Temple in Belltown is to walk through a silent, entombed time capsule. Seattle no longer makes or ships very much, but it programs a lot – so much that the Seattle memorialized by civic relics like Seafair bears no more relevance to modern daily life here than a smaller town’s “Pioneer Days.” And as with the rest of the US, selling other peoples’ things and passing around other peoples’ money have come to dominate our local economy.

Despite the economic changes, until recently Seattle remained a largely middle class city, with vast tracts of single family homes supported by decently paying jobs. In similar fits and starts, the city has seen the kinds of progressive policy advances that come with a maturing city. Today, Kshama Sawant has galvanized what is easily the most progressive city council in Seattle’s modern history. But the cultural and economic inclusiveness she champions is already starting to slip away.

The Demographic Earthquake

Seattle, like most other American cities, has always been run by a relatively small cohort of privileged elites. But about a decade ago, that ruling coalition changed. Climate change provided the opening, as environmentalists rightly pointed out that to mitigate the threat of climate change, Seattle had to change.

“Density” became the crown jewel of urban planning policy, but what voters had unwittingly set in motion wasn’t just any density. It was a particular kind of density, fueled by a coalition of real estate interests and environmentalists, that envisioned a new, energy-efficient cityscape bursting with white-collar jobs and stripped of any carbon-emitting nuisances like character, charm, or cultural diversity. Above all, the new coalition embraced with an almost religious fervor the notion that if Seattle built thousands of expensive new buildings, the magic of the marketplace would ensure that at least some of them would be affordable. The impact was sudden and overwhelming. Years of carefully crafted neighborhood plans were simply ignored, and the inevitable outcome has already fundamentally changed who can afford to live in Seattle. Very few people consciously voted for class warfare, but now everyone has been affected by it.

Seattle is in Year Four now of an unprecedented building boom, in which new construction is literally going up on every other block in much of the city. In most cases, the new buildings are replacing office and retail space and housing that was far more affordable. Seattle has had the biggest annual increases in median rents of any large US city for four years in a row. Commercial real estate is similarly booming. Housing prices have more than doubled in the last decade. Where 20 years ago, hundreds risked sleeping outdoors in King County each night for lack of affordable housing, that number is now well over 10,000, and still growing exponentially.

The homeless are the most visible edge of a vast cohort of working and middle class Seattleites who have fled to outer suburbs, or other states, in search of more affordable housing. As new tech jobs blossom and the well-paid workers filling them pour in from around the country (and beyond), Seattle’s former residents are hardly being missed.

Who will be he next Santos, the next community leader who demands and wins seats at the table for people being systematically excluded from power? The cohort most obviously being shut out is the working and middle class residents who are still here, but struggling to get by. Sawant won a citywide city council seat in 2013, and then was re-elected in her new district in 2015, explicitly championing them. Lisa Herbold, a protege of longtime city council progressive leader Nick Licata, narrowly won election in 2015, along with several other new members with varying degrees of economic populism.

But the cold reality is that the people who voted for Sawant even three years ago are no longer a majority of the city’s voters – and her new district is centered in Capitol Hill, a once-funky neighborhood where million-dollar homes and high-priced condos are now the norm. According to the Census Bureau, not only was the annual median household income in Seattle over $80,000 in 2015 – a staggering $10,000 more than in 2014, easily the biggest jump among major US cities and far outpacing #2 San Francisco – but in 98112, one of the Capitol Hill zip codes Sawant’s district centers on, that median income is now $285,000. Are they going to vote for a working class champion by the time her seat comes up for election again in 2019?

Such changes aren’t confined to Sawant’s district or a handful of neighborhoods; they’re throughout the city, and impacting the entire region. Between 1960 and 2000, Seattle’s net population growth was a remarkably stable 7,005 people. Over only the next decade, through 2010, the city added another 46,215 people. Seattle added a staggering 16,409 new residents in 2015 alone, or more than double what it added in the entire final 40 years of the 20th Century. Since the 2010 Census the city’s population grown by 75,792, or 12.5 percent in only five years.

The other end of the bell curve is equally telling. While Seattle’s overall 2015 median income broke $80,000, the number for Latinos was $49,000, and for African-Americans, $37,000. Seattle’s utter lack of housing that is affordable for working class incomes has hit communities of color the hardest. Seattle is literally swapping out those residents, primarily in favor of new tech sector employees. The inevitable result is that Seattle is not only becoming much, much richer, but also more male, younger, and whiter. And as the population has shifted, hate crimes against women and minorities of all kinds have grown steadily.

The Political Implications

The window for a progressive majority on Seattle City Council faces the same problem Republicans face in national elections: changing demographics. For candidates like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, winning a majority, even a sizable majority, among white voters, especially older white men, cannot over time counteract the growing numbers of younger, non-white voters in a number of formerly swing or conservative states who oppose their explicit appeals to white supremacy with near-unanimity. In the case of the Republican Party, their remaining viability is largely based on the two-party system and on having geographic bases in parts of the country where conservative whites still dominate.

Something similar to the dying off of the Republican is happening in Seattle, only with the reverse political effect – and there are no enclaves, really, where the Seattle of even a decade ago still holds sway.

Seattle is not about to elect any Republicans, but it’s also less and less likely to have much patience for elected officials or candidates who, like Sawant or Herbold, champion the needs of a shrinking minority of Seattle’s residents. More likely, the pendulum will swing back toward the type of politicians that ran Seattle like a small town until fairly recently: socially progressive, but only when there is no conflict between liberalism and somebody’s maximized profits.

What has defined the progressivism of council actions since Sawant’s arrival is the passage of laws objected to by the sorts of business interests that historically have run this city behind closed doors. The $15 minimum wage, secure scheduling, and assorted new checks on abusive rental practices would not have been possible had the city’s past laissez-faire approach to density and growth not led to an urgent crisis in affordable housing and widespread workplace issues for lower-wage employees. But as those renters and workers are forced out of our city, they’re being replaced by people who simply don’t care about such issues. They don’t need to – and they won’t be as inclined to vote for candidates who prioritize them.

The politics of Seattle’s homelessness crisis are an early case study of what this can look like. As housing costs have soared, the region’s homeless population has exploded, and the backlash in many neighborhoods has been ferocious. The mayor’s approach has been to issue reports and sound bites designed to make it look like he’s doing something humanitarian – but his plans won’t help most homeless people, and do little to slow down the private market affordable housing crisis that is putting more people on the streets each year. Politically, he is being challenged by more progressive approaches being considered by the city council. But business and neighborhood groups seem interested primarily in keeping the homeless out of sight (if not out of town), and with each year the percentage of Seattle voters that can imagine themselves forced by a medical or other life crisis into such desperate straits is shrinking further. Property values are trumping empathy.

When grass roots advocates were shut out of elected office in past decades, civic leaders like Santos emerged not by seeking office, but by leading constituencies who didn’t have the numbers, money, or influence to aim that high. But they were representing people who were shut out of power but still living in Seattle. It’s hard even to galvanize a movement supported by people struggling to makes ends meet, many of whom already have one foot out the door.

Much as the effects of climate change are already irreversible and talk is now of mitigation, Seattle’s class war has already been decided. The rich people won. The fight now is to determine whether anyone else can stay here at all.