By normal standards both Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Democrat’s Presidential nominee-to-be Joe Biden would be considered left of center. So you would think that the challenge they face would come from the right. Think again. Look left to see where danger lies for these local and national leaders.
Durkan is more immediately in the crosshairs. Biden still has the luxury of time and the on-going Trump Travesty Show (although Durkan has also had some benefit from Trump’s tweeted goads). But both are under pressure from the left that threatens to make them look like pandering non-leaders rather than principled leaders who know where they stand.
With Saturday night’s shootings in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, Durkan’s remarks about a “Summer of Love,” sound not just naive, but dangerous. My guess is that Capitol Hill residents as well as others nearby, many of whom re-elected Kshama Sawant last fall, are thinking twice about whether they want to live proximate to an occupied zone that police cannot enter but where leading “demonstrators” are carrying AR-15’s.
Durkan, no doubt about it, is in a tough spot. While she has lots of real world experience, she doesn’t have a lot of experience as a political leader — a fact that is now becoming evident. Where is she willing to draw a line? If you don’t embrace Trump’s version of toughness — dominate the streets — is there another version of tough, one that is principled but won’t tolerate, or placate, fools?
Meanwhile, Joe Biden is under similar if less urgent (at the moment) pressures to lurch left in response to both the COVID recession and the renewed Black Lives Matter movement. In an understandable effort to broaden his appeal to the young who loved the grumpy Grandpa Bernie, Biden has opened dialogue with the democratic socialists and Bernie advisers. A rush to Bernie’s “Medicare-for-All” backfires, despite COVID, and risks losing those happy with the private medical insurance plan they have.
Now, he will be under pressure to chose between the one true story about America, that it all boils down to white supremacy? Or America as the land of hope and opportunity? His Vice-Presidential choice becomes the litmus test. But Biden has to manage both stories, honoring the long-delayed quest for racial justice and continuing to believe that justice-denied is not the entirety of the American story.
At some point, leaders are those who stand up and make their own “I Have A Dream” speech. Their own declaration of principle and “Here I Stand, I Can Do No Other.” They articulate clearly their vision and their limits. They let their followers, and would-be followers, see the shape of the world they believe in, but also the lines that they will not cross, or allow others to cross, to get there.