Troubled by discordant Seattle politics and a president working to undermine the Constitution? Then consider looking at the Black Lives Matter protests as an inflection point that will bring about real change. At least, that was my takeaway when I zoomed into a recent panel discussing the protests and the 2020 election.
Presented by Folio, the Seattle Athenaeum, the program moderated by Morton Kondracke brought together former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland (now running for Congress in the 10th), Ron Sims, former King County executive, Charles Douglas III of Common Power, and political consultant Sandeep Kaushik just a day after Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris would be his running mate. The wide-ranging discussion led off with the participants’ reactions to Harris, talked about the resignation of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, what the Black Lives Matters protests accomplished, the future of Mayor Jenny Durkan and expectations for the November election.
Here are some of the takeaways I jotted down:
Sims: “She’s perfect for it” and an indicator of what a Biden Administration will look like. He called her “smart as heck” and said she has every credential needed.
Douglas: “I don’t agree with all of her policies, but I love what she represents, and I love what she means for my daughter who is Black and Asian also.”
Strickland: “Seattle lost a good leader…She was put in a tough position.”
Sims: He said he was angry as a Black man at the way Best was treated. “The Council did not afford her any respect.”
Douglas: “This moment in history lost an ally.”
Kaushik: “This may be a significant turning point in local politics in the city of Seattle.” He said it opens a space for people to question defunding the police and whether that’s the right way to go and how fast to go.
Black Lives Matter Protests:
Sims: “It’s catalytic for changes that need to take place.”
Strickland: “It’s an opportunity but it has to be a sustained effort. America has a very short attention span.”
Douglas: His organization Common Power saw a major uptick in volunteers working to get people to vote. “People realize the path is the vote.”
Kaushik: “We are at the sausage making stage in Seattle now,” translating the calls for defunding into policy. “There’s significant differences in the city on these questions.”
Mayor Durkan’s future:
Douglas: “I think she’s out. My generation is ready to wash its hands of her. Is she all bad? No. Are there other better folks out there to run the city? Yes.”
Kaushik (acknowledging he worked on Durkan’s campaign): “The mayor was trying really hard to find a middle pathway in a very complicated situation and with deep divides emerging in the city…and it wasn’t working…Seattle politics are going to be bumpy over the next couple of months…I would not count Mayor Durkan out.”
Strickland: “I was mayor of Tacoma for eight years and in my eight years as mayor I knew six people who had the title of mayor in Seattle. This is a conversation about consistent leadership. Right now it’s a dysfunctional city hall in Seattle, not just between the mayor and the City Council but within the City Council itself…What Seattle has lacked is consistent visionary leadership that serves more than one term”
Sims: “I am kind of optimistic that we are going to see a President Biden and Vice President Harris and good riddance to Donald Trump. Will the base for Biden come out and vote? If they do that, he’s the president. If they sit around and complain, four more years of Trump.”
Douglas: He described Common Power’s widespread and intensive efforts to get people to vote, including registering voters at the protests. “That is what it’s going to take to win.”
Kaushik: He pointed out that voting by mail in Washington State and elsewhere has not shown a significant partisan impact and that it’s the obvious choice during a pandemic. By going on Fox News to rail against voting by mail, Trump might be “suppressing Republican turnout.”
What’s next for Seattle and Black Lives Matter?
Douglas: “More white liberals are willing to put themselves out there. I love white wokeness. Black folks are tired of having this conversation and fight on our own…I’m glad white folks are talking to other white folks about how to improve on race in this country.”
Kaushik: He cited “frustration some people feel that change isn’t moving fast enough” and “you have other people in the city that feel like things are rushing pell mell.”
Douglas: “We are at an inflection point in our history. This is the time for a leap.”