National Wave: Clear Messages for the Left

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Election returns, in Seattle and across America, demonstrated Tuesday night that the militant activist far left wing of the Democratic Party is losing touch with Democratic voters, and that its demands have hindered the party from showing that it can productively govern. 

The Emerald City was giving 64.63 percent of its vote for Mayor to Bruce Harrell, despite endorsements for opponent Lorena Gonzalez by the King County Democrats, most of the city’s Democratic district organizations, Washington Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club-Seattle, The MLK Labor Council, The Stranger, The Urbanist, and Publicola.

Ann Davison, a Republican convert last year, was at 58.25 percent of the vote for Seattle City Attorney, 22,000 votes ahead of police abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy. Despite a hyperbolic effort to save NTK by Democratic Party State Chair Tina Podlodowski, progressive Seattle voters were not about to elect a candidate who had Tweeted “my rabid hatred for the police.”

The most charismatic of the left’s candidates, Nikkita Oliver, was running a full 20.5 points behind Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson. Nelson was a longtime aide to City Council member Richard Conlin, defeated by Marxist Kshama Sawant in a 2013 election that began the council’s hard swing to the left.

Late-arriving and not-yet-counted ballots boost the left in Seattle elections. But these wide margins are very likely to hold. Sawant came from 12 points down on election night in 2019, and opponent Cary Moon closed the gap on Jenny Durkan by 10 points in the 2017 race for Seattle Mayor.

Whatever the final margin, the 2021 Seattle election is a groundswell and not just a frost heave. Various once-respected outfits that have embraced candidates far out in left field, and their agendas, for example, Washington Conservation Voters, need to reconsider competence as the real criteria for agents of change. As NTK showed here last night, the three most disastrous words for liberal-left candidates in America have been “Defund the Police.” Republicans used anti-police jargon from the left echo chamber in 2020 to unseat Democrats in Congress even as Joe Biden was winning the presidency.

The results last night were surprising mainly to those “looking at our echo chamber,” CNN pundit/activist Van Jones commented.  The Democrats who won, including Harrell, are mainstream progressives.  New York Mayor-elect Eric Adams beat the left in his primary and won last night on a platform of public safety AND police reform.

Minneapolis voters were decisively rejecting a ballot measure to abolish the city’s police department and replace it with a department of public safety. In Buffalo, a socialist/abolitionist, India Walton, upset incumbent Democratic Mayor Byron Brown in last spring’s primary. Brown has apparently come back to beat her with a write-in campaign. Cleveland-area voters sent a mainstream Democrat to Congress last night. Shontel Brown had earlier prevailed in a primary over early favorite Nina Turner, a fiery Bernie Sanders surrogate from the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. Shasti Conrad, chair of the King County Democrats, helped raise money for Turner.

As to Seattle, left/activist firebrand Robert Cruickshank Tweeted last night: “The results out of Seattle are bad. Not unsurprisingly so, but it’s bad and we progressives have a lot to fix.” No kidding.  But the local left is not introspective and loath to abandon its agenda.  It’s easier to demonize big business, blame the media, and go back to passing resolutions highlighted with the word “demand.”

In the face of Terry McAuliffe’s come-from-ahead defeat in the Virginia Governor’s race, the Old Dominion’s Democratic Chair Swecker said through her teeth: “I would encourage those people across the river that could pass legislation to give relief to working families that maybe they better wake up and think about what next year is gonna look like now.”

Spot on. The Macker lost, in large part, because of Democratic bickering on the other side of the Potomac, and refusal by left-leaning Democrats in the House to permit passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.  On matters from highways to Amtrak to broadband access, it represented a chance to show that government works and is moving. Rep. Pramila Jayapal and her collaborators could have taken President Biden’s word that Build Back Better was on its way. They could have sent infrastructure to the President’s desk. They didn’t. When Democrats form a firing squad, all too often it’s in a circle.

Out here in this Washington, the Jayapal machine is running out of gas.  The Seattle Congresswoman went all out for U.S. House candidate Beth Doglio in 2020. A mainstream Democrat, Marilyn Strickland, won the 10th District congressional seat with ease. This year, obviously at Jayapal’s behest, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren delivered endorsements of Lorena Gonzalez.  Labor unions raised nearly a million bucks for a PAC to boost Gonzalez.  Jayapal was also a big booster of Nikkita Oliver for City Council.

She may yet be on the winning side in a couple of Seattle Port Commission races. Such, however, is a paltry prize for one regularly lionized by MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid. Curiously, the Republican win in Virginia seemed to elude both MSNBC pundits for hours on Tuesday night.  There are limits to what you can hear in an echo chamber.

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I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and SeattlePI.com from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.

6 COMMENTS

  1. We’ve dodged a bullet.

    But I’m curious about one technical question.

    We’ve had Democrat electeds endorsing one Democrat over another Democrat. Most obviously as you say with Sanders/Warren endorsing Gonzalez. I’m not aware that that’s been a past practice and for a good reason. It can create a certain amount of tension in future relations. You don’t think that Harrell will remember Sanders and Warren? I’m sure he will put it aside in the interest of Seattle. But it doesn’t seem to help internal party relations.

    Am I wrong on that historically? That Democrats (or Republicans for that matter) will avoid choosing sides when two people of the same party are running for the same office.

    Claims that the office of Mayor is non-partisan so it’s ok don’t fly.

  2. As someone who grew up in Virginia, a long time ago, I was appalled at what happened there yesterday.
    To reinforce what Joel wrote here, I had this Twitter conversation last night:
    Someone else: “Democratic party leaders shouldn’t have rushed to nominate Terry McAuliffe for Governor. Jennifer Carroll Foy would have been a better candidate.”
    Me: “‘Rushed’? Are you saying that the primary should have been a month later?
    Sorry, the primary date is set by state law. The Democratic party leaders don’t control it.”
    Someone else: “They rushed to endorse him and that really gave someone like Jennifer no chance”
    Me: “You got the ‘no chance’ part right. The result of the primary was McAuliffe 62%, Foy 20%. They could have let everyone who preferred Foy vote 3 times, and she still would have lost. If you really believe that the ‘Democratic Party leaders’ have sufficient clout to create a win this lopsided, you’re delusional.”

  3. Line of the night, looking Left:

    “There are limits to what you can hear in an echo chamber.”
    Time to get out of the bubble, and see the real world.

    Thanks Joel, David, Sandeep – best local coverage of a crossroads election

  4. Trust, once lost, is impossible (very difficult) to regain. Moreover, pervasive incompetence, corruption, and dishonesty further undercut trust in progressive governance.

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