Guest Editorial: “Progressive” Is a Meaningless Word in Seattle

Comments

1
This has been clear for years, and growing clearer by the day. Thanks Shaun
2
One could make any number of criticisms of Seattle's leaders and its politics, but this silly essay and its crying of failure here and failure there is not even close. Words like progressive and liberal and conservative are relative. "Everybody" might be progressive relative to Kansas, but a Queen Anne progressive and a Beacon Hill progressive are not the same thing. One can be conservative within the context of local politics. This is basic shit.

That's why everybody can be progressive, yet at the same time, we have our own local spectrum of views.

The other thing: who told you that the local city government is in charge of the economy? Seattle is not a city-state. It's under the control of the state government and the federal government. Seattle has the most minimal range of choices on things like tax policy. We're hoping for some hind of income tax but that's hardly a given. We have to ask permission from Olympia, and the state supreme court. Seattle doesn't control those bodies. Seattle hardly has the power to take the vast income tax receipts we send to the federal government to be spent on maintaining the largest military force on the planet.

Seattle also doesn't decide banking policy. Or, um, a little thing called health care. Or education policy. Or foreign policy. Or immigration policy. Seattle doesn't get to control the money supply or run a national debt. Seattle doesn't get to decide if we will pour trillions of dollars into endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We don't get to decide if corporations are people, or if they can spend unlimited amounts on campaigns. Those decisions are all made for us, in Olympia, or in Washington D.C.

All of these things determine economic inequality or equality. They determine access to housing. Not to mention jobs or seeing a doctor.

The local government gets to nibble around the edges of policies that are handed down to us by governments, and try to steer it a little bit this way or that. Given all that, how likely is it for any imaginable Seattle politician to "fail" at keeping average rents within reach of every family? There's a lot we can do, but only to a point.

" ...one wonders if liberalism as a whole is to blame for the inability of some Seattle progressives to develop a more potent theory of power. Or is a particular strain of play-nice Seattle liberalism the problem?"

No, one doesn't. Maybe you do, but you should take a look around the country you live in. Half of the US is filled with spiteful know nothings. Our constitution is written to give them a grossly disproportionate amount of power. Playing nice isn't the problem either.

By all means, rally the progressive wing of Seattle progressives to work harder. There's many victories to be won. But we will "fail" to completely upend the fundamental economic and political landscape of the country that we are very much a part of.

As long as so many garbage Americans go on bound and determined to make their country into the world's biggest middle finger to common decency, we're going to "fail". So get a grip.
3
#2. Thank you. The left needs to get past these purity tests and infighting and focus on the real battle. We can have disagreements on housing policy without accusing each other of betraying progressivism.
4
So true.
If only The Left could unleash it's full power it could turn Seattle into a paradise, like Venezuela.
6
If this article is any indication, the author's book must have all the charm of a re-education camp manual read through shit colored glasses.
7
This essay was a waste of space. Progressive is a meaningless term everywhere it is used, not just in Seattle. And Maddux is a fucking tool.
8
Tim Burgess: The hard left is the same as the alt right. Fuck them.

Shaun Scott: No, fuck you, you centrist do-nothing hack.

Commenters @2 and @3: Fuck you! We’ll do nothing and be proud of it! Now shut up before you actually fix anything, for fear that we run out of things to bitch about.
10
#8: You accusing others of doing nothing made me think of my favorite Anais Nin quote: We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
11
@10 No, you.
12
@4, x2.
13
Misanthrope? Don’t say I want to do nothing. Not after I said (two or three times in the same comment) that there is a lot we can and should do. I was asking myself if I was belaboring that point, but I guess for some it doesn’t matter. You’ll make shit up regardless.

The supply side trickle down clowns above are weak trolls. Tell it to Kansas.
14
In the minds of Maddux’s cohort of centrist data miners, radical proposals for more affordable housing should do more to keep the material interests of landlords in mind. To them, current city council candidate’s Jon Grant’s call for 25% affordable housing in all new development is flawed because “instead of having an opportunity to discuss ways to improve collaboration, we start from an adversarial position.”

This is so obviously misleading with respect to Maddux's argument that it's hard to avoid the conclusion that it's deliberately obfuscatory. I encourage people to click through and read his post, rather than rely on this author's profoundly dishonest gloss.
15
@13 You participated in Whataboutism. Shaun wrote about specific things we should be, but aren’t, doing (like raising the tax break minimum for affordable housing to 25%). Meanwhile, you went on the defensive trying to protect centrist politicians’ self-labels relative to the country, citing many policies out of Seattle’s hands and summing up, “There's a lot we can do, but only to a point.” In other words “hey there, whoa now, don’t ask us to do too much because I want to keep my Libby Lib card without actually compromising my centrist beliefs.”

Your defensiveness is worse than his negativity because he at least puts forth a few meager ideas of how the city can legislate out of its mess. You offerred nothing concrete.

Meanwhile, our city progressives at the state level refuse to help out in a meaningful way. They’re not going to help pass an income tax law, or try to pass legislation that legalizes rent control because they’ve got their own centrist ideas stalled in a deadlocked legislature. Sure, they can come together with Republicans to pass corporate tax breaks like the one that gutted unemployment or the gift they gave to Boeing, but they can’t pull their heads out of their asses to take a stand when it counts for liberal policy. That’s at the state level...do you want to shove it up to the national level?

How about our two state legislators who refuse to stand for Medicare for All; one (Murray) in the hopes that she’ll be able to pull some bipartisan fix to the ACA out of her ass and the other because she’s up for re-election and having a D next to her name gives her the ample liberal vote so she needs to court Washington’s “conservatives.”

Now tell me again that Seattle’s “progressives” actually progressive? I could use a laugh after the past few days of shit news.
16
Maddux calls out Jon Grant on his divisive, disingenuous and latently misogynist mud-slinging against Mosqueda, and immediately one of his campaign proxies goes on the attack with the usual dishonest socialist-rhetoric-laden insults. As though the "Big Labor" he insults doesn't fund and oversee the EOI, which spent years laying the groundwork for a progressive income tax, working with the Transit Riders Union, before SA attempted to co-opt credit and deploy their red signs at every photo op. As though Theresa Mosqueda hasn't also maxed out her Democracy Voucher donations.

Bottom line, as usual, Grant can only muster support through division, dishonesty, hucksterism, and promising socialist unicorns and rainbows to desperate and angry voters. It's bullshit, like this guest editorial. It sure as hell isn't leadership.
17
@14 You’re right. It was a very pleasant way of putting Maddux’s “won’t somebody think of the profits?” statement. Well, maybe saying it was “data miners” is a little dishonest, but Maddux’s statement was wondering how much rents for already overpriced apartments would have to go up if they rented out 25% for low income housing and used a spreadsheet to back it up. But, it really isn’t a big difference (he estimates 11%) compared to where rents need to be.

Maybe we should be asking for 75% low income apartments (but willing to accept 50%) and watch the fireworks.
18
This is what I call argumentative sleight-of-hand:

“I think in many ways the radical left in Seattle is no different than the radical right in Washington, D.C.,” proclaimed Burgess in September 2017; “their rhetoric and their denigration of others who disagree is exactly the same.”

In actuality, leftist groups like the Transit Riders’ Union, Seattle Democratic Socialists of America, and Socialist Alternative are largely to thank for the high-earners’ income tax that Burgess’ own Finance Committee ratified when he was in city council.


The rebuttal has nothing to do with the accusation. Unrelated threads entirely. I view these as essentially admissions of truth of the original argument.
19
Politicians who are not progressive: Ed Murray, Jenny Durkan, Bruce Harrell, Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess, Debora Juarez, Lorena Gonzalez, Rob Johnson, Linda Mosqueda, Scott Linday, Courtney Gregoire,
20
Progressive politicians: Kshama Sawant, Lisa Herbold, Mike O'Brien, Jon Grant and Bob Ferguson.
21
The most progressive politician in the Northwest is Nikkita Oliver.
22
As the hideous Margaret Thatcher once said, "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money".
23
meh, double meh, meh meh and a yawn,,,,,leftist naval gazing, how liberal art thou?
24
I'm a liberal and I'm not fucking brat. That's why I'm voting Mosqueda.
25
Typical Seattle bullshit. Always a race to call out other people who on their false “progressiveness” but not one fucking solution to any of our problems in this huge rant.

Ok you a better liberal then rest of us, how you going to solve the cities issues? Oh you’re only interested in call out other people issues? Fuck off.
26
@20 CM Sawant campaigned for a Trump presidency, how is that progressive?
27
@2: I actually wonder if you read the article - you know, moved your eyes from left to right across the words and contemplated their meaning - or decided that it would be more fun to dress up an elaborate scarecrow which you could set on fire in some sort of ritualist sacrifice to the gods of centrist capitalism. You just made a big list of things that weren't specifically mentioned, and then said that no one can do anything about those things locally. Good for you. I'm glad you have opinions tangential to the point of the article.

But really, the word "progressive" becomes meaningless if it changes based on location, or with the people being compared. The phrase you're looking for is "more liberal." Otherwise, please tell me - given the choice between David Duke and Donald Trump, who is the progressive?

It's sad that the word has been so effectively muddied that a multimillionaire aristocrat claimed to be one, so I suppose it makes more sense for the left to abandon it all together. Democratic Socialist vs Liberal Capitalist might be a better way to explain Seattle's failure to take advantage of its supposed progressive majority, as those who believe capitalism can be "saved" with a few policy tweaks here or there will always be okay with the exploitation and misery inherent in a capitalist state.

Plenty of people think liberalism has failed, by the way. This city even voted one of those people into office. How surprising that it isn't just the author who feels this way! And not to shock you twice in the span of one paragraph, but Kshama Sawant was even reelected! Playing nice with the wealthiest members of our society, the people who are the most reliant on exploitation and division, will always result in failure to a Trumpian degree. To prevent that failure, we must form adversarial coalitions comfortable with both global opinions and functional local policy.
28
Maddux constantly spews commentary, but is often not accurate with his facts. And when did Seattle decide that developers are the hero of the story? (They're not!)
29
For all you whiners complaining about how expensive Seattle is, move to tacoma. Tacoma is a fine city. It’s like so many young people whose goal is to move to the Big Apple. They think they will find a place in Manhattan, but end up settling for Brooklyn.
30
Dude's book is published by a subsidy publisher. Not really a thing to use to bolster one's credibility, like he did.