The unreal real of homelessness.
The unreal real of homelessness. Charles Mudede

If one examines the key issues that, according to pundits, gave Seattle's right great results in Election 2021—the homeless crisis, rising crime, defunding the police—you find a pattern structured by the deepest laws of an economy that has permanent accumulation as its conatus.

Homelessness, of course, is not without a rational solution even in this absurd system, and the same goes with high crime rates and racist policing. And those on the progressive and socialist left rightly have it as their mission to provide voters with rational tools for the long list of social-level phenomena known in neo-Keynesian (center-left) economics as market failures. But the implementation of properly reasoned correctives rarely happens, even when the left is in power. Many blame this ineffectiveness on the power of money, which is certainly on the right side of urban and national politics. But there is more to it than that.

For one, our society does not define things like the almost-near absence of affordable housing as deeply irrational. It's instead on a political plane that places with Pavlovian predictability rational social solutions on the same footing as the false ones, the ones that maintain excessive value inflation in the housing market or unchecked (and even unquestioned) police power or the bizarre resistance to gun regulations or the brazen overrepresentation of blacks in the US's bloated prison system. This is the world of Brandi Kruse, who recently left "corporate media" to maintain her promise of honest commentary to those who are "anti-fringe."

But if one extends Kruse's program across the history of capitalism, then those who participated in the rational abolition of, say, child labor in the 19th century could also be identified as members of the fringe. And one who is even mildly familiar with Victorian history knows that during this period of British global hegemony, any movement that countered the power of the leading landlords, banks, and industrialists was defined as fringe. Also, anyone familiar with the work of the leading critic of the Victorian moment, Karl Marx, knows the great importance he placed on the words "appear" and "appearance."

From Hans G. Ehrbar's indispensable (at least for me) Glossary to Marx’s Capital and other Economic Writings:

One can almost call it a stylistic peculiarity that Marx often uses the word “appears” (erscheint) where a naıve reader would expect the word “is.” Marx uses “appear” whenever he speaks about the manifestation of some “hidden background” on a more accessible stage. Marx is meticulous about this, because he finds it important to identify the character of the mechanisms that generate actual events and concrete things. The terminology of the words “appear,” “represent,” “express” is part of this emphasis.

And this brings me to my point. Seattle's homeless crisis appears exactly in the Marxist sense. Meaning, it's an absurd manifestation of deep economic mechanisms that determine and maintain the class structure of our society. But homelessness is also really experienced, despite the fact its essence is culturally fabricated.

Let's be clear about this: There is nothing natural about living on the streets of a city with one of the largest GDPs in the United States, but this does not make the experience of such a condition any less real. And what we are left with is a political system that deals almost entirely with how this kind of imposed poverty appears: the tents in parks, the RVs in orphaned spaces, the needles on the ground, the shit on the sidewalk, the eruptions of mental illness, and so on and so on.

And so there's the money. But why is there so much of it in the political system in the first place? To keep up appearances. The real reduction of crime, or the realization of actual affordable housing, or the decriminalization of a form of poverty that greatly impacts black Americans, would result in the worst of all possible worlds for those on the right. It would result in a world whose rational expression enervates the class-structured force of a society that needs the desperately poor to justify the obscenely rich.