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  • The Stranger

Last night, in his halting, stiff victory speech at the Crocodile, Ed Murray said two things that I found to be very troubling. First, he announced that to make Seattle work, "we need to bring liberals and moderates together." Second, his speech's big money shot was this line: "I am not running to be a gay mayor of Seattle. I am not running to be a progressive mayor of Seattle. I am running to be an effective mayor of Seattle." I want to be perfectly clear, right up front, that what I'm about to write has nothing to do with Mike McGinn. This post is about the fact that I feel that Murray's speech profoundly misjudged the character of Seattle politics. And that speech made me feel disappointed in Ed Murray.

Seattle is the liberal heart of a state that last year led the nation by voting to legalize marijuana and legalize same sex marriage. Could anyone seriously tell me that those are not progressive causes? Last night, roughly a third of all primary voters decided to send a socialist to the general election vote for city council. Let me ask you again, in a slightly different way: Do you really think that this is a moderate city?

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We don't live in Old Seattle anymore; this is not a city for NPR tote-bag liberals who put the Clinton/Gore bumper stickers on their cars and then quietly vote down every property tax that crosses their ballots. This is not a city that can continue to wait patiently for conservatives to come around to our way of thinking on transit. Seattle is—Seattle wants to be—the progressive testing ground for the rest of this country. We're sick of kowtowing to moderates, the craven imbeciles who tell us to wait on gay marriage until the national mood deigns to approve of it. We want to lead the way, and force the national mood to change. We start debates on the minimum wage and fast food workers' rights here in Seattle that inspire conversations around the rest of the country. We are the bluest of blues, and we're not likely to change any time soon. We're tired of having to wait for the dumbest kid in the class to catch up to us so that we can move on to the next lesson. We want to write our own goddamned lesson plans. We want to make our own world. And to do that, we need a mayor who doesn't shy away from the word "progressive," and we definitely don't need a mayor who insists that liberals have to capitulate to "moderates" in order to get stuff done. That may have been Seattle fifteen years ago. It's not Seattle now. It's not the city that Seattle's going to be.

The sad thing is, I don't think Murray even necessarily believes what he said last night. His heart wasn't in that speech; he delivered it poorly and occasionally even seemed to be surprised by what he was saying. I think he said what he was told he had to say, in order to draw in the Steinbrueck and Burgess voters his conventional-wisdom-loving campaign staff seems to think he needs in order to win the race. Murray didn't push for same-sex marriage for all those years because it was a moderate idea. It was a progressive idea that he had to sell and sell until the moderates had no choice but to cave, sometimes out of sheer shame. I'm disappointed that Murray would use the words progressive and liberal like they're pejoratives. He should not listen to his advisers, who seem to be always chasing the ghosts of campaigns past. This is not Arkansas. This is not even New York. This is Seattle. We want to be the torch bearers for the great, weird, beautiful American progressive movement. We're equipped for it, we've got the voters, and we've got the enthusiasm. Why did Murray expend most of the major beats of his speech last night denying the spirit of Seattle? Why is Murray so ashamed of us? Doesn't he see what's right in front of him? What, after all, is he so fucking afraid of?

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