Leave aside whatever feelings you might have about the closed-door process that led to the selection of Seattle’s newest city council member, John Okamoto. Leave aside whatever you think of Okamoto himself, whether it’s that he’s a competent seat-warmer, a corrupt tool of big business, or the mayor’s embed on the council. Leave aside, if you can, even who your own ideal pick for council would have been, whether that’s a righteous activist with a big personality like Sharon Lee or an experienced known quantity like Jan Drago.
Whatever your thoughts on those things, today’s story was that Kshama Sawant lost the plot.
In trashing Okamoto, the foregone pick, in front of a crowd packed with cheering-then-booing supporters, Sawant made it clear that she has no intention of working with people who disagree with her orthodoxy. In calling her colleagues’ votes for Okamoto, most recently head of the city’s Human Services Department and chief administrative officer at the Port of Seattle before that, “scandalous,” she left no room for legitimate debate (debate that should have happened, in public) about Okamoto’s qualifications or demerits. In calling the Port of Seattle under Okamoto a “cesspool of corruption,” she drew her line in the sand and declared that she has no intention of working with this person whom the majority of her colleagues saw fit to support. And in accusing Okamoto of “lying” when he said he did not apply for the position with any personal agenda, she made the political far too personal.
Even if Sawant walks back her rhetoric now that Okamoto has been chosen, it’s hard to take back accusations that prompt your colleagues to go off-script by calling your claims “divisive,” “false,” and “odious.”
That kind of rhetoric keeps the hard core loyal, and makes the divisions between socialist Sawant and the rest of the essentially Democratic council clear. But it doesn’t produce results (in the form of legislation that passes and is signed by the mayor) so much as it fuels whatever Sawant’s next campaign will be. After giving her own ghostwritten memoir the grandiose title “The Most Dangerous Woman In America,” it’s hard to imagine that Sawant will be content for long to sit in her council office with the door closed. She’ll win reelection, handily—her fan base on Capitol Hill, which she now represents under district elections, will see to that—but can she serve effectively after showing such utter contempt for the majority of her colleagues, including Okamoto? Or will she move on to the next thing, propelled by her absolutist fanbase to the a higher high-profile position?
Some folks on Twitter accused me of being unfair, being mean, or exaggerating what Sawant said (or, if you’re the type who likes to prove you know the difference between “imply” and “infer,” of “implying what [I] inferred” from Sawant’s comments). Fair enough. Here’s the transcript. Decide for yourself. Continue reading