The newest member of the Seattle City Council is Kshama Sawant, an economics professor and self-proclaimed socialist. She unseated longtime council member Richard Conlin in a narrow race earlier this month.
It is unclear what Sawant’s influence on city politics will be. Her election was a surprise to many, and her positions are radically different than other members of the city council.
Sawant’s prospective socialist influences on the city could be beneficial to our democratic system because it is an advancement out of our senseless two-party system’s dominance. Seattlites voted Sawant into office because they want to see change in local politics. But it doesn’t seem like Sawant will be effective.
The policy she is best known for supporting is an increase in the minimum wage in Seattle to $15 per hour. This could be a huge change in economic policy for the city, but it’s actually a view that is shared by many others in city government.
Ed Murray, the mayor-elect, supports raising the minimum wage, as do some other city council members.
However, a number of Sawant’s beliefs are so far out of the mainstream that they will likely never gain traction.
For example, her response to the recent unsuccessful labor negotiations between Boeing and the machinists union was to suggest that the company be taken into public ownership and the airplane manufacturing plants be retooled to create mass transit.
Hopefully her tenure on the city council, however long it may be, will be constructive and beneficial to the broader political dialogue in the city.
The two-party system prevalent in federal and state government is not as entrenched here in Seattle, as the mayor’s office and city council are nonpartisan positions. This gives officeholders more freedom to pursue policies based on their own prerogative, rather than conforming to a party platform.
Of course the city is overwhelmingly progressive and liberal, so most politicians would choose the Democratic party if they had to. But having a politician such as Sawant, who doesn’t fit the usual Seattle mold, is rather exciting.