Like the Vietnam War 35 years ago, free trade today has become not only an indicator issue among politicians, but a generational divide between lawmakers of both parties (on one side) and people on the street (on the other). In Seattle, free trade heaven except for those annoying streets, almost every major Democratic official has followed Bill Clinton down this heinous path: Patty Murray, Gary Locke, Jim McDermott, Ron Sims, Paul Schell, Norm Rice. Each has chosen the interests of corporations over the needs of their constituents and of citizens around the world.
Maria Cantwell likes free trade. She voted for NAFTA while in the House of Representatives; if anything, the fortune she's acquired since then has made her less, not more, sensate. She is now the very prototype of the rich probusiness candidate the national Democratic Party has embraced. She does not deserve support.
But no matter how reprehensible Cantwell is, she must be supported. At least nine out of 10 Republicans could be running for this seat against Slade Gorton and I'd send money. Gorton is a particular combination of shrewd and evil that makes him extremely dangerous. His vicious, antebellum racism (that is, his lifelong obsession with screwing over Native Americans) alone should disqualify him from a pension, let alone further public office. Additionally, the lengths to which he goes, often successfully, to further the interests of the most destructive forces in society make it imperative for the nation that he be removed, and voters in our state are the only ones who can do it.
Gorton is in trouble, but his defeat is by no means assured. Senn and Cantwell combined had more votes in the primary, but, Harold Hochstatter aside, Republicans had no contested races to vote for. (As it turns out, neither did Democrats. Our democracy is in a sorry state.) Twice as many people vote in the November election, and many of them will vote for Gorton. He not only has corporate coffers to match Cantwell and 40 years of name recognition, but a much wider base of popular support than Cantwell, who essentially bought her win and is hoping to buy another.
Cantwell's easy primary victory is deeply disturbing. She used her one term in Washington to land a high-level high-tech job for which she was hired because of her networking ability. She used that job to make a fortune, which she in turn is using to buy her way back into the halls of power that voters bounced her from after one term. It's sick. It's also deeply alienating, because it tells people that government is only a game rich people play. (Gorton is also a millionaire, although he's wise enough to not use his own money on Senate races. He's so corrupt and so effective in making money for corporations that he doesn't have to).
Nonetheless, among these rich people who will use their power to help other rich people—but not you—Cantwell must be supported. Slade is not Senn, whose campaign conveniently disappeared in the final weeks. He will fight nasty, as he always does. Hopefully, this time, he will go down.
And one final Cantwell bonus: With Maria in office, hopefully voters will see fit to bounce the insufferably arrogant and dim Patty Murray in another four years.
Greens? What Greens?
Fifty thousand people demonstrated in Seattle last fall against the free trade policies promoted by Jim McDermott. But not many of them, judging from the numbers, voted to stop him.
In Joe Szwaja, the Green Party is explicitly trying to challenge McDermott's cheerleading for free trade, which comes at the expense of labor and the environment. Szwaja, alas, is not a millionaire; he's a schoolteacher. He didn't saturate the airwaves with campaign ads; nobody can pronounce his name, let alone remember it.
And, like Curt Firestone's Green-based City Council run last year, Szwaja did only a bit better than ballot placeholders who didn't campaign at all: Szwaja pulled 14 percent and a phantom Libertarian Party candidate, Joel Grus, got 8 percent. Either progressives are a much smaller minority in Seattle than the WTO protests and Nader shindigs indicate, or, more likely, they don't vote.
Either way, it's far easier to get third party votes if you're a billionaire wingnut than if you're a schoolteacher who can't afford TV. It's hard to tell which is the chicken or egg: Do people not vote because government is only a game rich people play, or is government only a game rich people play because people don't vote? Or do people vote against their own interests because they haven't internalized the truth that politicians lie during campaigns (with no consequences)? (Ask George Nethercutt.) Regardless, this voter apathy means that challenging the corporate hegemony of the Republicrats, even at the local level, is going to be very difficult. It's one thing for liberal City Council candidates to sign a card and call themselves Green, even as they retain their lifelong Democratic affiliations; it's quite another to build a separate base of candidates, and officeholders, whose main loyalty is to the policies you advocate. The Green Party, "five City Council members" aside, isn't there yet.
Lesser evil redux
I agreed with the Seattle Weekly's reluctant decision to endorse the frightful Jeanette Burrage in last week's election, in which she narrowly lost another term as Superior Court judge. As bad as Burrage was—she's a right-wing loony who has limited understanding of the law—her replacement, Laura Gene Middaugh, is worse. Middaugh is by most accounts arrogant, high-handed, and extremely prejudiced against defendants. The last thing we need is another prosecutor in robes; as distasteful as she may be, I'd much rather be a defendant in a Burrage court. One thing she wasn't criticized for is fairness. The public defenders whose innocent clients get 50 years from Middaugh will be able to dress as they please. Too bad their clients won't.
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