Kshama Sawant blames the Democratic party in part for last night’s stunning election of Donald J. Trump to the White House.
In a speech delivered to hundreds of people in the Seattle City Hall lobby this afternoon, the socialist city councilmember argued that Trump’s election was a protest against politics as usual. “I think, my fellow social justice advocates, that we would be remiss at our own peril if we did not correctly recognize the nature of what’s happened,” she said. “I wanted to note something that Mayor [Ed] Murray recognized in his speech: that we should not make the mistake of confusing Trump himself with every person who voted for Trump.”
Sawant doesn’t dispute the large role racial resentment played in the election. “Yes, there very clearly a current of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and anti-immigrant hysteria in our country and around the world,” she said, apparently referring to recent electoral success by far right parties both in the US and in France, Sweden, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and the UK. “But whether that current triumphs or whether it be the voice of working people and people who are building their communities [that] triumphs depends in electoral politics on what’s on offer. What we have seen, in my view, is not a giant echo for racism.”
Instead, she said, it’s a repudiation of the corrupted political system all Americans love to hate. “What we have seen all throughout this presidential election is a cry against the corporate domination of politics,” said Sawant. “What we saw was that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders tapped into a vacuum that exists and has existed because neither of the two party establishments—despite their clear differences—have offered real solutions for young people looking for something other than a bleak future of low wage jobs and student debt.” The Democrats offer little more than bandaids and platitudes, she said, “for the Black Lives Matter activists looking for a real alternative to police violence in cities governed by Democratic and Republican mayors [and] for the raging environmental activists at the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“What we saw was this irony and tragedy that while 61 percent of this country says they hate Trump, Trump is now president [elect] of this country,” said Sawant, stating the obvious-but-surreal. “This has happened because the Democratic party establishment has shown itself incapable of harnessing the real hunger for social change away from the domination of the one percent and Wall Street on our politic agenda. That is why it’s so important that we all move forward by building our mass movement.” Sawant pointed to student walkouts in protest of Trump at West Seattle High School and elsewhere as evidence that that movement has already begun.
“It is an urgent necessity for us to build a united struggle of working people, the labor movement, people of color, all activists in the LGBTQ community, the environmental activist community, for us to come together to fight,” she told the somber, desperate crowd at city hall. “The state of Arizona both elected Trump and passed a minimum wage initiative at the same time. They show that people are looking for a real direction away from racism and away from a stagnation of living standards, and to build a real future for our young people.”
Asked what Democrats should learn from Trump’s election, Mayor Murray replied that the party should work on its messaging and be more like Seattle. “I think the Democratic party has to understand why our message [missed]. I think we have to think really hard about that. And honestly, what Seattle’s done on the minimum wage, what Seattle’s doing on affordable housing, what we’ve done on transit, what we’ve done on pre-K, raising taxes five times to build a better and equitable city so that people can have a better life—I think the Democratic party needs to be more about that.”