On October 6, I was treated to something I’d never seen in 27 years of following Seattle politics: Paid shills drumming for a councilmember during an official meeting. It was at a public hearing on budget priorities. Twenty minutes in to the public testimony, a woman named Jess Spear from Kshama’s Sawant’s “Socialist Alternative” group stood up, gave a plug for Sawant, and proceeded to condemn the Council for being corporate stooges and not getting in line behind Sawant on the minimum wage, higher corporate taxes, and so on. When Ms. Spear’s time was up, another member of Socialist Alternative stood up and went through a similar routine, giving Sawant a kudo and angrily criticizing the rest of the council for being slow to take up the cry on her program.
And then another Sawant fan stood up. And another. And another. And another.
Six of Sawant’s people in all spoke to the Council that evening, their testimony consuming a good part of time that was allotted to the public (by which I mean the REAL public). As the shills did their thing, Sawant gloated while the other councilmembers cowered in fear. The message was not lost on them: Cross Sawant and you can expect trouble.
Shortly after she was elected, Ms. Sawant announced that she would be donating half her salary to charity. It sounded like a noble gesture, but when I learned that the charity Ms. Sawant would be favoring was her own political pressure group, the glitter faded. And then, when I went to this meeting and saw just what the Sawant organization was up to, I got downright queasy.
Is this socialism? I wondered. Using hired muscle to intimidate the opposition in a council meeting?
Socialism or no, I’ll tell you one thing . . . it’s not democracy.