If you know me personally, you’ve pretty much figured out what my political views are, and I’m not particularly ashamed about them, either. Which is why I feel the need to draw attention to one election result in particular. As you may know, there were a myriad of elections that happened earlier this month, which gave victories to both the left (Seattle and Maine passing campaign finance reform laws, Ohio passing redistricting reform) and the right (the GOP winning Kentucky’s governorship, Houston voting down their anti-LGBT discrimination law) or no victory at all (Ohio voting down marijuana legalization, but the initiative would’ve given too much power to only ten pot farms, so we’ll call it even).
However, one race that went almost completely under the radar, but has some huge political implications, was the successful reelection of Seattle council member Kshama Sawant, a member of the political party Socialist Alternative. While many Americans are receiving a long overdue 101 on democratic socialism thanks to Bernie Sanders, the citizens of Seattle have already had two years of experiencing a real socialist on their city council, and the results have been staggering.
Seattle, as some people already know, was the first city in the country to pass a $15 dollar minimum wage, which has led to cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles to pass it, as well as leading Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley to support the wage increase as well. (As for Hillary Clinton, she advocates increasing it to $12.) With this and other initiatives passed during Sawant’s time in office, the already progressive Seattle has become even more progressive.
Does that mean that socialism is on the genuine rise? Not necessarily. Sawant is the only member of Socialist Alternative to hold public office currently, with other members being either narrowly defeated or thrashed in elections. In addition, the positions of Socialist Alternatives vary wildly when viewed through the lens of American politics. Some of their views posted on their website, such as “Repeal the Patriot Act and other attacks on democratic rights” and “End police brutality and the institutional racism of the criminal justice system. Black lives matter! Invest in rehabilitation, job-training, and living-wage jobs, not prisons! Abolish the death penalty,” are either mainstream views or becoming mainstream views. Others, such as “Public ownership of the big energy companies. All workers in polluting industries should be guaranteed re-training and new living-wage jobs in socially-useful green production” and “A minimum guaranteed weekly income of $600/week for the unemployed, disabled, stay-at-home parents, the elderly, and others unable to work,” are currently pipe dreams in light of a D.C. in serious need of an angioplasty.
Nonetheless, while Sanders’ views and explanations of democratic socialism are a shadow of what Socialist Alternative advocates for, Sawant’s reelection and Sanders’ rise in the democratic primary should silence any doubt that the American Left has real legs. Even if democratic socialism seems to be a Seattle phenomenon currently, that’s not to say that it won’t spread in the future. More people are warming up to socialism; in fact, some recent polls found that the majority of Democrats had a favorable view of socialism. Other countries such as the UK (where long-time socialist and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn recently became leader of the party) have seen socialism up close and personal, and sooner or later, it will be the United States’ turn.
Make no mistake: This will be one of the least fun elections in recent memory. With the democratic primary being all but dominated by Hillary Clinton, many of the Republicans making right-hand turns, and both Clinton and the Republicans showing mutual contempt for each other, we’re gonna be in for a rough ride. In the meantime, let’s celebrate the fact that Sawant and Sanders are helping make democratic socialism and its potential more mainstream in the U.S. Because at the end of the day, socialism boils down to one basic concept: putting people over profit, while capitalism does the opposite. It won’t be an overnight process (and given Clinton’s dismissiveness on the issue, it’s gonna take even longer to get off the ground), but Sawant has shown us that democratic socialism is electable, and if that isn’t a miracle in American politics, then nothing is.