Eric London: Official Endorsements Reveal Kshama Sawant’s Close Ties with Democratic Party

Kshama Sawant

From Eric London at the World Socialist Web Site:

After over a year in office, Seattle City Councilperson Kshama Sawant’s first term is defined by her determined efforts to draw ever closer to the Democratic Party. Though Sawant claims to represent a “socialist alternative” to the American political establishment, she has in fact worked tirelessly to integrate herself into it.

Sawant made her support for the Democratic Party clear when she attended an official Democratic Party fundraiser on February 21. At the event, Sawant paid homage to her friend Larry Gossett, a local Democratic Party operative who currently sits on the County Council for the jurisdiction that includes Seattle.

Gossett, who has endorsed Sawant’s reelection campaign, recently voted in support of a $200 million plan to construct a new 150-cell prison for children.

In recent weeks, Sawant has intensified her campaign to cozy up to the Democratic Party.

On March 16, Sawant’s re-election campaign announced that it had received the endorsement of Democratic State Senator Pramila Jayapal, a self-described close political ally of Seattle’s Democratic Mayor Ed Murray.

The Democratic state senator is a former Wall Street investment banker who described her time managing leveraged buyouts as “terrific experience” on her campaign website.

In announcing the endorsement from another Democrat, Sawant lauded Jayapal: “What this shows more than anything else is the fact that a lot of the people who identify themselves as Democratic Party members or politicians or activists are actually looking for the kind of fight that I have waged in Seattle.”

In the company of a supporter of children’s prisons and a prideful financial parasite, the old saying “tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are” can be aptly applied to Sawant.

An internal Socialist Alternative document reveals the group’s explicit orientation toward the Democratic Party. Socialist Alternative published the document on an internal online message board in response to questions from its membership about Sawant’s attendance at the February 21 Democratic Party fundraiser.

“We should fight to win the support of Democratic politicians for demands that advance the interests of working people,” the letter admits before meekly reserving “the right to politically criticize them.”

Socialist Alternative doesn’t only defend Sawant’s attendance at the fundraiser, it also acknowledges that the purpose of Sawant’s attendance was to appeal to the Democratic Party:

“It’s these people [the fundraiser attendees]—along with those looking toward these activists and representatives—we need to work closely with” and “convince” and “encourage” to pressure the “establishment.”

Socialist Alternative justifies this position with the assertion that working with the Democrats will somehow help “bring them into conflict with the Democratic Party corporate establishment.”

Acknowledging that its relationship with the Democratic Party is well established, the letter states that the success of its orientation “has been demonstrated in our work in Seattle on a number of occasions.”

Another part of the letter offers the example of “the formation of Democrats for Sawant [!] at the height of the 2013 election campaign…”

The internal letter seeks to justify Sawant’s relationship with Gossett by heaping praise on the Democratic County Councilperson and long-time supporter of Barack Obama, calling Gossett “one of the most left-wing members of the council” and a “long-standing and respected leader of the civil rights movement in Seattle.”

Socialist Alternative also seeks to defend Gossett’s vote on the youth prison, saying, “Larry Gossett voted for the youth jail on the King County Council. There were different groups of civil rights activists and social workers who saw the conditions in the old youth jail as so appalling that they argued for rebuilding it in the interests of more humane conditions.”

After perfunctorily noting its own surface opposition to the prison, Socialist Alternative states: “that does not mean we should cease working with Gosset [sic] where we agree.”

The internal letter continues to explain that “socialists should welcome Gosset’s [sic] endorsement of Kshama as it strengthens Kshama’s credibility and support among progressive Democrats in Seattle,” and that “working together—where possible—to win concrete improvements for workers and the oppressed also helps to answer the attacks on Kshama that she is unwilling to collaborate and puts her ideology ahead of making progress on important issues, etc.”

To put things more concisely: Socialist Alternative sees itself—and is—essentially a faction of the Democratic Party.

This whole operation plays a crucial role in pulling the wool over the eyes of workers and young people who are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the American political establishment and the vast levels of social inequality over which it presides. Despite their incantations to the need to build an “independent” movement of the working class, Sawant and the pseudo-left groups as a whole see their central task being to derail and block precisely such a movement.

Sawant’s own comments in a recent interview with Truthdig’s Chris Hedges speak to this fact.

“The goal of this campaign should be to launch a massive grass-roots effort nationwide,” Sawant said in reference to her efforts to build Socialist Alternative, noting that “[w]e have to provide a place for people looking for something different, especially the younger generation.”

In the March 15 interview, titled “The most dangerous woman in America,” Hedges quotes Sawant, writing: “Many people, especially young people, are hungry for political alternatives to ‘the two big business parties.’ Poll after poll, [Sawant] pointed out, shows the American majority to be disgusted with the Congress.”

The “place” that Socialist Alternative seeks to construct is revealed when Hedges notes that Sawant “cited the problems of Chicago Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel in seeking re-election as evidence that even the very beginnings of movement by working people and communities of color can shake and weaken the Democratic Party establishment.” This is a reference to the campaign of Jesús “Chuy” García, a thoroughly conventional Democratic Party politician that Socialist Alternative has backed in the election campaign.

Sawant adds that the aim must be to build “a mass movement, a viable radical alternative. This is what is happening in Greece and Spain.” This is a reference in particular to Syriza, which has taken state power in Greece and has proceeded to enforce the austerity dictates of the European banks.

22 thoughts on “Eric London: Official Endorsements Reveal Kshama Sawant’s Close Ties with Democratic Party

  1. Gene Berkman

    “Gossett, who has endorsed Sawant’s reelection campaign, recently voted in support of a $200 million plan to construct a new 150-cell prison for children.”

    They have bigger prisons for children in North Korea, so apparently Mr Gossett is in line with the views of some socialists.

  2. Chip Barron

    Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative are masterfully organizing up a storm here in Seattle and libertarians would do well to take some notes on how it’s done.

    I can tell you about some of the broad strokes (I’m on their email lists, been to a couple of meetings, etc.):

    First and foremost – They learned how to organize from the best pros (the necessity of which seems entirely lost on libertarians).

    They also recruited pros to help them (not gave leadership positions to whoever was somewhat willing, like the LP always seems to), strategically chose the audacious, exciting goals of Sawant’s city council race and $15 Now (unlike every totally directionless LP I’ve ever seen), planned some proven and some innovative tactics, then executed brilliantly and kicked ass like crazy! And had fun while doing it!

    Imagine that!

    No, imagine _our_side_ doing that!

  3. paulie

    May I quote you in an article to that effect? (Technically, I’m pretty sure I don’t have to get permission to quote comments left at IPR in an IPR article, but I’ve had some people get miffed when I have done that without asking in the past, so now I try to ask first).

  4. Marc Montoni

    She’s cozying with the Demoncrats because she is just another political opportunist who wants to move her destructive tendencies up the ladder.

    Libertarians can’t precisely duplicate what she and the other leftists in the Seattle socialist scene, but yes we can certainly take some of their ideas and use them for our purposes.

  5. paulie

    Libertarians can’t precisely duplicate what she and the other leftists in the Seattle socialist scene, but yes we can certainly take some of their ideas and use them for our purposes.


  6. Dave

    I’m not exactly a fan of much of what Sawant stands for, but this seems pretty petty to me. She’s actually accomplished a lot of what socialists profess to care about. It’s highly likely that without her election and advocacy the establishment would have ignored calls to raise the minimum wage, especially as high as they did. God forbid she seek out allies to advance her agenda rather than just throwing bombs all the time.

  7. Dave

    Is there any third party movement in the country that is free of factional fighting? I think the Greens come closest. Though even they have the Independent Greens in Virginia, which seem more right wing than the national party, or so I’ve heard.

  8. Dave

    Heck, even the Prohibitionist which have like 20 members, had that spat in…. 2004? and ran two different candidates.

  9. paulie

    No, no one is free from factionalism. The Greens had a lot of very serious factionalism over the years especially between “Demo-Greens”/safe states strategy supporters and more radical/independent greens. The VAIG party, which a lot of people would say is Green in name only, is a fairly minor distraction in the larger scheme. There’s also another faction in a couple of cities called I believe GPUSA which is not connected to the national party.

    If anything, I think the LP has had fewer factional issues in the last couple of years than the Greens, although we’ve certainly had ours, especially at the state level in a few states.

  10. paulie

    Generally speaking, the smaller and more extreme the movement the worse the factionalism is, although that is not always true.

  11. Dave

    Ah, thanks for that information. It’s a shame. I’d say it’s one of the biggest problems facing third parties. Not to say the two majors are free of it, but they seem to be able to stifle dissent in a way most others cannot. There seems to be no readily available solution to solving this sort of thing either. But that’s one of the perils of politics.

  12. Dave

    Well, I don’t want to be a full downer.:) I think these are great times for third parties. Sawant will likely be reelected and continue to advocate for her vision. Maybe in the coming years she’ll run for mayor. And the Libertarians continue to grow, thanks in part to the hard work of people like you. Keep fighting the good fight!

  13. paulie

    Well, I don’t want to be a full downer.:) I think these are great times for third parties. Sawant will likely be reelected and continue to advocate for her vision. Maybe in the coming years she’ll run for mayor. And the Libertarians continue to grow

    Agreed again.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

    It’s for my friends who are not with us anymore, especially as a result of the drug war, so I feel it is imperative to my existence, like breathing and eating and things like that.

  14. Chip Barron

    While I was happy to report on what SA’s doing and that the LP should take note, I have to say I don’t really see the point of the article here.

    If Libertarians get into office, are we really expected to not build coalitions to get our way? Would we not work with Dems if they’re good on a civil liberty issue, or with GOP to stop a tax?

  15. paulie

    It’s basically just factional griping among Marxists. We’re not posting it because we agree with it, just to report what all the various different alt parties of any ideology are putting out as part of our general service of keeping whoever is interested in such things updated.

  16. Jed Ziggler Post author

    The World Socialist Web Site is, essentially, the website of the Socialist Equality Party. If you want to be technical, the website of the International Committee of the Fourth International, which is the international committee of SEPs. So basically it’s one group of Trotskyists bashing the other group of Trotskyists because they don’t belong to their group of Trotskyists.

  17. Chip Barron

    Of course. I was thinking you wrote it Jed, from the “Post author” by your name in the comments, but I understand now. It couldn’t be much clearer from the first line of the post!

  18. Deran

    It’s interesting that Gosset’s endorsement of Sawant got so many stalinist and ultra left sectlettes in such a tizzy, when a local Democratic state senator endorsed Sawant and there was not a word from the peanut gallery.

    I’m not a member or supporter of Socialist Alternative, and I am not in anyway a Leninist, but I give her and give them credit for setting the agenda.

    Sawant got elected on a $15 minimum wage, which the Democrats hated and lead the charge against during the election, Sawant wins and suddenly the Dems are all over the issue, and next thing you know Seattle passes a (Watered down version) $15 minimum wage for all businesses in the city.

    For her reelection campaign Sawant has been calling for a repeal of the state ban on local rent stabilization regs and she has been calling for Seattle to issue muni bonds to build 10s of 1000s of city owned housing that the city can legally regulate the rent of. And now Mayor Murray, who truly hates Sawant, is suddenly calling a repeal of the state ban on local rent regs and favoring building 10k of city owned housing units that can be rent regulated.

    As I said, I may not think to highly of SA or any Leninists, but I give Sawant and her team serious props for being “out” socialists (no wishywashy “progressive” fakery to be more “presentable “, and forcing the city ‘s political establishment to dance to the tune they’re playing! Of course the Mayor is also helping his favorite among Sawant’s opponents raise barrels of money to defeat her!

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