The Party of the Future

Preface: To waste some time I wrote the riff below with the deluded idea that I might get it published in the Seattle Times, but upon submission was told they don’t publish op-eds that tout one candidate over another. Except their own, apparently. The “Party of the Future” meme was inspired by local brainiacs Alex Steffen and Roger Valdez, and isn’t mind-shattering stuff for the HAC bubble, but my big fat blogger ego compels me to post it anyway.


Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in the introduction to his early lectures about how the continuum of politics in any society flows from the party of the past to the party of the future. And Seattle’s upcoming mayoral election is a textbook example of this dynamic.

Joe Mallahan is backed by the status-quo political establishment, and as Mayor can be expected to do their bidding by resisting meaningful change if it threatens the status-quo. If you believe that Seattle is doing just fine, and that everything will be okay with more of the same, then the party of the past’s Joe Mallahan is your man.

But if you believe that the reigning political establishment is unlikely to fulfill Seattle’s potential to become a city that will prosper in the face of serious future challenges; if you believe Seattle needs to step up and passionately respond to a rapidly changing world; and if you believe that these challenges and changes actually present inspiring opportunities, then please consider voting for Mike McGinn and the party of the future.

Mike McGinn is running a campaign that is almost entirely powered by volunteers, and funded primarily by small contributions from individual donors. And the promise of a McGinn mayorship is a future in which the establishment is compelled to follow the will of the people. As in when McGinn bucked conventional wisdom and led a campaign to reject a 2007 transit funding ballot measure because it was tied to excessive funding for roads. McGinn believed that enough people wanted light rail for it to stand on its own, and the passage of Proposition 1 in 2008 proved him right.

When a leader’s power is derived more directly from the people, that leader has more freedom to challenge establishment proposals with dubious public merit. Take for example the State’s funding legislation for the deep-bore tunnel that puts the City of Seattle on the hook for any cost overruns. The Mallahan campaign is packed with advisors who are influential tunnel supporters, including the author of the cost overrun provision, Representative Judy Clibborn. Not surprisingly, Mallahan has said that the tunnel should move forward even though cost overruns could put a massive burden on Seattle taxpayers, while McGinn says we shouldn’t start boring anything until we know who’s going to pay for it.

But more importantly, McGinn’s position that the tunnel is a bad idea overall—which is shared by all of the City’s most respected environmental leaders—reveals his capacity to question the way things have always been done. Why spend billions on infrastructure for cars when we are striving to get off the fossil fuel rollercoaster that drains our economy, and when cars are the region’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions? And ultimately, at the heart of the party of the future is the recognition that the alternative is no sacrifice, but will help create a city and region that are better than what we have now.

In tough economic times people tend to focus on immediate concerns, and the security of an establishment candidate like Joe Mallahan becomes more appealing. But we all know that short-sighted choices will come back to bite us in the long run. A vote for McGinn is a vote for an optimistic vision for how Seattle can make bold moves and become a model of sustainable prosperity for the world. A vote for Mike McGinn is a vote for the party of the future.