MoveOn Seattle: Sandra VanderVen MovesOn

For the last several months I have been part of MoveOn’s Seattle Council, led by Sandra VanderVen. She has now been promoted in the ranks to regional honcho.  I am sad about this, because I think Sandra has the makings of a local politician — something we badly need in Seattle.

The success of the Tea Party illustrates how important the role of local councils within MoveOn is.


My former Congressman, former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, coined this phrase to teach progressives politicians that their idealism meant little if the Democratic party lost control of the local political scene.

Here in Seattle, despite overwhelming Democratic support, the local professional political scene is anemic, comprised of uninspiring figures.  Our  mayor, Mike McGinn, has “tunnel vision.” He is obsessed with opposing the building of a tunnel to replace the decrepit I-99 viaduct, even though the alternative may well be a disaster worthy of this week’s events in Japan.  Our Congressman, Jim McDermott, is an aging warrior from the anti-Vietnam era.  McDermott rarely speaks out on issues that reflect the modern problems affecting Seattle as a leading competitor in the global economy. Worse, McDermott — despite holding a secure seat — holds little power in Congress. The city’s delegation to Olympia includes the powerful Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp, but he seems ineffective in getting support for Seattle in a state legislature where suburban and rural interests predominate.

The State leadership is not much better.  Our Governor, Chris Gregoire, is a very competent administrator whose charisma and oratorical talent are modest.  Gregoire  really belongs as an agency head in Obama’s administration.  Unfortunately she cannot leave because Brad Owen, a rock muscian wannabe with no real interest in politics, occupies the Lt. Governorship.

From the Seattle Times, 2008: When he’s not presiding over the state Senate, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen loves to don his Elvis tie and play classics like “Johnny B. Goode” in front of schoolchildren. It’s part of a game show — with an anti-bullying, anti-drug message — that he takes on the road, some 22 times in the last school year.

A Seattle Times review of records shows Owen also has created a somewhat unusual arrangement in his role as the state’s No. 2 elected official. Five years ago, Owen signed a state contract with his own nonprofit, Strategies for Youth, a group he created in 1989 for his school shows. He is both president and a director. The contract allows research, equipment and state staff to be shared between Owen’s elected state office and his nonprofit.

How does my dyspepsia with the local pols affect Sandra?  She has the makings of a professional politician:  a wide, bright, and committed progressive.  I am not convinced that the ranks of MoveOn are the best place for her. The Democratic Party needs to groom better people than Owen, McDermott, and McGinn.   We need you, Sandra!

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