BERTHA POLITICS: Seattle Does Not Have a Political Machine

Dan Jacoby  FACEBOOK

Having moved from the Empire State to the Evergreen State almost five years ago, I quickly noticed something about the difference in political machines. That difference is most notable in my Facebook feeds this week from people in Philadelphia.

Pretty much every delegate from New York is a long-time party insider. Pretty much every delegate from Washington is a local activist.

That says a lot about which state is doing it right, and which one is not.

As much as I admire Bernie, I am all to awar of the prophet delusion. Too many idealists run for office, get some success and then become caricatures of saints. I worry that Bernie is on the slipper slope so well greased by Norman Thomas, Abie Hoffman, and Bob La Folette.

I have a new word for the Seattle way of doing things .. Berthaism,        Under Berthism we have no corruption but we do have dozens of tiny, self appointed political posses. These posses represent whoever can find a half dozen or so folks with the time to create a tunneling machine.



I grew up in Boston with  a very real machine.

I was shocked to discover in Seattle that we did not have a functional machine.
In Boston we had local pols ..what some places call ward heelers.  These men .. always then men ..  responded to local needs via the machine.   They did well at their jobs, I suppose Seattle would call that corruption.

When I got to Seattle in the late sixties, I discovered no equivalent to a Boston pol.  If the cops are doing a bad job, as they were 40 years ago when we moved to Capital Hill,  the was NO ONE to talk with.  Our city councilor then was George Benson.  George also ran our neighborhood drug store. George got mad at me.   When I called him about problems with car break-ins and home burglaries, he told me it was WRONG for me to contact my elected representative!  He told me to complain to the cops.

Later our kids were trying to survive the Berthalike machine of the Seattle Public Schools.  The James Michael CurleySPS were a mess and we had trouble finding classrooms that fit our kids’ needs. By then I had learned my lesson and built  a political organization.  Few people have the time or skills to build a posse.

Ironically my wife and I had seen something similar to the Seattle way  when we lived in Boston.  Barb and I had never lived in a black neighborhood.  We moved into Roxbury for the low rent and because we had a chance to move into a newly built integrated housing development.  We were, of course, one of only two non Black families in this “integrated” development.

Barb served on our community council.   When someone (actually Bill Russell) tried to build a liquor store in our community, I told the council that we should  just go the local pol and he would fix it.  Local pol?  In a black community?  In the sixties??  No way.  In the 60s Boston’s  local pols were Irish and Italian.  Jewish neighborhoods had their pols, too.  A black guy community had no voice.  Being a political type, I tried hard to find an elected official to help. We were  turned away by every damn politician until Ted Kennedy intervened and somehow  talked Bill out of inflicting that problem on us.


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