President Barack Obama is not a socialist, but the frequent and misguided use of the word to criticize him might make it hard to believe that there are actually candidates running for office on socialist platforms.
Kshama Sawant, an economics professor at Seattle University and aspiring politician, is one such proud socialist. Running as an Occupy-inspired "Socialist Alternative" candidate for the Washington state legislature, she challenged House Speaker Frank Chopp earlier this week and lost. But her platform, which called for Wall Street reform, pro-worker policies and increased corporate taxation, among other points, played well in Washington's 43rd District, getting her 27 percent of the vote, or about 14,000 votes.
Sawant saw an important victory within her loss.
“We achieved this election result as an openly Socialist campaign that was largely ignored by the corporate media, with no corporate donations, on a shoe string budget,” Sawant said in a statement. "Occupy gave a voice to working people’s rage at Wall Street, and our campaign gave voice to mass anger at the corporate politicians. It shows the potential to build a powerful left electoral challenge to the two corporate parties.”
She also warned establishment candidates that she was "coming after" them, announcing plans to organize a slate of progressive candidates that could challenge Democrats from the left.
"We are reaching out to other progressive forces to form a united left slate of independent working-class candidates to run a vigorous campaign for mayor and every open city council position in 2013,” Sawant said. “Wall Street has two parties -- working people need a party of our own.”
At a speech on Election Night, she credited the strong progressive voices in Washington for helping to usher through a gay marriage referendum in the state.
“If you think that the Democratic Party politicians did this for you, let me tell you it was us that won this! The fight for LGBT rights has just begun, we still need to fight poverty, homelessness and workplace discrimination.”