The Durkan-Murray Imbroglio

The Seattle political establishment is so enamored with their own goodness they forget to be decent. This is the most charitable characterization of the Durkan-Murray imbroglio. Famously progressive, the city’s leaders, with few exceptions, decided that four accusations of child rape by people of color were unworthy of serious consideration. The imbroglio was never treated as a crisis of government, the accusers were never treated as survivors and, shamefully, Murray was never treated as a potential threat to other children. Rather, city leaders used the episode as a fire drill on power protecting power. Wagons have rarely been circled so fast. A succession of lame excuses was given to avoid pressuring Murray to resign. The continuing honors of office, power, privilege, and deference gave him a patina of normality and respectability. The excuses didn’t end until a fifth person accused Murray. Unlike earlier accusers, this man was Murray’s white younger cousin, was raised in a ‘good home’, had a supportive family, and came without a long rap sheet. The establishment’s subsequent sudden abandonment of Murray left open the question how large a role racism and classism and elitism played in their earlier dismissals. (Large!!!)

Murray has resigned, so why revisit the painful errors, omissions, and lies visited upon us by the mighty in his defense? Because, after pulling out all the stops in their failing effort to protect Ed Murray from multiple allegations of child rape, our duped grey-heads want to elect Jenny Durkan, the most implacably tone-deaf candidate on Murray, as his replacement.

In a move so opportunistic it should disqualify her candidacy; Durkan sought a political endorsement from a three-time-accused child rapist and then brandished it like the Holy Grail, gratuitously praising Murray to elevate herself. Despite lock-step support of the Seattle establishment, this is not ordinary politics. Look for an equivalent situation anywhere in the country and you will find not one. The ‘ask’ was historic; candidates for any office do not seek endorsements from those bearing the stain of multiple accusations of child rape, much less the mayoralty of a great city. Sadly, Durkan maintained her support for Murray after a fourth accuser bravely came forward. Pathetically, Durkan flogged Murray’s endorsement after a report from the Oregon Child Protective Service found that Murray abused his own foster son from the age of thirteen. The local prosecutor concurred. What kind of person can ignore such evidence?

As a vaunted former U.S. Attorney and a member of a prominent Seattle political family, Durkan cannot hide behind ignorance of the law or politics or the ways of child predators. She did worse. With great calculation, Durkan publicly conflated the law and morality, peddling ignorance and confusion in Murray’s service. In light of what we know about similar cases, the emergence of new victims was statistically a foregone conclusion. The tactical question for Durkan was when more victims would come forward.

The background to the current mayoral race is that the Seattle establishment is in a pitched battle to turn back a much-more-progressive tide that threatens their long centrist control over the levers of power. They believe Durkan will preserve their interests. O’Brien, Herbold, Sawant, and now Moon have the same relationship to the Seattle establishment as Bernie Sanders does to the Democratic National Committee. These reformers represent the compassionate Seattle values that led to Sanders tromping Clinton in the city. Durkan represents the values that Amazon, Microsoft, Vulcan, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Seattle Association can agree on-the lowest common denominator of corporate benevolence possible in Seattle. While enviable from a national perspective, such benevolence falls far short of Seattle expectations. As a prosecutor, Durkan supported mass incarceration of the poor while turning a blind eye to the rampant criminality of bankers that created the Great Recession. As a candidate, Durkan favors sweeps of homeless camps and essentially brands homeless people as undesirable, associating them with dirt, disease, drugs and danger. The homeless are Durkan’s ‘welfare queens’, an abstraction to generate fear that only she, the tough cop, can alleviate. Durkan gave no respect or credence to the formerly homeless child sex workers and child drug addicts who first accused Murray of child rape. Durkan dismissed the voices clamoring about a monster in our midst in a stealthy act of class and race-based oppression of the kind commonly associated with Fergusson, Missouri. There can be no equity when the elite aren’t listening and Durkan isn’t listening; she’s conspiring with her peers, Seattle’s elite, to position herself as savior while kicking the city’s most vulnerable to the ditch.

Nelson Mandela said “Anybody who changes his principles depending on whom he is dealing, that is not a man who can lead a nation.” Nor should such a woman lead a great city. Durkan miserably bet that no more former children would emerge to accuse Murray of child rape before the election. She lost. Durkan bet you will give her your vote despite making a political bed with a four-time accused child rapist. Let’s make sure she loses this bet too. Durkan’s behavior in this campaign should come with a harsh and unforgiving price, especially with indecency being normalized nationally. However well-mannered, no one who ignores local indecency for advantage is in a position to defend Seattle from our vulgar president. Durkan’s embrace of Murray exposed her M.O. First, court the powerful and ignore the voiceless. Second, sacrifice principle for ambition. Third, deny what is in the record for all to see. The way to respect survivors of sexual abuse, reclaim Seattle’s honor, and extend Seattle’s progressive roll is to deny Durkan the mayoralty.

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