[10/28/19] – Sawant vs. Orion (and Amazon)

Amazon is injecting millions of dollars into a campaign against Seattle’s socialist council member, Kshama Sawant. Sawant is best known for her progressive ideas and passionate advocacy. She worked to raise the Seattle minimum wage to $15/hr and renamed the 2nd Monday in October as “Indigenous People’s Day” as a response to the contributions of Wells Fargo Bank, a Seattle-based financial institution, manifesting in a scandal involving fraudulent activity. Most notably, however, Sawant has taken to pursuing a “head tax” that draws money for civic services from the most-wealthy in the city. Amazon, and others including Starbucks, strongly oppose these types of taxes. She is currently in a race against Egan Orion to remain councilwoman.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Sawant vs. Orion (and Amazon)

Learning Objectives

LO1: Understand how political ideologies can be influenced by infusions of wealth.

LO2: Discuss how this issue can be viewed through the lens of C. Wright Mills’ Power Elite.

LO3: Explain how the social construction of gender plays a role in the case of Kshama Sawant.


Kshama Sawant: Are you OK with Amazon removing 7,000 jobs from Seattle?

As a controversial new tax races toward a vote in the Seattle City Council, anger on both sides have reached a boiling point. An hour before the final public comment period, Councilwoman Kshama Sawant joined Brandi Kruse on “Q13 News This Morning” for an in-depth interview on the proposal, which she has fought to have passed.

Kshama Sawant: Don’t Wait for Authoritarian Trump to Be Impeached, This is the Moment to Revolt

As we broadcast from Seattle, we get response from Kshama Sawant, a Socialist city councilmember, to President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. “I would say that it is really indicative of the deep instability of his administration,” Sawant says. “But we, as ordinary people, as social movements, we cannot wait for whether or not there will be a smoking gun that will be found in the investigations, which, of course, should go forward. The question is: What do we do now? And I think that right now the time is ripe to really build social movements.” Sawant helped win a $15/hour minimum wage for all workers in Seattle. She is also a member of Socialist Alternative.

The Divide: Orion vs. Sawant for Seattle City Council

This week on The Divide: Brandi Kruse takes a look at the upcoming Seattle City Council election. Hear from Socialist Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, who is defending her seat against challenger Egan Orion.

Discussion Questions

Councilwoman Sawant deviates from the ideal model of an American in her race and political ideologies. How might her race influence public sentiment to her and her policies? Give an example of how it might help and an example of how it might hurt her reelection campaign?

How does Mills’ concept of the power elite explain parts of this story? Who represents the group with the most power seeking to oppress the lower, working class? What methods of suppression are they using? Are they working? Why or why not?

What is the function of money in politics? Beyond the obvious paying for printing and staffing and other logistics, what role does accumulation of wealth play in a reelection campaign? What message does it send to the voting public if a candidate takes money from a corporation?

Why might some consider it dangerous to challenge the status quo of social order? Who stands to benefit the most from the existing social hierarchy and social class stratification model? Why are candidates who offer alternatives to the status quo deemed to be renegade or rouge?

How might reaction to Councilwoman Sawant’s policies for redistribution of wealth and funding for education and healthcare be portrayed differently in the media if she were a man? Why might there exist an imbalance of among genders in politics? What function does it serve?



1. Which of the following sociological theories would argue that financial contributions to political campaigns from large donors creates opportunities for competition that disadvantage many and benefit the few?
a. Structural-Functional
b. Conflict
c. Symbolic-Interaction
d. Rational Choice

2. C. Wright Mills referred to a group of largely invisible forces, institutions and individuals that control our society as the _______.
a. Power-Elite
b. Bourgeoise
c. The 1%
d. Dominant

3. A social constructionist would point out that _______ influence how people are perceived by the public in the context of their actions or reactions.
a. Race
b. Gender
c. Political Ideology
d. All of the above

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/jetcityimage

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