Why Seattle Doesn't Work: Look In The Mirror

Is it all your fault? Of course not, but you’re the voter. What motivates you to vote if you vote at all? The true answer to that question is you’re selfish, tribal, and irrational. Emotional vote motivations are in part ruining Seattle. No one is above this.

If you deny it, then you will continue to ensure manipulative psychopaths lead our city into further peril.

Emotion rules the day when it comes to voting. That’s deeply problematic. Doing what feels right, what feels just, what feels vengeful even, may have nothing to do with good policy. Actually it hardly ever does. You have to remember you’re an animal, a mammal. Sure, you can read, you can do sudoku, you’re aware of your own mortality, but at the end of the day you’re just a literate ape. You have hormones and psychological trauma, bias, a fight or flight response, anxiety, depression, fear—some of which is absolutely justifiable, especially for marginalized people—but you’re all a bunch of irrational, flawed humans who were not designed for democracy.

Sorry kiddo, you stink at democracy.

Sorry kiddo, you stink at democracy.

Humans are 200,000 years old. Democracy is maybe 2,500 years old or so. Modern democracy is barely even a few hundred years old. We didn’t even make an attempt to let everyone vote in America till 1965, and we're not really following through on that. Voter suppression is a real problem.

It’s fair to say that whatever drives us is partially the result of millions if not billions of years of evolution. The animal that is Homo sapiens, Earth’s apex predator, probably isn’t naturally compatible with democracy. Democracy just hasn’t even existed long enough for genes to select in favor of people good at democracy (assuming that it would). If you want to dive deeper into this discussion, Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens is a must read. Honestly, it’s a manual for why all of you voters are ruining Seattle in ways you probably can’t imagine.

The point is voting for what makes you feel good is often about quelling your emotional human side instead of, say, how to build enough missing middle housing. No one evolved to create perfect zoning codes.

So as this year’s City Council races unfold, let’s make sure we’re not the reason the council continues not to deliver for Seattle. This city is too expensive, it’s not dense enough, it’s not as walkable as it needs to be, the police department still doesn’t have the trust of minority communities, among countless other issues. But where does this status quo come from? Is it Mayor Jenny Durkan capitulating to Nimbyism? Sure. Is it Socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant picking a fight with Amazon for a foolish, potentially job-killing tax? That doesn’t help. But they just respond to you, to us. We elected them.

Durkan is beholden to single family homeowner NIMBYISM and Sawant exploits the fears of the marginalized to propel her national image. Neither politician is willing to work either together or with anyone else on anything that undermines these ideological positions. For the ideologue, actually solving a problem can undermine their political power.

So come this August, see if you can separate what makes you feel good from the rational ideas that would help this city. See if you can tell which candidates try to use fear and emotion vs. the ones who use evidence. Stop looking to Mayor Durkan to quell your fear of change or Councilmemer Sawant to be the figurehead for a socialist revolution that…well it’s certainly not gonna happen anytime soon. (If you disagree, put your money where your mouth is. I’ll bet you the equivalent of 1000 AMZN shares that Amazon isn’t governmentally owned by the time Sawant retires from politics for good.)

In short, vote for the candidate you think loves spreadsheets and dry legalese the most. Data and detail help us humans see past our animal emotion.

Nathan Chaffetz