#NativeVote16 – A tribute to Seattle’s liberal voice in Congress


Rep. Jim McDermott: “I have the honor of attending many cultural events and festivals here in Seattle. Here is a #tbt from last year’s United Indians of All Tribes Foundation Seafair Seattle Pow Wow.” (Photo via Facebook)

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

This is a departure from my normal post: A tribute to someone not on the ballot, Rep. Jim McDermott. He announced his retirement this year after serving 14 terms.

Seattle’s voters will pick between two Democrats, Pramila Jaypal and Joe McDermott, (no relation) as their next member of Congress. It’s one of the country’s most liberal districts.

McDermott has been a steady friend to Indian Country for a long time. He probably had the best health care reform proposal in Congress long before Hillary Clinton’s plan or the one that became the Affordable Care Act. (McDermott is a psychiatrist.)  He was a longtime advocate for the recognition of the Duwamish Tribe, including the introduction of legislation to make it so. He was not successful.

I was thinking of a McDermott story in the context of the voices who say they might leave the Democratic Party because Sanders is not the nominee.

So I was editorial page editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and we had a meeting with McDermott. There was a tough vote was coming up in the House, I think it was funding for the Iraq war. Normally McDermott would have been an absolute and certain “no.” That’s what his district expected. He was supposed to be the voice of Seattle.

But he told us: “I won’t do that to my speaker (Nancy Pelosi). He voted yes because she needed him to do so (and without her asking him). Pure? No. Political? Yes. And inspirational. Politics isn’t always about being right.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com


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Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist. He currently serves as the Charles R. Johnson Professor at the University of North Dakota.

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