Eli Sanders

Eli Sanders is the senior staff writer for The Stranger, an alternative weekly in Seattle. You can read more about his work at www.elisanders.net.

Recent Articles

The Last Drug Czar

Both Obama and his appointed leader of the war on drugs, Gil Kerlikowske, say they've had it with the military metaphors and are taking a new approach to America's substance abuse problem.

In late May the new leader of America's fight against illegal drugs, Gil Kerlikowske, returned to Seattle, the dope-tolerating city where he'd previously served as police chief. As part of the visit, he stopped by a local morning radio talk show, where right off the bat he declared, "I'm ending the phrase, 'the war on drugs.'" As far as statements from high government officials go, it was a radical declaration. Kerlikowske, and by extension Barack Obama, was rejecting four decades of federal government marching orders -- a bold departure that would have been unthinkable in previous administrations. But even more striking than his announcement was the reaction: crickets. It's not just that Kerlikowske made the statement in liberal Seattle or that he was seated inside the studio of a local National Public Radio affiliate when he spoke the words. The reaction had been similarly muted earlier that month, when he'd made a virtually identical comment to a very different audience, The Wall...

Anatomy of a Netroots Failure

Darcy Burner won the love of Internet activists but lost her 2008 campaign for Washington state's 8th Congressional District. Maybe the new politics can't write off the old just yet.

Burner leaves a pamphlet in the door of a home Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006 in Puyallup, Wash. (AP Photo/Karie Hamilton)
To understand how invested online activists were in the campaign of Darcy Burner -- the bright, tech-savvy, and ultimately failed candidate for Congress in Washington state's 8th Congressional District -- consider what happened in February of last year, when the University of Washington's student newspaper, not normally a major player in national politics, published excerpts of an interview with Burner campaign spokesman Sandeep Kaushik. Speaking to a student reporter about the nationwide army of liberal bloggers and online activists who have become a force at all levels of politics in recent years, Kaushik said: "They're not at the point yet where they can really swing a race. Part of my job is making sure people know the blogosphere is not the campaign." Impolitic words in this Internet era, certainly. But as it turned out, he was partly correct. Despite their many successes in 2008, liberal bloggers and members of the online "netroots" could not, in fact, swing this particular race...

<i>Milk</i> and the Idea of California

Gus Van Sant's new film Milk, about the rise of gay rights icon Harvey Milk, goes far toward explaining why the passage of Prop. 8 was such a deep blow to the gay rights community.

There is a scene in Gus Van Sant's Milk that goes some way toward explaining the unprecedented nationwide protests that occurred after California voters, on Nov. 4, reinstituted a ban on gay marriage in their state by passing Proposition 8. In the scene, Sean Penn, playing the gay rights icon Harvey Milk, celebrates an almost diametrically opposite moment in history: the gay rights movement's 1978 victory over California's Proposition 6, which would have banned homosexuals, or anyone who supported them, from teaching in public schools. "We can come home," Milk, as played with impressive intuition and bravery by Penn, tells a cheering crowd of activists in San Francisco on the night that Prop. 6 was defeated. If you think about it, the statement doesn't make much literal sense. Milk, the first openly gay man to serve in elected office in the United States, was not himself from San Francisco. He was, instead, like most of the people he befriended and worked with in the gay rights...

How the West Will Be Won

By espousing a brand of liberalism that's heavy on personal freedom and light on divisive social issues, Democrats are finally being heard in the Mountain West.

(AP Photo/Tami A. Heilemann, Interior Department)
It's morning on the Fourth of July in conservative Greeley, Colorado, and along 10th Avenue, the town's residents are staking out choice spots from which to watch the parade. A man in a "Got Freedom?" T-shirt claims a piece of sidewalk. A family with young kids dressed in patriotic hues sits along a curb. An elderly woman sets up under a shade tree with her oxygen tank at her side and a tiny American flag stuck to its valve. A few blocks away, in the backyard of a small brick house, the Weld County Democratic Party ("Real People, Real Issues") is holding its annual Fourth of July breakfast. By the standards of this year's more notable political gatherings, it's what you might call an intimate affair. This is Weld County, after all, an agricultural area about an hour's drive north of Denver that belongs to Colorado's 4th Congressional District. That's the district in which Republican Marilyn Musgrave has won three consecutive terms in Congress by decrying same-sex marriage and gun-...