Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Matt myth

Matt Gonzalez

Recent D5 history is being rewritten as fast as it's being made. Randy Shaw on Beyond Chron offers this on Matt Gonzalez: "It is a measure of how much Gonzalez changed local perceptions of the Greens that candidates like Ross Mirkarimi can run as a Green in District 5 with his party affiliation becoming almost irrelevant."

Ross could run without worrying about being a Green, because party affiliation is often irrelevant in SF, especially in District 5, one of the most progressive districts in the city. The thing is that there's a lot of leftist political testosterone in D5, and Gonzalez, in spite of his low-key persona---or maybe even because of it---was able to embody SF progressivism in D5. His race against Terence Hallinan for District Attorney in 1999 provided him with name recognition in progressive circles, which in turn helped him get the SF Bay Guardian's endorsement in 2000. This was enough to give him sufficient visibility to win easily. I was one of the candidates in the 2000 D5 race, and it was clear that Juanita Owens, the Democratic Party candidate, was not a formidable opponent for Gonzalez, especially after Mayor Brown gave her the kiss of death---that is, his endorsement. After that, Gonzalez could have declared himself a member of the Republican Party, and he still would have beaten Owens in the run-off.

The elephant in the room that progressives still go to great lengths to avoid talking about: Gavin Newsom and the homeless issue, which Shaw's piece doesn't mention, and neither does Michael Gause's in BeyondChron. Gause also raises the question of the Gonzalez legacy: "Matt Gonzalez's insurgent run for mayor of San Francisco in November and December of 2003 has achieved almost mythical status with the passage of time due to its mobilization of thousands of hipsters, artists, and other people long disaffected with politics." The hipster juggernaut!

The trouble with "disaffected" political dilettantes is that they think it's all about them, not policy or the political process. While they may roll out for an occasional issue or an anti-war demo, hipsters and artists don't usually follow the political process, go to meetings, or read up on the issues, which are strictly for squares. Writing about politics and rock music in the New Republic, Michael Crowley quotes Alice Cooper, who has it right: "Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night, and very rarely do we sit around reading The Washington Journal...Rock is the antithesis of politics. Rock should never be in bed with politics" (New Republic, Nov. 5, 2004)

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