More Thoughts from Chairman Matt
Anybody can say what they want, but when I can get that close to winning an election without selling out the things I believe in, then it moves the political spectrum to the left. There's a shift in what is possible in San Francisco because the winner realizes, 'Wow, I barely got in. I've got to make overtures to the Left, I've got to shore up my Left support. And you have a completely different mayorship under Newsom than you would have if I hadn't been in the race, and if he's trounced his opponent by some large margin. That's the truth.
This suggests that Mayor Newsom's endorsement of gay marriage---or even his support for the locked-out hotel workers---was calculated because the mayor thought he had to "shore up" his "Left support" in the city. Thus, in Gonzalez's mind, the city's Left can somehow take indirect credit for both Newsom's bold initiative on gay marriage and his support for hotel workers. The problem is that there's absolutely no evidence for this, not to mention that this interpretation rather ungenerously gives no credit to Newsom himself. In Gonzalez's mind, Mayor Newsom is evidently still the grotesque representative of downtown and corporate interests depicted in his campaign and in the SF Bay Guardian's goofy Newsom caricatures.
And there's the annoyingly self-righteous tone routinely adopted by Gonzalez and his allies during and after the mayoral election: "On the one hand you had a candidate that was willing to tell the truth about very hard issues. But if you're not going to reward candidates who tell you the truth, you're not going to encourage people to be that way." Guess which candidate Gonzalez thinks was the truth-teller during the campaign?
Gonzalez seems to think he's a Big Picture guy, someone who sees the larger historical context of the great progressive struggle against the forces of darkness: "There's a very important role to be played[in SF] in anchoring the Left, or anchoring the progressive position. I did that for four years, and it's been an important place to hold the line."
I think Gonzalez misinterprets his term on the board of supervisors. His best work was actually done on the relatively small issues, like banning chain stores in the neighborhoods, the Living Wage, getting the board appointments on both the Planning Commission and the Police Commission, and ranked choice voting. Anyone who watched Gonzalez, as President of the Board of Supervisors, run a meeting had to be impressed. He always did his homework and seemed to have a good grip on the issues being discussed. He ran meetings that were both fair and more or less efficient, which is not a universal talent among elected officials. In the interview, Matt is good on the day-in-and-day-out work of being a supervisor: "No one ever calls you up and pats you on the back because you read the finance report on that obscure bond sale that's up before the board. They only pat your back when you win some big ballot measure, [or] you get some big piece of legislation passed." This sounds just right, and one gets the impression that Matt always read his weekly packet.
On the other hand, it was on the big issues where he came up short and where progressive ideology clouded his judgment, especially homelessness, which, tellingly, is not discussed in the Observer interview at all. Matt's failure on homelessness sent him down to defeat against Newsom, who seemed to understand the issue politically and morally. Matt seemed to think that the homeless were just another social group that our capitalist system produced---poor people who couldn't afford housing who had to be defended against being pushed around by the authorities. Newsom, on the other hand, understood how shameful it is for a great city to have large numbers of people living and dying on its streets. And there was the misguided Proposition F, which would have allowed non-citizens in the city to vote in school board elections, along with Proposition N that called for the immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Both of these propositions were essentially exercises in progressive purity.
Along with a warning about how much work the office involves, Gonzalez gives incoming Supervisor Mirkarimi some bad advice: "They[D5 voters] want a strong member of the progressive community to hold the line on progressive values and be the defender of progressive values." Well, maybe. But, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends on what your definition of progressive is, and the definition seems to vary, depending on who's using the term. What we definitely don't need is ideology and rhetoric, but, rather, a focus on the specific issues that concern people in District 5 neighborhoods and the city.
Labels: Matt Gonzalez