Thursday, January 21, 2010

Prog rats abandon sinking Green Party ship

The lengthy bit of hand-wringing by Steve Jones in the Bay Guardian over the city's shrinking Green Party tells us, first of all, that San Francisco's leftists---Ross Mirkarimi, Jane Kim, John Rizzo, Christine Olague---are abandoning that party. Mirkarimi is evidently getting ready to bail out of the Green Party that he helped establish in California. But first he has to deploy a fog of flab-gab to justify his betrayal:

"I'm still very impassioned about the idea of having a Green Party here in the United States and here in California and San Francisco, vibrantly so. But I'm concerned that the Green Party will follow a trend like all third parties, which have proven that this country is absolutely uninviting---and in fact unwelcoming---of third parties and multiparty democracy," Mirkarimi said...Today, as he considers running for mayor himself, Mirkarimi is weighing whether to leave the party he founded. "I'm in a purgatory. I believe in multiparty democracy," Mirkarimi said. "Yet tactically speaking, I feel like if I'm earnest in my intent to run for higher office, as I've shared with Greens, I'm not so sure I can do so as a Green."

This is vintage Mirkarimi, intellectually unconvincing to the point of absurdity and formulated with his typically weird diction: he's "vibrantly impassioned" about the Green Party, but he's going to abandon it anyhow!

What makes Mirkarimi think being in the Green Party will hinder his pursuit of higher office? What he really means: his reputation as an ultra-leftist won't be an asset in a citywide campaign for mayor against someone like the "moderate" Bevan Dufty. The Murk's support for Critical Mass and his habit of indulging in revolutionary rhetoric, for example, while acceptable in progressive District 5, won't be helpful in a citywide political race, whether for mayor or for sheriff.

Jones's reaction to Mirkarimi's obvious intention to bolt the Green Party: "That's a remarkable statement---in effect, an acknowledgement that despite some success on the local level, the Green Party still can't compete for bigger prizes, leaving its leaders with nowhere to go." What "success," local or otherwise, can be attributed to the SF Green Party? Matt Gonzalez's election as District 5 Supervisor owed nothing to his membership in the Green Party, a party switch he only announced after the primary in 2000. The race for mayor in 2003 pitted the "progressive" Gonzalez against the mainstream Gavin Newsom; party affiliation was not an issue in the campaign. It was the anti-establishment Gonzalez against the establishment's Newsom.

Similarly, Mirkarimi's membership in the Green Party was not a factor in his two successful campaigns for District 5 Supervisor. It's not party affiliation that matters to District 5 voters; it was the demonstrable "progressive" political credentials of Gonzalez and Mirkarimi that were crucial to their political success in this district.

Jones provides the party affiliation numbers for the city:

Democratic Party registration in San Francisco stood at 56.7 percent in November, the second-highest percentage in the state after Alameda County, making this essentially a one-party town (at last count, there were 256,233 Democrats, 42,097 Republicans, and 8,776 Greens in SF). Although Republicans in San Francisco have always outnumbered Greens by about 4-1, the only elected San Francisco Republican in more than a decade was BART board member James Fang. But Republicans could never have made a real bid for power in San Francisco, as Gonzalez did in his electrifying 2003 mayoral run, coming within 5 percentage points of beating Gavin Newsom, who outspent the insurgent campaign 6-1 and had almost the entire Democratic Party establishment behind him.

It's not that Republican candidates are likely to win elections in SF but that in a close election 42,000 Republican voters can be decisive. In the 2003 runoff between Gonzalez and Newsom, the latter won by only 14,217 votes, and it's unlikely that many Republicans voted for the left-wing Gonzalez. If Republican voters have to choose between a leftist Mirkarimi and a mainstream Democrat, they're going to go with the latter as the lesser of two evils.

One significant factor mentioned by Jones to explain why the progressive rats are abandoning the sinking Green Party ship: left-wing Democrats have taken over the local Democratic Party rendering any third party movement unnecessary for city progressives. Why bother with a third party in SF if the local Democratic Party is controlled by people as left-wing as you are?

Last year party lefties took over the Democratic County Central Committee and promptly endorsed fringe-left positions on JROTC, legalizing prostitution, and public power---all of which were rejected by city voters a few months later.

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