Monday, March 21, 2011

The progressive "brand" in San Francisco

Randy Shaw of Beyond Chron has another hand-wringing piece about what he calls the "progressive brand" in San Francisco (Why San Francisco Progressives are Losing Public Support). The strangest thing about Shaw's piece is that in a discussion of recent city history referring to Art Agnos, Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, and Matt Gonzalez, he doesn't mention Care Not Cash and the homeless issue. It's doubly odd because it's an issue that Shaw knows something about through his Tenderloin Housing Clinic.

Yet homelessness was the issue Gavin Newsom used to get himself elected Mayor of San Francisco in 2003, and the issue on which progressives, including Matt Gonzalez, failed to provide a plausible response after Care Not Cash was passed by city voters in 2002. City voters wanted something done about the growing squalor on city streets, and they voted for the candidate that was clearly ready to do it. Even Beyond Chron was telling its readers how important the homeless issue was to city voters.

Before Newsom took ownership of the issue, instead of creating the kind of political coalition Shaw now advocates with Republicans and independents to deal with homelessness, progressives were supporting Food Not Bombs and the pie-throwers in the Biotic Baking Brigade, substituting cutesy, exhibitionist demonstrations for a thoughtful policy alternative.

Shaw rightly deplores factionalism by city progressives, but he fails to discuss the biggest problem the city's left faces: crackpotism. The main reason there's been no certified progressive with name-recognition---like Peskin, Mirkarimi, or Daly---entering the campaign for mayor is that they all are burdened with fringe-left baggage on a lot of issues: the failure on homelessness, public power, legalizing prostitution, dumping JROTC from city schools, opposition to the sit-lie measure, support for cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal, support for Josh Wolf, support for Critical Mass, to mention some issues that a majority of city voters might be skeptical about.

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