Saturday, July 07, 2018

Dean Preston: Closet socialist

Photo: Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner

From yesterday's SF Examiner:

Fresh off the Bronx miracle, another member of the Democratic Socialists of America is set to fight locally: Dean Preston. 
For those that are thinking — Don’t I remember that guy? — yes, Preston ran against Mayor-Elect London Breed for her District 5 supervisor seat in 2016...Preston is...beginning the legal process to run for District 5 supervisor, a seat that’s now held by Breed.

No, not this Bronx Miracle. The reference is to the political upset that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off by winning last month's Democratic Party primary in New York against long-time Rep. Joe Crowley.

Preston's socialism is a recent phenomenon, since it wasn't evident when he ran against Breed in 2016. In short, it's a peculiar kind of opportunism on Preston's part:

Preston ran as a progressive-aligned Democrat in his last D5 race, but with the surprise win of democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York House Democratic Primary last week, who ousted long-established Representative Joe Crowley, the DSA is the new place to be. And that’s true locally too.

Since when? The Examiner tells us about an alleged local political juggernaut that I for one had never heard of, the Democratic Socialists of San Francisco:

The DSA played a strong role in campaigning against, and defeating, Prop. H, the Taser ballot measure. And along with a coalition of tenants rights groups and communities of color the DSA aided Prop. F’s victory in San Francisco, bringing tenants rights to all. As I type these words, DSA volunteers are gathering signatures for a ballot measure, Our City Our Homes, intended to house thousands of San Franciscans experiencing homelessness.

Seems like the Examiner is taking the DSA at its own estimate. What does that party believe in? From its website:

Democratic Socialists of America San Francisco Chapter seeks to create a system based on justice and equality for all people. We believe everyone deserves to live their own life with dignity. We work to equalize political and economic power, because true democracy cannot coexist with inequality. We urgently fight to stop the many crises facing our most powerless members of society. We are not a political party. We are a coalition of people, united to create a more powerful front against the worst that capitalism has to offer. (emphasis added)

Turns out it's not a political party at all! But that declaration of principle is pure political pabulum, since the Democratic Party can make the same innocuous claims. (And it isn't much better than Jane Kim's "We can do better." It's a sobering thought, but maybe we are doing the best we can.)

More:

And for those new to the group, socialism and Democratic socialism aren’t the same — these folks mainly call for a restricted role for corporations (and capitalism), and an expanded role for democracy to provide for society (like health care, for instance).

Again, Democrats can make the same claims. But what exactly does the SF DSA mean by socialism? Apparently it doesn't embrace the traditional socialist idea of taking control of the means of production. 

Instead, it's just another San Francisco "progressive" faction with ideological pretentions. In San Francisco, left-liberals don't want to be associated with mere Democratic Party liberals. They like to think they're better, which is why they prefer "progressive" instead of "liberal."

More from the Examiner:

So why is Preston running on a Democratic Socialist platform now, when he didn’t in 2016? “I don’t think it’s a switch in terms of my policies,” he said. “These are deeply held and long term beliefs. (But) Bernie opened the door for all of us who have those beliefs and values to talk about that.”

It's simply opportunism by Preston. He's hoping to ride the ideological/political coattails of Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. But there's a significant difference between them and Preston: they were out-front about their socialism, while Preston kept his hidden from District 5 voters in 2016.

Preston's new-found political candor seems poorly calculated, since he almost beat London Breed in 2016 without the socialism:

The district may already have signaled Preston has a strong chance. In 2016 he lost to Breed, an incumbent with lots of money behind her, by roughly 2,000 votes — 21,318 to 19,534. With name recognition already in place, he may emerge as an early front runner. As in 2016, he said he’ll focus on homelessness and the housing crisis.

Actually, Preston did better than that; he only lost by 1,784 votes. But his just-revealed long-held socialist convictions makes him appear less than candid about what he really believes, a handicap he didn't have in 2016 when he didn't seem to care about anything but housing.

Preston refused to take a stand on other issues in 2016, as I pointed out at the time. (See also Why I am not a San Francisco progressive.)

Preston's nearly successful issue-lite campaign really highlighted London Breed's political weakness in District 5, since she made a poor showing for an incumbent.

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