Friday, January 26, 2018

Hillary Ronen's PC muddle

Joel Angel Juarez/AP

Supervisor Hillary Ronen's muddled op-ed in the Chronicle yesterday must be shocking to those who haven't been following San Francisco politics. 

The first paragraphs announce her radicalism: 

I’ve put off making an endorsement in the mayor’s race because I believe we need to turn this city upside down. Behind the last mayoral administration and the one before that, there were the same handful of tech moguls and real estate billionaires who make this a city where the middle class is no longer welcome. The policies these powerful men champion are the ones that have decimated the African American community and are doing the same to the Latino community. LGBTQ people are being pushed out in alarming numbers, and I believe Asian Americans are next.

The notion that black people, Latinos, LGBTQs, and Asian-Americans are uniquely suffering from the relentless gentrification of the city is simply false, since white working class and middle class people are also being priced out of the city.

Since her op-ed is all about identity politics, Ronen is obligated to throw a bouquet to Supervisor Breed:

So far, the dominant narrative about our vote for interim mayor has centered on the identity of London Breed — that an African American woman who has overcome tremendous adversity should be chosen as interim. I’m also moved tremendously by Breed’s accomplishments and by how much the African American community has spoken up to support her.

Yes, Breed came from poverty to be elected District 5 Supervisor, but she was elected with a minority of the vote under the city's radically flawed Ranked Choice Voting system. That's an achievement of sorts but not exactly a "tremendous accomplishment." Besides, she's been an awful supervisor:

But I have to be honest: The same rich white men who steered the policies that have created the mess we are in today are firmly behind the candidacy of Breed. They have been bullying people to support the board president’s run for mayor, including threatening people’s careers if they don’t support her. The majority of your elected representatives, on both sides of the aisle, felt that we couldn’t stay silent and allow these men to continue to buy our elections.

Yes, rich white man Ron Conway supports African-American London Breed, like he did in 2012. As a twice-elected supervisor in District 5, Breed is also presumably complicit for "the mess we're in." And I'd like to hear some specifics about the alleged "bullying" and threats by Conway and/or others.

Ronen finally gets to the heart of her argument:

I take identity and representation very seriously and think they are tremendously important in this mayoral race. At this point, when the African American community has been largely displaced from San Francisco, when incarceration rates for African Americans continue to be incredibly disproportionate both locally and nationally, when our president described white supremacists as “good people,” I hear loud and clear the community members who are calling for an African American mayor to represent San Francisco.

Surely Ronen knows San Francisco has already had an African American mayor. (Willie Brown was elected mayor to two terms.) Besides, if being African American is the most important qualification, why doesn't London Breed qualify? Ronen goes on to make the same argument for electing a LBGT and an Asian American mayor. We just had the latter with Ed Lee, and his administration presided over a radical gentrification of the city:

And my heart also goes out to the Asian Americans who just tragically lost the first Asian American mayor of a city that was founded and built on the backs of the Asian community. After 100 years of deeply racist laws, brutal attacks in Chinatown, and the rounding up of our Japanese residents into internment camps, to lose a mayor who worked so hard to correct decades of political disenfranchisement is truly heartbreaking. The Asian community has to be heard and acknowledged when it calls for an Asian American mayor.

Is the Asian American community really "calling for an Asian American mayor"? If being Asian American is the main qualification, why not support Jane Kim? And if being a member of the LBGT community is the main qualification, why not support Mark Leno? But instead of being closely identified with one community, shouldn't whoever is elected be mayor for all the people of San Francisco?

Ronen's op-ed doesn't discuss a single political/policy issue, since for her it's all about identity politics.

That's also because there are very few political differences between Breed, Kim, Leno---and Ronen herself, for that matter---to discuss.

After all that nonsense---and voting for a white man involved in the tech industry---Ronen ends up dithering:

As a straight white woman, my privilege means I’m in no way qualified to decide which of the mayoral candidates’ backgrounds makes them more deserving of the huge advantage of running while having the entire apparatus of the mayor’s office at their disposal...So I am going to do what I always do when I don’t know the answer to an important question: I’m going to listen to the people. In this particular instance, listening means letting the people vote.

Has anyone proposed not letting "the people" vote?

What really disqualifies Ronen: she's "a straight white woman" who's not exactly a credit to her gender, her ethnic "background," or her sexual orientation.

See also Randy Shaw: Who Really Runs San Francisco?

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