I should just ignore Randy Shaw’s piece today about Who Runs San Francisco; we all know Randy is a big fan of Mayor Ed Lee, and thinks he’s a great civic leader who’s doing a heck of a job, and that’s fine.

If he's so popular, why are his candidates running away from him?
If he’s so popular, why are his candidates running away from him?

But there’s a strange narrative here, and it’s one we should be seriously talking about.

Shaw notes:

Lee’s policies are simply more popular with San Francisco voters than those many progressives espouse.

I would suggest maybe No.

And I think the voters are making that pretty clear.

Lee and his policies may have been popular at one point, before the impacts of his tax breaks and tech-before-all became apparent. Now, the evictions, the housing crisis, the streets clogged with Ubers, the Airbnb mess, the transformation of the city have left a wide range of residents furious.

The popularity of Lee is so low that you will not find his name on a single ballot argument this fall. You will not find a single candidate for office who is touting Lee’s endorsement. He is electoral poison – because his policies are less popular with the voters than almost anything anyone else is offering.

The best thing candidates for supervisor can do is run against the mayor. The candidates that the mayor supports are hiding that fact as best as they can. I am told that recent polls show that if a candidate is described as “loyal to Mayor Lee,” that person’s favorability drops radically. And not just on the East Side of town.

Sup. London Breed, who has been one of the most consistent allies of Lee in the past four years, starts off a lot of her talks these days by saying she ran against his appointed candidate.

Just as we have seen the failures of neo-liberalism fuel deep discontent in US politics, voters from all over the city are sick of the Lee program. It has made more residents worse off, and created more inequality, that the pollsters who measure such things all seem to agree that the voters will reject anyone and anything associated with Ed Lee.

His policies are not popular with the voters.

There’s a larger point here, though, that one would think someone like Randy Shaw, who has written a book about how activists can best organize to promote their causes, might notice. If the policies of someone who caters to the needs of the 1 percent are popular, that’s not because he or she is right. It’s because the 99 percent haven’t been able to do enough voter education and organizing.

George W. Bush got elected twice. Ronald Reagan got elected in a landslide, twice. Is that because, as Shaw suggests, their policies were “more popular?” Or is it because the Democrats failed to challenge them properly? We now know that Reagan’s and Bush’s policies were very, very wrong, did horrible damage to the country, and are now radically unpopular.

Should the progressives have changed their stands because Reagan and Bush were, at one time, “popular?”

Let’s talk about what policies actually work for the majority of the people. It’s pretty clear that the policies of Mayor Lee do not.

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Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.