Corporate Democrats, nationally and at home

Why is SF electing Clinton Democrats over Bernie Democrats -- when that doesn't need to happen?

I am not an expert on national politics or the national Democratic Party. But I think at this point we ought to be able to agree on a few things.

After McGovern lost to Nixon, the party decided to move to the center. That brought us Jimmy Carter, who was the original corporate Democrat. He may be a great ex-president, and a guy who now has strong morals, but in the White House, he was the guy who started cutting taxes on the rich even before Reagan.

Dean Preston and Sen. Sanders: What if the progressives were united for Bernie Democrats across the board?
Dean Preston and Sen. Sanders: What if the progressives were united for Bernie Democrats across the board?

Then we lost to Reagan and decided to go right, which brought us Bill Clinton, who brought us the end of welfare (and the safety net), Nafta, and deregulation, and increased economic inequality. Then we got Bush, and finally we got a clue and nominated Obama … who decided he had to work with the GOP and pass a health-care law written by the insurance industry.

And now: Hillary Clinton, because Bernie was too far to the left to win.

But that was wrong, of course.  A lot of people now think Bernie would have won. Because he offered a real alternative, because he said that the way things are going in this country is totally wrong, and needs to fundamentally change.

Because he could have spoken to all the people who once voted for Obama, then voted for Trump.

So when the Democratic Party has this discussion over the next couple of years, let’s remember: The reason Trump won is not just because there are a lot of racist, sexist, nativist nuts out there. It’s because Hillary Clinton didn’t offer an alternative.

If Bernie would have won, the candidates we put forward from her on out need to remember that.


Now let’s come home.

San Francisco just sent to the state Senate a Hillary Clinton Democrat, not a Bernie Sanders Democrat. Pretty clear there: Clinton backed Scott Wiener, and Sanders backed Jane Kim.

San Francisco voted to put a majority of Hillary Clinton Democrats on the Board of Supes.

And it didn’t have to be that way.

In 2008, when progressives ran the table and won every district, labor was united with the left community. This time around, labor was split and very shaky in Districts 11 and 5. A community-labor coalition would have elected the Bernie Democrat in both districts. They were both winnable.

Let’s ask the question: Suppose progressive leaders like Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim were active supporters of Kim Alvarenga in D11 and Dean Preston in D5. Suppose the Democratic County Central Committee had enough Bernie Democrats to endorse Preston and Alvarenga.

Is it possible, even likely, that the Bernie Democrats, not the Hillary Democrats, would control the Board of Supes next year?

Alvarenga is losing by only about 600 votes. Preston is less than 2,000 votes behind. If the progressive leadership had been united behind them, that probably would have made the difference.


There was big corporate money in the game, and it made a difference. In the Wiener-Kim race, that money was a big factor. I don’t think the fact that progressives put a few reform measures on the ballot, which Kim endorsed and Wiener opposed, was even remotely a factor here: The mayor was with Wiener anyway, nobody voted in the state Senate race on the basis of whether San Francisco should have a new housing commission, and the No on D, H, L, and M money was a sideshow.

The reason Wiener won is that he decided after losing the primary to go entirely negative, to use every nasty trick in the book to attack his opponent – and he had the money and the outside independent spending to do it.

Wiener supporters attacked Kim over her personal life in the Chinese community. They launched scathing, sexist assaults. They put a bogus measure on the ballot about homeless encampments and tents and attacked her in disgraceful ways for opposing it.

I don’t know how some of Wiener’s more reasonable backers, like state Sen. Mark Leno, were able to tolerate this.

The issues vanished in the November race. Kim tried to talk about affordable housing; Wiener’s allies talked about her sex life. Kim tried to talk about Ellis Act reform; Wiener’s supporters said she was a captive of the soda industry.

And because too many people tolerated it, Wiener was able to damage Kim enough to get what he wanted, a state Senate seat.

It will be very, very hard for him to repair the damage that he’s done in this scorched-earth race.


So the mayor held a “unity” rally Monday, and he and Sup London Breed spoke.  But the fall elections were not about “unity,” and if the new supes and the mayor continue to act as Hillary Clinton corporate Democrats, the city is going to be in serious trouble.

And SF won’t be doing what it should be, which is leading the nation in the rebellion against Trumpism, at every level.