When Nancy Pelosi became speaker of the House in 2007, Washington news media started calling me. The right wing was going nuts; Pelosi, they said, was going to bring “San Francisco values” to the rest of the nation. Reporters were looking, I suppose, for a critic from her hometown, and I had been very dubious about her role in privatizing the Presidio National Park.
I think it was Roll Call that first reached me, and I told the reporter what I have said many times since: Everyone on all sides needed to calm down. Nancy Pelosi was not a wild-eyed “San Francisco liberal.” She wasn’t going to promote socialized medicine or gay marriage or higher taxes on Wall Street or big cuts in the military budget and a rapid end to the US wars in the Middle East. She was a mainstream Democrat whose constituency was the Democratic majority in Congress, and she would do what she needed to do to preserve it, and she was very good at that job.
“I’m a crazy left-wing San Francisco liberal,” I said. “Nancy Pelosi is not.”
The story with my quotes came out in DC, and the right-wing media were all over it: Here’s a guy in San Francisco who thinks Nancy Pelosi is too conservative. I went on some of their shows, and they abused me horribly. I stuck to my point: Pelosi isn’t a radical. She’s the first woman to hold this powerful job, and that may be causing the likes of Sean Hannity (yeah, I fought with him on the air) to freak out, but seriously: If you wanted stability in Congress and the Democratic Party, Pelosi was an excellent choice.
That’s what we saw over the next few years. Pelosi pushed through the Affordable Care Act with no provision for any sort of single-payer program. She did not stand with Gavin Newsom when he legalized same-sex marriage in 2004 (it wasn’t until 2012 that she asked for a marriage-equality plank in the Democratic Party national platform). She had a very mixed record on military spending and engagements. Today, she’s made clear that she doesn’t think impeachment or the abolition of ICE are winning issues. She dismissed the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as any kind of a larger wake-up for the party.
I’m not saying that Pelosi should be replaced as the Democratic Party’s leader. She is one major reason the Democrats retook the House. She’s a brilliant strategist. At this point, it doesn’t appear she has any credible opposition – certainly not from the left, which is why Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives are moving toward supporting her.
But let’s be realistic. Pelosi will not push a serious progressive agenda unless she is forced to by her more progressive Democratic colleagues. She’s going to be cautious, thinking towards 2020 with a strategic approach that fears offending more conservative voters.
She took a bold stance and supported Prop. C, and that’s a great sign. Still, for most of her career she’s been a Hillary Democrat, not a Bernie Democrat. That’s just reality. She’s also said, famously, that power isn’t given to anyone; you have to take it. That’s how the new and growing left in Congress is going to have to approach the next two years.
Mayor London Breed appears before the Board of Supes Tuesday/27, and homelessness is at the top of the Question Time agenda. Sups. Vallie Brown and Rafael Mandelman both want to ask her about her about the issue. Since the new rules allow for some real debate, and it’s starting to rain, and thousands of homeless people have nowhere to go, and the Breed Administration is still sweeping people off the streets, it could be an interesting discussion.
The Supes will also hold a special hearing on the city’s track record hiring and promoting African-American workers, as well as workplace discrimination and complaints. Pushed by SEI Local 1021, the supes are going to call in department heads and ask about the lack of diversity in hiring and promotions – and the “disproportionate amount of disciplinary actions against African-American workers.”
The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club holds a vigil Tuesday/27to remember the horrific assassinations of Sup. Milk and Mayor George Moscone 40 years ago. 7pm, Harvey Milk Plaza.
The state Legislature passed, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed, a law allowing involuntary conservatorships of people with mental illness and substance-abuse problems. The city is planning to implement that law, which has advocates for the homeless and civil-liberties groups concerned.
Voluntary Services First holds a forum Friday/30 on the issue, featuring Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, Susan Mizner of the ACLU Disability Rights Program, and CW Johnson, outreach specialist of the Mental Health Association. 2pm at the Main Library.