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News + PoliticsOpinionProgressives are winning the Battle of San Francisco

Progressives are winning the Battle of San Francisco

The powerful moderates -- and their financial supporters -- lost overwhelmingly in the Nov. 3 election.


San Francisco is now nationally the most politically potent city in America, home to four of Democratic Party’s most powerful elected leaders – Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The progressives managed to defeat a big-money blitz

All four are firmly liberal “moderates,” along with the city’s prominent Mayor, London Breed, and longtime party godfather Willie Brown. All are lifelong Downtown/Establishment-friendly centrists within the left-leaning spectrum of California politics. None identify as “progressive.”

One might think then that their moderate viewpoint dominated San Francisco politics. But one would be wrong.

Beginning with the anti-war, environmental, and gay-rights movements of 50 years past that so strongly took deep roots in the Bay Area, and then merged with National agendas for civil rights, social justice and community empowerment, San Francisco evolved one of the strongest local progressive political forces in the US.

The measures the big money opposed all won.

And since winning a signature victory in the 2000 elections to control the Board of Supervisors, even without winning the Mayor’s Office, progressives have set much of the political agenda of San Francisco for the last 20 years.

So this November, the Downtown Establishment tried to take progressives out conclusively – to defeat enough progressive candidates to flip the Board of Supervisors to a moderate majority and defeat the three local business/property tax measures progressives had put on the ballot (Propositions “I,” “F,” and “L”). Downtown had the official or de facto support of the all of above party elite.  They allied with the Yimby wannabes who have become national darlings of the neo-liberal cognoscenti. They poured $8 million into these campaigns, raised from a who’s-who list of the city’s Downtown/Tech powers, even including major GOP donors. They deployed these massive funds – $17 per voter! – for attack ads, ‘hit pieces,’ and Cable TV scare ads against a fraction of that amount supporting the Progressives.

They lost:

  • All three business/property tax measures passed easily. Together they will add about $400 million per year in new city revenues for affordable housing, homeless assistance, and community services. And they follow upon two business tax measures approved three years before that already added $400 million a year to these programs.
  • Two progressive supervisors were easily re-elected. A third progressive won a razor-thin victory for an open seat. And the Number One target of the mega-downtown dollars – a local Democratic Socialists of America leader – conclusively defeated a well-known moderate challenger.

Why did the elite San Francisco Democratic Party establishment support this fierce Downtown attack on their progressive fellow Democrats?

  • Because America’s Progressive Movement is a fundamental threat to the perpetual control of our nation by its economic/political elite – the “Establishment” – and to their entrenched and ever-growing wealth that is the fundamental barrier to realization of any genuine social equity.
  • Because America’s Progressive Movement’s fundamental goal is instead a “Social Security Society” where government and community NGO’s – not the Establishment’s private sector – assure that all the people have the basic needs for a decent life – housing, health care, nutrition, infrastructure, ecology, education, equity, and basic income.

The national Democratic Party long ago became the co-opted protectors of that Establishment first and foremost, and protectors of the people only to the extent that will allow. They belong to it.

Which is why these days we see President-elect Joe Biden pledge to “bi-partisan” cooperation with the defeated neo-fascist Republican Party – an utterly hopeless notion – while at the same time we hear moderate Democrats and their Beltway/cable news media pundit pals warn against the “extreme left” proposals of the growing progressive movement within the party itself!

“The Socialists are coming!” they cry. As if, seriously.

This is an internal fight within the Democratic Party that the future of our nation cannot afford. Trump and his Republican White Peoples Party just got 48 percent of the vote – 71 million Americans willing to accept a morally depraved neo-fascist state. They are not going to quit. The future of our nation is not secure.

To defeat this Great American Evil, the moderate elite of the Democratic Party need to stop attacking their progressive sisters and brothers and instead negotiate shared power and a common winning agenda both can live with – and that enough of their Establishment can eventually accept.

That common winning agenda is for America to become a true Social Security Society. Our nation has more than enough wealth to achieve that. We are striving here in San Francisco to build as much of that society as it is possible for one city to do. But it is far from all that is needed. Only a full national commitment – and just taxation of that wealth – can really make it possible.

On November 3, 2020, progressives won the Battle of San Francisco.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram


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