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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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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.

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  1. Why would Breed need a majority on the Board if supervisors are constrained from offering up any substantive policy challenges to neoliberal rule, just minor nibbling around the edges when practicable, have shown they’re not willing to take the Mayor to court to check her power and won’t amend the charter to root out corruption and crimp Mayoral power?

  2. Gorn…ya da, ya da, ya da…Yawn! Breed’s Republican backers can’t even buy her a majority on the Board. She picked up one second choice, and lost two she desperately wanted. Predictions aside, Brown got torn a new one by Preston. From a narrow, squeaker of a loss, to a rather resounding, “Hell No!” Brown was sent packing. And Engardio did very poorly. Three solid moderates sent packing. I would have preferred Avalon’s back on the Board, but good enough. And, the cherry Avon top is Trump was totally pwned.

  3. Geek, Breed got handed nine figures in cash per year by progressives that she can spend any way she wants so long as Herrera and Rosenfield agree. That’s a win for Breed.

    Two of Breed’s candidates lost. That sucks for her unless you realize that the “progressives” know their place and don’t take any steps to upset Breed’s apple cart.

    Progressives will never make a move on the strong mayor system to check corruption because they benefit too much from the corrupt strong mayor system.

  4. Since the city is facing bankruptcy due to free falling sales tax revenue, this matters very little.
    They can decide what services to cut, how many city employees to fire, what Pension obligation they can’t meet.

  5. Gorn, you, and all your aliases, have lost. Again. The voters are seeing the so-called moderates for what they are, including the corruption and the many problems. Breed will not give up her political foot ball. If the homeless are housed,, she then has to produce as mayor. She syill has a BoS that she cannot control. She got handed her head in District 5, and Districy 1.

  6. For all of San Francisco’s federal political “juice,” the city is corrupt as and looks like shit.

    Now, progressive qualifies at adopting a hands-off posture towards attempting to regulate capitalism or move towards structural changes to empower people over corporations, while pushing for tax increases, much of which Mayor London Breed has unilateral spending authority over. This throwing money at one’s opponents, money they don’t want, is somehow construed as being in political opposition to.

    Progressive certainly does not mean moving the defund SFPD agenda. Not one single vote on this “progressive” board to cut one single SFPD sworn officer. I’d put money on the Board of Potted Plants rubber stamping the POA contract next week.

    Progressive certainly does not mean getting a handle on homelessness. Prop C piled up $400m and there does not seem to be any forward motion on putting those dollars to work. Prop A throws more homeless supportive housing money at C’s $75m that has yet to be spent while the streets and sidewalks are encrusted with the effluent of public squalor.

    Progressive certainly does not mean getting a handle on covid19 amongst Latinx. Prog nonprofits take whatever covid throws at them and might offer up testing to some fraction of those in need. There is no pushing the envelope in ways that might bite the hands that feeds them. No efforts to find out where Latinx are getting infected and take steps to minimize risk going forward. Just sporadic testing.

    On the key issues facing San Francisco: affordable housing, homelessness, transportation, covid19, anti-corruption, progressives don’t have squat.

    Elberling lived in just under $1m condo in Mission Bay 20 years ago. His nonprofit, TODCO, has a six figure political slush fund that he uses to move his agenda of how to proceed on issues of import to him. Refusing to organize SOMA residents who might have other ideas, as in the Mission, TODCO has the resources to speak over and therefore for the SOMA. Yet they remain vulnerable as recipients of city funding to Mayoral pressure that corrupts the public interest with the nonprofit interest.

    If this is what qualifies as progressive, then we need to simply dispense with the term and be honest with ourselves.

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