About that "acrimonious fall"

They're at it again
Illustration appeared in The Stranger

Catch this. Mayor Ed Lee's mayoral victory had nothing to do with millions of dollars in campaign contributions from private interests, a sophisticated get-out-the vote effort targeting Lee supporters, the advantage of incumbency, some funny business, or a calculated campaign strategy concentrating efforts on absentee ballots.

Instead, the fact that Lee triumphed over voters’ second pick, the significantly less well-funded progressive candidate Sup. John Avalos, is proof that the left in San Francisco has plummeted into a dark abyss. In fact, the progressive movement has descended so far into disarray and become so irrelevant that its condition warrants front page news.

That's essentially the narrative that Benjamin Wachs and Joe Eskenazi of the San Francisco Weekly offer in their cover article, "Progressively Worse: The Tumultuous Rise and Acrimonious Fall of the City's Left," in which they refer to the Guardian as "the movement's cajoling ward boss, kingmaker, and sounding board." Gosh, I feel so goddamn important right now.

Once the blood pressure returned to normal, my initial reaction to this piece was that Wachs and Eskenazi seem to misunderstand who and what progressives actually are. They portray the city's left as a caricature, a brash bunch of power mongers now on the losing end that can be easily summed up with pithy video game references, Happy Meal toy bans, and bikes.

Witness the contrast between the Weekly's portrayal of progressives (helped along by former Newsomite Eric Jaye), and the portrait of the left the Guardian offers this week with an Op-Ed written by NTanya Lee -- an actual progressive who volunteered for the Avalos for Mayor campaign.

Here's the Weekly on the left:

"This is an eclectic group, one often bound not by mutual interests as much as mutual enmity — toward Brown, his successors, and the corporate interests of 'downtown.' As a result, progressive principles are often wildly inconsistent. Progressives favor more government control over people's lives for their own good, as when they effectively banned McDonald's Happy Meals. But sometimes progressives say the government needs to let people make their own choices ... Progressives believe government should subsidize homeless people who choose to drink themselves to death, while forbidding parents from buying McNuggets because fast food is bad for us. ... Without consistent principles, it's easy to associate progressives with the craziest ideas to come out of City Hall, and the movement's bad ideas are memorable. ... Daly's pledge to say 'Fuck' at every public meeting makes a killer Internet meme. Hey, let's legalize prostitution and outlaw plastic bags!"

Here's Lee on the left:

"The Avalos coalition was largely community forces: SF Rising's base in working class Black, Latino, Filipino and Chinese communities; the Bike Coalition's growing base of mostly white bike riders; affinity groups like Filipinos, Queers, Latinos and Arabs for Avalos; progressive Democrats; social networks of creative, young progressive activists affiliated with the League of Young Voters; and loyal families and neighborhood leaders from John's own District 11. The campaign prioritized communicating to voters in four languages, and according to the Chinese press, John Avalos was the only non-Chinese candidate with a significant Chinese outreach program. There were stalwarts from progressive labor unions (most notably SEIU 1021 and USWW) who threw down — but overall, labor played it safe and invested resources in other guys. And then, in the great surprise development of the race, supporters of the new national occupy movement came to be a strong part of the Team Avalos base because the campaign was so well positioned to resonate with the call to take on the one percent."

When it comes to takeaways from the November election, the Weekly's conclusion is essentially opposite that of progressives. While many on the left see themselves as regaining momentum and building the power to rise even in the face of defeat by the established powers-that-be, the Weekly casts San Francisco's left as deflated and out-of-touch.

Speaking of out-of-touch, the SF Weekly refers to San Francisco's "increasingly imaginary working class."  But in reality, 61 percent of students attending public schools in S.F. Unified School District qualify for free or reduced lunch, and a majority of San Franciscans cannot afford market-rate housing.

However, the Weekly is correct in pointing out that shifting demographics have dealt a blow to the progressive base.

"Between 2000 and 2010, the city grew older (every age group over 50 increased), wealthier (there are now 58 percent more households earning $125,000 or more), and more heavily Asian (up from around 30 to nearly 35 percent of the city's population): exactly the groups progressives don't win with. These voters don't respond well to campaigns against developments or for city services, because they're often living in those developments and don't need city services."

I take issue with the Asian part of that statement as a sweeping generalization, however, having witnessed the solid organizing work of the Chinese Progressive Association, for example.

The Weekly also says progressives and the Guardian never called out former Mayor Gavin Newsom for ripping off their best ideas. Oh, they didn't?  That's news to me.

The Weekly article implies that progressives got trounced by moderates because jobs are priority No. 1 for voters, and the left has no feasible economic plan -- but at the same time, the article completely dismisses ideas that the Guardian has put forth, like creating a municipal bank, implementing Avalos' Local Hire legislation, or taxing the rich.

Taxing the rich is precisely the kind of economic solution the international Occupy movement is clamoring for, and the concept has even attracted a few unlikely supporters, like billionaires Warren Buffet and Sean Parker, who is not some conservative a*hole by the way.

"The Guardian ... stays on the progressive agenda because they put it there, along with taxing the rich, tapping downtown to subsidize Muni, and other measures ... Proposing the same old solutions to every new problem turns policies into punch lines."

Speaking of predictable, no profile authored by the Weekly mentioning the Guardian would be complete without some dig about public power. "The Guardian has been flogging public power since Tesla invented the alternating-current generator," the S.F. Weekly squawks. Those clever reporters, turning policies into punch lines.

But wait, I thought the problem was that progressives couldn't get it together on the job creation thing. Consider the CleanPower SF program, which has been strongly advocated for by progressive Sup. and Sheriff-elect Ross Mirkarimi (who it turns out is "not toxic," according to the Weekly, since he was elected citywide and all). According to an analysis by the Local Clean Energy Alliance, CleanPowerSF will create 983 jobs -- 4,357 jobs when indirect job creation is factored in -- over the course of three years, assuming the 51 percent renewable energy target is met. Presented with this kind of information, the Weekly will only yawn and say, "Are we on that again?"

That being said, our friends' article might actually have a pearl of wisdom or two buried somewhere in that nauseating sea of sarcasm. Everyone needs to engage in self-reflection. So right after you're done throwing up, think about how to take advantage of the opportunity this article presents for a citywide dialogue about progressivism in San Francisco.


SFSOS meme machine is alive and well. It has resurfaced as the SF Weekly, the paper for the downtown corporate interests.

No matter how they try to spin it, this election was a major victory for progressives. Even CW Nevius got that much. So, what's the Weekly's problem? Could it that they're still sore over losing that little lawsuit by the Guardian? Pobrecitos!

Honestly, the Weekly is a joke. If you're looking for thoughtful political analysis, that's the last place anyone should turn.

Case in point~ progressives didn't get trounced by moderates. For all the money they spent, the mods couldn't overcome all the "feet on the ground" for Avalos.
Of all the candidates, Avalos spent the LEAST amount of money per voter, at $17 each. Compare this with the spending for Yee, Herrera, and Chiu, the closest competitors, who spent $49, $45, and $44 per voter. Or Ed Lee, who poured more than $1.3 million into his campaign.

As Dylan said, "Money doesn't talk, it swears"~


Posted by Lisa on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

Lisa, as a progressive I agree that the Weekly is mostly a joke but saying that the election was a victory for progressives or comparing money spent per voter I just cannot agree with. Our Mayoral and DA candidates lost and money spent per voter is meaningless. Winning is what matters. Downtown is always going to pour millions into getting their guys elected. That has always been. Until we do something about that system or find a way to circumvent it (district elections have been helpful in this regard) we're going to lose citywide and being best at money spent per voter isn't going to help.

The fact that Ross won is huge, but will hurt us for the next year in D5, but hopefully not any longer than that.

The Weekly piece was a hatchet job of course, and I know it helps sell papers/ads or whatever but I don't see much of a difference between the support Avalos got in this election (roughly 40%) compared to that of Ammiano or Gonzalez.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

constantly i used to read smaller articles or reviews which also clear their
motive, and that is also happening with this post which I am reading at this place.

Posted by Alpha Boilers on Aug. 05, 2012 @ 11:47 am

Well, I agree with you that we need to change the system. But the point is that, even with the system as it is -- in an election with low voter turnout, no less -- a progressive candidate came out of the pack to pose the greatest challenge to the monied interests. If you recall, a lot of folks didn't think that Avalos had a chance. Now, he'll be seen as a serious contender, should he decide to run again. However, you are right, we must work to get the money out of politics.

Posted by Lisa on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

And that's what you're doing.

This progressive challenge was the weakest challenge we've seen in over 10 years. Avalos got significantly less votes than the progressive who ran as a write in candidate in 1999 and the progressive who ran a last minute campaign in 2003.

Look at where you were in 2000, and look at where you are now. Anybody who isn't absolutely headless can see the direction you're heading.

A "major victory", huh? Hate to see what a loss looks like.

Posted by Sam on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

had no opponents on the left, while the center was over-crowded with candidates. So the result really flattered Avalos who was never close to winning.

Lisa wants to change the system every time her side doesn't win, which is every election. It never occurs to her that maybe what her side really needs is policies that resonate with the majority.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

A 60/40 win is definitionally a landslide.

Spin it as much as you like, but SF isn't as liberal as you'd like to believe. It's an affluent town, and most people don't truck with socilaism.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

So gaining the 'support' of 13% of the electorate is a landslide!!
I beg to differ, I suggest it just reflects the advantage of incumbency; the pervasive power of the 'criminal enterprise that controls San Francisco; major unaccountable independent expenditures; violations of at least the spirit, if not the letter, of election law - possibly criminal; the gullibility of the electorate.
Mirkarimi had the support of 18% of the electorate, does that make him the real 'boss' of Baghdad by the Bay.
Just my 2c.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

in the end, you lost by a mile. Learn from that.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

The facts on the ground, the vote totals, simply do not show 13%. They show more like 18-20% for Lee, which is a low enough number to easily make your case.

Exaggerating with the bogus 13% figure just makes progressives look strident and foolish.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

The only percent that matters is the percent that preferred Lee to any of the other 15 candidates. And it was more than 60%. A walk in the park.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:55 pm

Do the math.
# of Registered SF Voters
# of Votes cast for Mr ED. (13%)
# of Votes cast for Mikarimi. (18%)
Please advise if my 'old' math is wrong, I may need a 'new' calculator.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

Total Registered Voters: 464,380

Final Votes For Lee: 84,457
Percent for Lee therefore: 18.2%

Final votes for Mirkarimi: 86,592
Percent for Mirkarimi: 18.7%

Those are the actual numbers.

The reason I'm saying that Lee got between 18% and 20% is that the registered voters number is likely a bit inflated.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

Seems like numbers vary depending on which page you end up on. When I checked before posting these were the listings.
Lee: 59,658.
Mirk: 85,680.
Avalos: 37,362.
My error for trusting anything that comes out of the Hall of Smoke and Mirrors.
Still makes Ross da Boss.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

People really need to say "Excuse the fuck out of me" more often. It's awesome.

Posted by Longtime Lurker on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 9:31 pm

Maybe as XFOM.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

And 60% in the first round would have been a landslide, not 31% in the first round; which is what happened in the real world.

You might want to look into this real world stuff once in a while. It can be very enlightening.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

You can draw succur and solace from any interpretation you like, but the simple fact is that you lost by a wide margin. Losing is tough, but the tough accept it, acknowledge it and face reality.

You're not even close to understanding how iirelevant you are to those who are the majority. You are pissing in the wind. There are few thigns worse than a bad loser. Most of us learn that in sports age about nine.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

How is anything I have written a denial of the obvious fact that progressives lost the election? I was simply countering neanderthals like you, who absurdly seek to claim that Lee's election was some sort of mandate. It clearly wasn't.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

not. Lee's powers are the same either way.

Claiming that a winner has "no mandate" is just a line trotted out by those who lose elections. It's meaningless in the real world.

He has MORE of a mandate than anyone else by a clear margin.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 9:02 am

In '07, with 'no significant competition', Newsom bought 25% of the votes.
In '11, Lee got 13% of the votes; Mirkarimi got 18%; Avalos exceeded expectations.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

and that's in a runoff. It's even more of a landslide under IRV.

Avalos did well. But he was never remotely close to winning. Don't kid yourself that your guy ever had a shot..

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

The left couldn't beat Newsom in 2007 when he was sinking like the Titanic. Period. End of story.

Spin that all you like but that still means failure. Had newsom had a serious challenge there'd have been no run for higher office, no mayor lee and life would have been better for all, progressive or not.

Dare ya to deal with that reality.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

convince a plurality of SF residents that their policies are relevant.

Ammiano, Gonzales, Avalos - the names change but the result does not.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

Newsom would certainly have lost, had not the Dems and the national DLC sent in Clinton, Gore, Jackson and Pelosi to campaign for him.

Your leaving out that little tidbit is absurd.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

Uh... who exactly would he have lost too?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

I mistakenly assumed you were referring to 2003.

2007 is irrelevant.

Newsom was an incumbent made massively popular by his same sex marriage grandstanding. There is no way in hell anyone could have beaten him.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 12:45 am

Had the field been smaller for a Mayoral elect, I believe John would have won in a IRV race. I would love to see it be IRV but with a twist, a run off between the two top vote better's of a IRV doing a run off race.

Posted by Jerry Jarvis on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

You sound desperate in trying to come up with an electoral system that will let you win. But when you have less than 2/5 of voter support, you can't win no matter what the system.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

can you just, shut up

you objectionable, cretinous, dipshit?

thanks in advance

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 7:26 pm
Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

No matter how you try to spin it Lee won and we lost. Trying to make it seem otherwise is foolish, counterproductive and a waste of time. LIVE WITH IT!! The left will new succeed until we learn to face the facts as they are and not try to make them seem otherwise.

Posted by Guest Downtown Resident on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

Hey Eric

You leave out the true fact that Gonzalez refused to do any appeals to mail ballot voters in 2003.

Avalos couldn't - lack of support despite public money .

The prog denial is amazing. Always an excuse never accountable.

Remember the fail known as the progressive convention in 2007...

Posted by Guest on Nov. 23, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

Gonzalez did a limited appeal to VBM in '03. There were scant two weeks between the win and VBM mailed. Elections deviated from their calendar to the benefit of Newsom as well.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 12:03 am

Newsom was an incumbent who had successfully grandstanded on same sex marriage. Of -course- no one made a serious run against him in 2007. It would have been silly. That race proves absolutely nothing about progressive possibilities in San Francisco.

And I'm not sugar coating or apologizing for anything.

I essentially agree with Marcos. Progressive organizers have been totally botching a good thing for the past several years by failing to get on the same page with eachother and forge an effective plan to win the Mayor's office and win back the Board.

Your incessant need to fool yourself into thinking that I am somehow making excuses for that failure, when I'm not, says a lot about your overblown juvenile narcissistic ego; which seems to thrive off of belittling others.

Which of course means that deep inside, you have no respect for, and despise, yourself.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 12:59 am

Eric, I made no comment about progressive organizers. I don't think that there are that many progressive organizers with that many resources.

There are nonprofit employees and organized labor employees who do have resources and who do get paid to do this work.

The vast majority of progressive politics takes place in nonprofit or labor private coffee klatches during mid day.

It is in these several venues that decisions are made which impact on how progressive politics moves forward.

Given the unrepresentative nature of this process and the financial ties between these organizations and corporate and government power, it is no surprise that the outcomes that emerge from this proprietary process get quashed by open and participatory elections.

I mean, the largest single demographic group in SF is white people. Reading N'Tanya's piece, the only way that we are incorporated into the progressive coalition is via the SFBC and queers via the Milk Club.

The Milk Club is not significantly rooted in the 40% of LGBT who are progressive. The SFBC has, what, 10000 members which is what, 1/5 of San Francisco cyclists? In interacting only with other groups instead of doing first instance organizing, professional progressives are leaving electoral resources on the table.

The presumption that people of color or poor people are going to vote progressive because they are people of color or poor, premised on the notion that POC and poverty activists represent POC and poor people, is sadly mistaken by the numbers as measured in outcomes.

That failed approach is predicated upon identity politics that had curried favor in the American left post-1970s but is not held by most identity groups today, at least not for queers that I can see. Fortunately, after a decades long detour, big picture politics is supplanting identity.

What we've got is a threadbare, shopworn coalition the likes of which is not going to be resuscitated by Yet Another Nonprofit Coalition of Community Based Nonprofits With No Base In The Community such as San Francisco Rising Action Fund which gives everyone a reason to not feel welcome in the coalition.

One of the brighter lights in the SFRAF as far as community rootedness goes is Coleman Advocates formerly headed by N'Tanya. But in a City with more dogs than kids, CA is but one building block of a coalition.

We need to metaphorically kill all activists who put their own political interests before the broader interests of progressive San Francisco as represented by its politics more so than identity.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 9:03 am

We don't really disagree. I am somewhat generously referring to the people who you are criticizing as 'organizers'.

But as lame as those 'organizers' are, if they would just get out of their selfish exclusive bunker trenches and all join together to come to consensus on who should be the next mayor, then progressives as a block could win the election. The divide between labor and the rest is particularly ridiculous.

Labor needs to stop supporting every damned thing that ostensibly creates jobs regardless of how badly it screws over the city and people's health and welfare, and instead create an alliance with progressives citywide.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 10:28 am

Organizers actually organize people.

Nonprofits don't organize people, they have more of a base in city and grant funders than in the community .

Labor does not organize anyone new, others did the work to organize the unions.

Activists generally put themselves and their needs first, as one would expect when political work is counted in the division of labor. Ideally everyone would be given 5 hours paid leave per week to participate in politics and we'd dispense with the stalwart activists that nobody really likes anyway.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 10:45 am

As I said I was being generous in calling them 'organizers'. What I'm arguing for is for them to -become- organizers, and/or return to being the organizers that they once used to be before they became bought off and complacent.

But the predicate to that is freeing themselves from relying primarily on City and developer funding sources.

Sticky wicket, but doable.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 10:59 am

even in a liberal city like SF. Every election shows that a solid 55% to 70% of voters want a centrist, moderate Mayor.

You can navel gaze all you want about this tactic and that tactic but, if you haven't got the numbers, you'll never win. And you don't.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 9:04 am

Then how do you explain the fact that progressives won the Board of Supervisors in 2000 and kept it for a full decade, even in the face of a massive onslaught of corporate and developer money to block and unseat them.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 10:39 am

Eric, every year after Daly's last reelection, progressive power as measured by outcomes was cut in half. The Empire Struck Back and progressives did nothing about it.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 11:00 am

I'm just pointing out to 'Anonymous' that his assessment of the electorate is inaccurate. And that we are getting our butts kicked because we are not organizing well, not because San Francisco voters are more centrists than progressive.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 11:17 am

Progressives are losing elections because progressive governance does not incorporate a majority in the services it prioritizes for delivery and the reforms it prioritizes or ignores to make government work for the 99% instead of the 1%. Progressive elected officials often cut deals with the 1% to get what they want for their 20% or less. People notice this and cannot be sold on a progressive candidate again at election time any more than a liberal or progressive will be sold on Obama next year.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 11:33 am

Most people want clean streets, low crime, to not have to step over garbage the homeless and feces on the way to and from their homes, to not have to fight with endless waves of illegal immigrants taking up jobs and putting a huge strain on the city budget, and a mayor who will make sure that these problems are addressed. Your fantasies that most voters are progressive, doesn't change the blatant reality that you are wrong.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 11:58 am

Rose Pak is going to allow Ed Lee to crack down on illegal Chinese immigration? Really?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

At least nationally, Asian immigration is deemed much less of an issue, especially as they out-perform whites on many levels.

But the City has limited freedom to act on immigration anyway.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

To the 1% it is okay to import highly educated Asians fleeing poverty because they drive down American tech wages, but it is not okay to import uneducated Latinos who clean your toilets. Makes perfect sense.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 1:49 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 11:34 am

so some progressive supes will win, typically in the donut hole of the city.

But that doesn't translate into the city-wide mayoral alection.

And moreover, some voters want a "balance of power" and, seeing those supes makes them more likely to vote for a moderate mayor

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 24, 2011 @ 11:16 am