The Ro Khanna party

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When Ro Khanna, a young, energetic intellectual property lawyer, ran for Congress against Tom Lantos, he was the candidate of the progressives. I liked Khanna, and appreciated his willingness to take on the almost unheard-of task of challenging a longtime incumbent in a Democratic primary. At that point, in 2004, the big issues were the war and the PATRIOT Act, and Khanna was against both. Lantos, who was always hawkish on defense issues (and a die-hard supporter of Israel, no matter what the Israeli government was doing), was clearly out of touch with his district. But Khanna never got much traction, and he lost pretty badly.

Now he's back, in a new era of top-two primaries (which has its own problems), and in a different district. He's taking on Mike Honda, who, like Lantos, has been around a while, and hasn't faced serious opposition in years.

And this time around, it's not Matt Gonzalez and the left supporting Khanna -- it's Lite Guv Gavin Newsom, who beat Gonzalez for mayor of SF, along with Ron Conway and the tech industry. And  instead of talking about failed US military policies, he's talking about bringing the interests of Silicon Valley to Washington:

“The premise of this campaign is quite simple,” Khanna told the crowd. “We’ve had quite brilliant people…use technology to change the world. And it’s time that we actually change politics, that Silicon Valley has the potential to do this.” “It’s not just about having a tech agenda. This is about something much deeper — our values, and our ability to use those values to change Washington and the world,” he told them.

Now: It's not as if Mike Honda has been horrible to Silicon Valley. He's been involved in all sorts of tech-related issues. But he's of a different generation, and however stereotypical it may be to say it, there's a certain level of ageism in the tech world right now. Honda is old; the wealth in the tech world is overwhelmingly young. Politico notes:

Khanna’s decision to take on Honda also reflects a long-standing frustration among many young California pols who have been patiently waiting for older members to exit the state’s congressional delegation. Last year’s induction of an independent redistricting committee and a jungle primary system in which the top two finishers in an open primary advance to the runoff regardless of party affiliation, helped push many senior members into retirement.

Oh, and Honda is very much a pro-labor guy. And tech firms are almost never unionized, and their owners and workers don't tend to have the same sympathies for labor unions as young activists did 20 years ago.

Politico doesn't give Khanna much of a shot; it's going to be a tough battle. Honda's been around the district forever, and has no apparent scandals or gaffes (and unlike poor Pete Stark, he doesn't seem to be losing his marbles).

But money talks, and Khanna's got a lot of it -- and in some ways, this will be a new-money-v.-old-Democratic Party, tech v. labor kind of battle that will say a lot about where Bay Area politics are going as the region's population, and wealth, are dramatically and rapidly changing.

Comments

You know, it is possible for someone to be against the Patriotic Act and the war and still agree with Moderates when it comes to Silicon Valley. It sounds like Khanna isn't interested in blindly following the Progressive party line. Nothing crazy about that.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2013 @ 11:53 am

Didn't say it was crazy. Just that he's taking a different approach now.

Posted by tim on May. 17, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

Fair enough :)

Good form publishing the Techie's op-ed, by the way. That was an impressive display of integrity.

Posted by Snoozers on May. 17, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

I love these little asides from Tim:

"Lantos...was clearly out of touch with his district."

Lantos beat Khanna 74% to 20% (3.7:1) in the primary.

In November he beat Mike Garza 68% to 21% (3.2:1).

Apparently those stupid voters didn't even realize that Lantos was out of touch with them.

Posted by Troll on May. 17, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

touch" with San Franciscans, even though he thrashed the "in touch" Avalos in the election.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

I suspect the latter.

Lantos was out of touch on the issues. Even he knew it, because he was on his way out even before he kicked the bucket. All that was needed was the right candidate, the right moment, and he'd be toast. He knew that, and that's why he wasn't going to run.

It's the same phenomenon as with Jane Harman, another out of touch congresscritter. When she was nearly upset by openly anti-Zionist activist Marcy Winograd, who never ran for office, Harman knew it was time to take that corporate sinecure before she got defeated.

With Lantos it was a matter of time before somebody's primary challenge caught fire. His days of going unchallenged on his bullshit were over and he knew it. Didn't happen with Khanna, but it would happen with the next person, or the next. Sometimes it takes a couple tries to shatter the veneer of invincibility. That's the way it works sometimes. Troll knows it too, but Troll doesn't want to acknowledge it, because he'd rather take a cheap rhetorical shots... because Troll is well, a Troll.

Posted by Greg on May. 17, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

Hardly a nail biter.

And your insinuation that Lantos caught cancer and died because he knew he'd be defeated in the next Democratic primary is repulsive. It's also impossible to prove a negative so you are, as usual, talking out your ass. Jackie Speier is as strong a supporter of Israel as was Lantos.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 17, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

Lantos was going to resign even before he kicked the bucket.

And given the dynamics of the Harman-Winograd race, 42% is quite impressive for an unknown against an entrenced incumbent. She resigned because she knew that it would be a matter of (short) time before she'd be defeated.

Posted by Greg on May. 18, 2013 @ 9:51 am

and run as Green for Harman's seat - taking 9% in the next election.

Yeah - she's got a real future. Behind a 7/11 counter somewhere.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 18, 2013 @ 11:12 am

The fact that Greens have a hard time making inroads under our political system is completely irrelevant to the point I was making.

Posted by Greg on May. 18, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

Lantos was replaced by Speier, who is as stalwart a backer of Israel as was Lantos whose Zionism was rooted in the fact that he survived a Nazi concentration camp. Harman's successor is also a strong supporter of Israel.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 18, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

Both Harman and Lantos were out of touch on foreign policy issues, they saw the writing on the wall after their primary challenges, and they decided to leave office before suffering the humiliation of being defeated in another primary. In Lantos's case, he just croaked before he could leave.

Cut the BS sophistry already. This was pretty well-known and widely talked about in political circles.

Posted by Greg on May. 19, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

Greg-

About: "It's the same phenomenon as with Jane Harman, another out of touch congresscritter. When she was nearly upset by openly anti-Zionist activist Marcy Winograd"

Harman beat Winograd 59% to 41%.

You need to realize that the voices in your head don't always jive with what the rest of us are seeing back on planet earth. Sorry.

And Lantos' margins of victory went beyond standard incumbency.

Sorry that reality isn't what you'd like it to be. But trying to make up an alternate is a real challenge.

Posted by Troll on May. 18, 2013 @ 6:02 am

There are couple of points that are not resonating well with me in this article. One, what makes the author think Ro Khanna speaking about bringing the interests of Silicon Valley to Washington makes him a not progressive candidate? During his campaign against Lantos, the country was getting engaged in two wars so obviously that was his primary concern. Now as we are emerging from a worst economic crisis, it is not only logical to deal with efforts promoting our manufacturing and economy, it is the most responsible thing to do. Just because he is focused on job creation and manufacturing, it doesn't make him any less of a progressive candidate. His fundamental social values remains the same. If you listen to him speak, you will realize that. Secondly, it doesn't matter who supported him then and who is supporting him now. What matters is whether voters in the district want change or not? The district is the heart of tech industry, it is only natural that they feel they have to promote someone who understands technology. This is the golden opportunity they have been waiting. They have finally found a candidate who is brilliant, tech savvy, determined and most of all with a keen mind to business and economy. This has nothing to do with ageism.
Anyway, it is going to be a fascinating race to watch. Love the new California top two candidates law, without it there will not be any chance for new ideas or new leadership.

Posted by Shobana Ramamurthi on May. 17, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

There are couple of points that are not resonating well with me in this article. One, what makes the author think Ro Khanna speaking about bringing the interests of Silicon Valley to Washington makes him a not progressive candidate? During his campaign against Lantos, the country was getting engaged in two wars so obviously that was his primary concern. Now as we are emerging from a worst economic crisis, it is not only logical to deal with efforts promoting our manufacturing and economy, it is the most responsible thing to do. Just because he is focused on job creation and manufacturing, it doesn't make him any less of a progressive candidate. His fundamental social values remains the same. If you listen to him speak, you will realize that. Secondly, it doesn't matter who supported him then and who is supporting him now. What matters is whether voters in the district want change or not? The district is the heart of tech industry, it is only natural that they feel they have to promote someone who understands technology. This is the golden opportunity they have been waiting. They have finally found a candidate who is brilliant, tech savvy, determined and most of all with a keen mind to business and economy. This has nothing to do with ageism.
Anyway, it is going to be a fascinating race to watch. Love the new California top two candidates law, without it there will not be any chance for new ideas or new leadership.

Posted by Shobana on May. 17, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

There are couple of points that are not resonating well with me in this article. One, what makes the author think Ro Khanna speaking about bringing the interests of Silicon Valley to Washington makes him a not progressive candidate? During his campaign against Lantos, the country was getting engaged in two wars so obviously that was his primary concern. Now as we are emerging from a worst economic crisis, it is not only logical to deal with efforts promoting our manufacturing and economy, it is the most responsible thing to do. Just because he is focused on job creation and manufacturing, it doesn't make him any less of a progressive candidate. His fundamental social values remains the same. If you listen to him speak, you will realize that. Secondly, it doesn't matter who supported him then and who is supporting him now. What matters is whether voters in the district want change or not? The district is the heart of tech industry, it is only natural that they feel they have to promote someone who understands technology. This is the golden opportunity they have been waiting. They have finally found a candidate who is brilliant, tech savvy, determined and most of all with a keen mind to business and economy. This has nothing to do with ageism.
Anyway, it is going to be a fascinating race to watch. Love the new California top two candidates law, without it there will not be any chance for new ideas or new leadership.

Posted by Shobana on May. 17, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

I liked him when he ran against that creep Lantos. I voted for him.

Then I heard he had his sights set on Pete Stark's district. But unlike Swalwell, he placed his bets on Stark winning, and decided to wait for Stark to retire. Maybe he was still smarting from his poor showing against Lantos and decided that wasn't the best path to power. But he made the wrong bet there as well.

So now he's shopping for another district -Honda's. And he's decided he wouldn't wait, because somebody else (with more roots in the district perhaps?) might jump in before he can make his move.

I'm beginning to see a pattern here, and it's not a good one. This guy wants power at any cost, and he wants it now. He'll say whatever he thinks people want to hear to get it. I wish he would just go away. Get a job, loser.

It's not just agism, it's something even uglier. Class entitlement. Some dude gets lucky in business, gets a bunch of money, and suddenly thinks he's god's gift to humankind. Suddenly he (or she... Meg, and Carly, I'm looking at you) thinks he's entitled to hold a high government position because supposedly he's some kind of expert. Umm... no dude. You just got lucky. But if you think you're such an awesome whiz kid, go start another business. What's that you say? Oh, you want to "help the community" (by being elected to a plum position of power for yourself, natch). Well I have a better idea. Take that money you're going to spend on your damn campaign and give it to some poor children. That's going to do a lot more to help the community than grabbing a fancy position for yourself. Get lost.

And btw... shame on the Guardian for not lifting a finger for Pete Stark, one of the most decent congressmen we've ever had.

Posted by Greg on May. 17, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

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