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I've been having mixed feelings about this Matt Gonzalez for Congress thing. I mean, I was one of the first people to start talking (more than a year ago) about how Gonzalez ought to challenge Nancy Pelosi: Despite all the accolades she gets as the first woman minority leader and potentially the first woman speaker of the house, Pelosi is a terrible politician. She's venal, driven by campaign money, and has no real agenda except power. She's the one who privatized the Presidio, potentially paving the way for the privatization of millions of acres of national parkland. And as the representative of one of the most liberal districts in the country, it took her forever to even sort of come out against the war.
My original thought was that Pelosi has never been held accountable for her actions, and a good solid challenge from the left would force her to come back and actually campaign. She'd have to face her constituents, answer some questions — and possibly even move a bit in the direction of the district on some key issues.
Besides, it would send a lovely shock wave through the local Democratic Party, where a significant number of local leaders privately despise Pelosi, but would be pressured by the national heavies to endorse her. We could see who really has political courage in this town.
Of course, there's a serious downside to all of this. Progressive San Francisco is in a somewhat precarious state right now: We have nobody who looks like a mayoral candidate, and the coalition that came together around the Gonzalez mayoral campaign was always fragile anyway. A major congressional campaign by the Greens right now — with the battle to oust the Republicans from the House in full swing — would create a lot of bitter feelings, and the fact that a guy was taking on a nationally prominent woman wouldn't make it any better.
Still, there will always be those issues, and you can always argue that it's not the right time to do something bold and dramatic, and the Green Party has as much right as anyone to run a strong candidate for Congress. A couple of months ago, I was still open to it.
And then it got to be April, and the filing deadline passed, and frankly, I didn't get the sense Gonzalez was that eager. Now some of his allies are pushing him to mount a write-in campaign for the Green Party nomination — and frankly, with all due respect, the whole thing has a sort of last-minute, half-assed look to it.
So I called Gonzalez this week to bat things around, and it turns out he's in almost exactly the same place I am. You want to run for the US Congress against a nine-term incumbent, you have to start early, take it seriously, raise a bunch of money, deal with the problems head-on ... and frankly, that's not where we are right now. "If it was a year ago, I might be thinking different," Gonzalez told me.
So I think he'll pass this time, and I think that's right. But that's not the end of the story. As he pointed out, if the Democrats do retake Congress, they'll probably turn out to be a disappointment on about a hundred levels, and even more power will even further corrupt Pelosi. And if we start thinking about it early enough, 2008 could be a fine year. SFBG