Friday, July 01, 2011

Andrew Cuomo, Gavin Newsom, and a local alternative to gesture politics

In the wake of the legalization of gay marriage in New York, we are having an Andrew Cuomo boomlet. Could the New York governor, whose deft leadership of that fight stands in such contrast to our pleasant but too-reserved President, be the great Democratic hope of 2016? Apparently not, if we are to believe Eric Alterman at the Nation. In his home state, Cuomo is known for tax breaks for the rich and cuts in vital services for the poor and middle class; he's just another governor in the current Republican mode, regardless of his nominal party affiliation.

National pundits should consult San Franciscans about this sort of political slight of hand. We've just survived seven years of a mayor, Gavin Newsom, whose sole achievement was grasping the symbolic torch for gay equality in 2004, allowing the city to issue marriage licenses while the state still banned same-sex marriage. This blowhard gesture was swept away by the courts and Californians remain in a long tough slog that will eventually overcome opposition to legal equality for LGBT people. But Newsom's gesture disarmed opposition to him from more gullible liberals and gave him a reputation that survived a subsequent administration that was
  • mean -- grounded in beating up on homeless people;
  • petulant -- the guy wouldn't talk to a critical Board of Supervisors, the city's legislative body;
  • and disengaged -- Newsom was too busy bedding his political consultant's wife and going to alcohol rehab to attend to the city.
Naturally he thought this record of sterling accomplishment qualified him to be governor of the state until blown away by our growling but tough retread, Jerry Brown. Newsom has ended (and I do hope this is the end for this empty suit) in the meaningless Lt. Governor slot in Sacramento, pulled in by the Democratic sweep last November.

But Newsom's still a "liberal" in good standing for dummies, credited with support for gay rights. Let's make sure we don't give Andrew Cuomo this kind of pass. We need Democrats who use political power to level the playing field for the majority, not to pamper their rich backers. Gestures shouldn't cut it.


Meanwhile, Newsom's welcome departure to a dusty attic leaves San Francisco with an interesting mayor's race, as the New York Times has gotten around to noticing. Unfortunately, like most of the media, the newspaper is fixated on an incumbent acting mayor who is not going to run and on the big money ConservaDem candidates.

The article barely mention the real progressive in the race, Supervisor John Avalos, who goes into this wide open election with the strong support of most of the city's tenant and progressive base -- a solid 30 percent. How the race plays out will be interesting: it's genuinely hard to predict, we have good campaign finance provisions that help equalize the playing field, and we vote using a ranked choice system, so our lesser evil picks can matter. I'm doing all I can to help this tough progressive win; it would be a novel experience to have a mayor I could believe in.


Ronni Bennett said...

You know, I get so tired of them all. It doesn't take more than about one hand to count the politicians who are not venal, mean, money-grubbers or completely absent mentally.

What to do? What to do?

sfmike said...

Thanks for the Cuomo advisory, and your wrapup and hopes for the end of Gavin are shared here completely.

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