November 11, 2007
Was There an Election?
San Francisco is the northern hub of one of the world's most demanding arenas for success in leadership, so why did Gavin Newsom have no true competitors in his renewal bid as the city’s CEO?
In 2003, Newsom was elected from a field of six candidates, all of whom had served at high levels of city government. Newsom won a spirited run-off race by fewer than four percentage points.
This year Newsom was opposed by a homeless cab driver, a florist, a music professor, two bloggers, a nudist, a showman named “Chicken John,” and a sex club owner, according to Wednesday’s edition of SF Gate.
It would be exciting if we could interpret this diverse group as a sign of vibrant direct democracy, an anti-elitist collection of candidates from the polis worthy of the Athens of Pericles.
But it isn't - it's the most recent example of politics as entertainment, where the news is the daily punch line and we are the butt of the joke. (And here’s the follow-up laugh: The city’s DA actually did run unopposed. She won.)
It's not as though the mayor has overwhelmed us with competence. Citizens are unhappy about the homeless, the increase in violent crime, the public transit system, the state of the city’s streets, the failed wifi project, etc.
Granted, the homeless and the Muni are chronic problems, but there is the sense that Newsom reversed Willie Brown’s gains in public transit, and the Care Not Cash program has had no visible effect on the homeless problem.
The move that supporters cite most was his decision to legalize same-sex marriages. Cheers to him for this great move, but his follow-through was to quietly agree to a California Supreme Court stopping the marriages only a month after the ceremonies were first performed. Progressive disobedience or a low-risk PR maneuver?
In almost every campaign interview he is compelled to say, "I've learned from my mistakes." Cheers again, but is that a slogan worthy of unchallenged re-election? I'm not native to this city, and am fairly new here. It makes me wonder, have San Franciscans given up on government?
Business leaders support Newsom, so he must be doing something right for the moneyed class. Are so many so rich in this town that they feel beyond the reach of politics, other than hiding the homeless and keeping taxes as low as possible?
How much of the problem stems from failures in the city and state political parties? Is it because traditional media outlets have become so compromised and beholden to the status quo, while most of the new media voices are so wrapped up in social networking and widgets that we've become numb?
Is this the legendary California "whatever" attitude? Is he in the waxing phase of our media-culture cycle of building up and tearing down our heroes? Is it the Clinton apologia, a cute boy running the show who just refuses to grow up, but what are you gonna do? And, he has so much charisma?
Or maybe all of us just complain, but are in truth perfectly happy here because it's warm enough for palm trees, it is breathtaking when you drive up and over one of the hills and see the water and the bridges and Marin. Oh, and the restaurants are great even though the price to pay for all that is a real estate market that is above most people's probable reach.
People actually compare Newsom to Kennedy. When you read a Kennedy speech you are moved to become the best version of yourself you can be, even if you are not a supporter. When you hear Newsom say something like, "My philosophy is Fail Fast Forward," it feels like a catchy phrase that does not inspire the heart at all and is anorexic of substance.
How can this man have 75-80% approval ratings when I find so few who admire him? Even if you are one of them, wouldn't you have wanted to have at least one other interesting, substantive choice on the menu?
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you said it!
I ended up voting for the Mayor even though I don't know that he's done a particularly good job, or really cares that much because I just couldn't give my vote to silly season candidates.
It's really unfortunate that the supposedly concerned Real Candidates couldn't have just found a little courage and ran - they might have won.
Part of winning elections is showing up - and so many didn't so Gavin won.
Posted by: greg dewar | Nov 12, 2007 10:33:03 AM
Spot on Greg. Not just elections. So much part of LIFE is just showing up -- and so many don't. You get from life what you give.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Nov 12, 2007 1:13:19 PM
Thanks to "Down the Avenue" for posting this. Whoever wrote it, keep on writing! Greg and Renee have it right. Far to few of us show up. My hope is, with time, this new media can have a positive impact.
So please keep writing.
Posted by: Sharon | Nov 13, 2007 7:48:15 AM