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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Tragedy of Gavin Newsom & Chris Daly’s Shared Flaw

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 12:48 PM

By Benjamin Wachs

No one could reasonably accuse Gavin Newsom of being a foe of gay marriage.

And yet – as has been widely reported – he has recently done more damage to his cause célèbre than anyone in the last few weeks.

The Prop 8 ad showing Newsom gloating that gay marriage is coming “whether you like it or not,” in a tone that manages to cross an old-style revivalist preacher with an angry Jewish mother, has turned voters who were willing to believe that gay marriage is about love into voters who are now convinced that it’s about “who’s-in-charge-here.”

Gavin’s intentions were good, and his policy was the right one, but his self-righteousness may have done us in.

Now comes a massive advertising campaign against three of the progressive movement’s rising stars. Moderate Democrats and business groups are spending big money attacking supervisorial candidates Eric Mar (in District 1), David Chiu (in District 3), and John Avalos (in District 11).

What’s the substance of the attack? Is it their policies? Is it their records? Naw – it’s that they’re supported by Chris Daly.

“Let’s not hand the city to Chris Daly and his puppets,” one ad says.

Now, the idea that Daly would support progressive supervisorial candidates is not exactly a shocker. Were we expecting him to endorse a Republican?

But his endorsement of the movement he belongs to can still be used against that movement with the same stunning efficacy with which Gavin Newsom’s endorsement of gay marriage can be used as a weapon against gay marriage.

Why? Because Daly’s self-righteousness has alienated everyone to the right of Abbie Hoffman.

Simply by mentioning Daly’s name, the opponents of a progressive Board of Supervisors can turn this from a race about municipal issues to a question of who’s-in-charge-here.

Daly’s intentions are good, and sometimes his policies are too (shocking but true), but his self-righteousness may do his own movement in.

Newson and Daly, two politicians, equal and opposite in every way, sharing one fatal flaw: it’s like a Greek tragedy, performed by sock puppets.

Like any tragedy, there’s also a moral to this story, and it’s one I’d to share with every self-righteous activist, radical, revolutionary, and political artist in San Francisco – most of whom are of the same breed.


Honestly, what does it take to convince you that condescension isn’t good political strategy? That gloating doesn’t advance your agenda? That often in politics humility is the price you pay for winning?

I mention this because, recently, I’ve been having a recurring nightmare. It starts off with a penguin in a fire hat, but that’s not the important part. No, the important part is this: after a big Obama win, the left coast goes into such a paroxysm of in-your-face celebration, condescension, and bragging about a progressive agenda that will sweep the nation “whether you like it or not,” that they’ll turn the Obama presidency into a question of who’s-in-charge-here.

That would encourage congressmen across the country to oppose us by opposing Obama, thus risking a set of policies our country desperately needs.

If the price of victory is keeping our mouths shut while we work, I don’t know if San Francisco’s activist community wants to win that much. I’m terrified that, if it comes down to winning quietly or gloating and sabotaging Obama’s agenda, we’ll choose gloating.

If you don’t want that to happen, better start practicing now. Think about how much easier Gavin Newsom and Chris Daly’s lives would be if they had.

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Benjamin Wachs


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