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Turning Points

Apr
23
2004

A few days ago, at a fundraiser for Public Knowledge, I fell into a conversation about San Francisco politics after someone I was talking with suggested this ‘blog was “just” about local politics.
Local politics isn’t considered interesting by Big Media, unless of course, Graydon Carter writes a hard-hitting expose on New York City’s anti-smoking policies. But San Francisco is unusual in a number of respects. Its ethnic diversity, for starters. But so is the way in which the city has been pulled and tugged by the sudden influx of a newly wealthy group of young, efficient-minded business people. I wrote about this a few years ago; it’s the political force that elected Gavin Newsom and makes Plan C an increasingly important part of San Francisco politics. The city’s staunch traditional Liberalism combined with this new way of looking at things – that Progressive Libertarianism I keep babbling about – is forging some interesting political perspectives and creating some new political figures.
The highest profile this week is District Attorney Kamala Harris. With her refusal to ask for the death penalty against the young man who shot SF Police officer Isaac Espinoza, Harris is staring down the department’s union rank and file and its top brass. For too long, Democrats anxious not be seen as soft on crime have used the death penalty as a way to prove their top cop mettle. It’s an approach that’s worked pretty effectively. But this nation’s frequent use of death penalty earns it (more) enmity overseas and, even more interestingly, it’s under attack by a supposedly conservative Supreme Court. Harris’ position may, over time, prove to be a smart play for her own career as well as her party’s.
Mayor Gavin Newsom is getting huzzahs from all over, most recently in this week’s SFWeekly which quotes New Democratic Network executive director Simon Rosenberg extolling the new mayor’s virtues. Much of what the NDN likes about Newsom – his business savvy, his pragmatism – has yet to be tested: His ability to manage the city. In letting the city issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Newsom has upped his profile and carved out – like Harris – a piece of political turf all his own.
Centrist Democrats have long wrapped themselves in the language of social and fiscal moderation, to get out from under the “tax and spend” label. Newsom is going to try to do one – solve a budget mess — without the other and it’s not clear where he’s headed or if he will succeed. But again, this could be a turning point – an important one that forges a pragmatic business sense with a refreshing social liberalism — for the Democratic Party.
All politics is local. But some local politics is more interesting than others.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:23 AM | Permalink

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