Democracy… sort of

Spectacular October weather here in San Francisco. Yesterday, Saturday the 30th, Med-o and I went for a late afternoon walk in search of a coffee. Up Cole Valley we strolled, and came upon a very odd sight: at Carl and Cole, clusters of campaigners for District 5 Supervisorial candidates jammed all four corners, clamoring for attention. As we drew closer, we learned that Ross Mirkarimi was there, as was Lisa Feldstein, and the big draw was Mayor Gavin Newsom hisself… we wandered into it with no particular idea of why or what we’d see… It was just a sunny moment of “real” democracy. Wasn’t it? Newsom was there to give a boost among the presumably “moderate” (i.e. rich) voters in Cole Valley for his guys, Andrew Sullivan and Nick Waugh (never heard of Waugh until yesterday).

We ran into Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai, with whom we’d just been on Thursday night at the opening night of The Political Edge at City Lights (we’re all three in it, I edited it). She’s ardently campaigning for Ross M., and she introduced us. I’d never met him before, and he was a bit wary as I launched into my usual disdain for electoral politics. But I told him about the awesome Critical Mass and he was congratulatory and enthused about that, as he was about the book, too, sight unseen. I warned him that some of it would probably piss him off, since he was the campaign spokesperson for Gonzalez after all. Anyhow, after chatting with Jason Henderson for a bit (he was out there for Lisa Feldstein because, as he explained, she was a calm and clear-headed planner who has no difficulty dealing with issues like LOS–level of service–which seemed reasonable enough, if a bit passionless!), we headed back to get a coffee and weirdly, the entourage with Newsom, which had been going from shop to shop, shaking hands, happened to have entered the cafe just minutes before we got there. We sat on a bench next to a pleasant dark-haired Goth-ish woman, who complained in our direction that all she wanted was a cup of coffee, and this circus had blocked her. The Waugh and Sullivan sign bearers were mostly young-ish, rather scruffier than I would have expected, and I got no sense of why they were there, other than the celebrity factor of Newsom’s presence. Maybe they were getting paid? So finally Newsom and the two candidates emerged from the cafe, and weirdly, started working their way towards us. Normally I would have gotten the hell out of there, but I had already decided I should do something vaguely useful with this serendipitous moment. My pals cleared out, but I stayed on the bench, wondering if they would actually approach me. Suddenly here’s Gavin looking over at me with a flash of vague familiarity. I appreciated his humanness at that moment in a way that I really didn’t expect to. He seemed kind of vulnerable and not at all robot-like. But I had my plan. He came to me smiling, and as I shook his hand, I looked right at him and said “So, a 2-year deal for Local 2, right?” He was really surprised, and I held his hand a bit longer than expected. He was blindsided, but Sullivan rushed to help him, as they both blurted something like “it has to be negotiated… yeah, that’s right, there has to be negotiations…” I guess that was their pre-arranged talking point on the Hotel Lockout. I insisted on the 2-year deal, and Newsom actually started to say he thought they’d have to go for a 3 year deal, “give the other cities a chance to ‘catch up'” and that’s when my previous conversations with Med-o and Jason and Ross and Ahimsa was clearly confirmed. Newsom is only grandstanding with the workers so as to get them back to work for the holidays, and also to gain the credibility to force their negotiators to agree to a deal that will undercut their future leverage. Newsom and his guys then withdrew as quickly as they could, repeating part 2 of their talking point for the issue, which was that you can’t hold a gun to people’s heads and expect to negotiate, so the hotels should end the lockout. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Anyway, it was fun to confront him in a friendly way with a gnarly issue that he is clearly stuck on. Most anti-Newsom folks see him as this brillantly shrewd tactician, and I suppose that might be true. He seemed sort of normal, young, and not that deep at the point of contact yesterday, but what politician would act any different at that moment? Clearly I wasn’t a warm supporter. It was a fun mini-exercise in some kind of democracy, not sure exactly what kind…
Meanwhile, the breathless GOTV exhortations of the Democratic/Indy bloggers like Daily Kos or My DD and their never-ending updates of polls, reports of fraud and scams, etc., have been more fun than the sports pages lately… at least since the Red Sox won. If their hard work is accurate, Kerry should win pretty easily. Gore was behind in 2000 going into the election and won the popular vote by a good margin. Kerry tied in the polls, the incumbent factor, all that, it should break for him easily, and he wins the popular vote by millions (especially when all the Eminem fans go to vote! just joking) and the electoral college with over 300… we’ll see. It’ll all go to the courts anyway, regardless.

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