(Note: I wrote this on July 11, 2013, but opted not to post at that tumultuous time).
The dramatic responses are warranted. We worked so hard.
I’m a single parent, and I felt compelled to donate more than I had ever contributed to a candidate. A modest amount, sure, but a sacrifice for me and my family. I was inspired to fundraise and organize and lend my small voice to the fight for Filner v DeMaio.
Carl DeMaio’s wild-eyed single term on council was marked by tirades against city employees – and self-satisfied opposition to seemingly anyone without expressly capitalist and privately-funded agendas. He was determined to set himself apart, and mostly on issues that further oppressed San Diego’s poorest, would diminish the integrity of any non-obviously monetary value of our local environmental resources, and in opposition to the majority of citizens he didn’t feel the need to win over.
His extremist vision and mayoral bid had to be stopped. So many people, many of whom were previously apathetic, rose up. The people rose up.
Bob Filner, “Freedom Rider,” citing bleeding heart Kennedy quotations and MLK, was combative but began to feel like a fighter for the people.
We were stunned. San Diego is supposed to be “nice,” but for most of those who coalesced around the Filner for Mayor campaign, we had been silenced and marginalized for so long, having a prizefighter for our interests was a dream we’d long forgotten to dream.
We were no longer only rallying against the terrifying, exteme DeMaio vision for stark sequestration and enmity of working people, but FOR a feisty new ideal, a candidate who was beginning to embody a progressive ideal for San Diego. Where regular people have a voice at City Hall – a seat at the table – “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Cue the knowing laughter.
Donna Frye, David Alvarez, Todd Gloria, Marti Emerald campaigned tirelessly on Bob’s behalf. Volunteers walked, called, walked again. Urged friends. Passionately advocated. Prodded friends some more.
We did it. We WON. It was GLORIOUS!
Over the past months, many of the results of Bob’s combative public persona have been exciting to observe, and gratifying. A take-no-prisoners approach that seems to thrive on, not fear, combat.
He’s smart and savvy. He seemed to be winning most of the principled fights. It’s been easy to cheer him on, especially for those of us who prefer to passively think “people will just do the right things if they have all the facts,” which actually doesn’t work in politics most of the time.
In my personal life, I’ve been in relationships that, despite much hope, potential, promise, and desire, eventually fail those aspirations enough to warrant painfully parting from them. Applying this real-life wisdom to San Diego progressive politics: there’s a line. There comes a time when we cannot turn a blind eye and absorb the disappointments, some of those with questionable legality, any longer.
At some point, all of our donated hours and personal investments have been worth the effort, but we realize with information it’s time for them to be redirected.
So, San Diego: you have now had a taste of your voice being heard. You’ve learned it takes more than an election, and it’s time to continue those efforts. You’ve felt the exhilarating “I backed the right guy: look at him go!” feeling… but as you learn there’s a dark side to this persona, one that does not reflect a reconcilable, justifiable ethic, it compels a different position.
We came this far. We’ve accomplished so much. We’ve been betrayed – all of us. Let the anger fuel a new direction.
Part of the failure came from putting our “salvation” in the hands of one (strong mayor) person. Part of it came as a result of poor collective community, organization, and expression of failed values. Perhaps part of it is the result of wanting more beautiful, carefree beach days with our families. But now: we know it takes constant engagement to ensure our interests will be protected.
Our next leaders will be better for the lesson. We’ll have to be closer, more consistently engaged, to be effective.
And we’re not willing to blame victims nor compromise on basic ethical principles to obtain our vision.