…the real winners here are the same old downtown insiders who are busy popping champagne corks and laughing at Filner’s implosion and cheering the welcome help they are getting from unlikely sources.
By Jim Miller
Whatever the end result of the Filner sexual harassment scandal, it’s clear that even if the mayor beats the odds and survives, his credibility and ability to move a bold populist agenda is severely damaged.
Hence, San Diego’s first truly progressive mayor may have squandered the opportunity to be a transformative figure, the progressive fighter and game changer we had hoped he would be. Worst of all by engaging in abusive behavior towards women, Filner has betrayed the core principles of any progressive politics by failing to respect the civil rights and humanity of women. We don’t need to hear all of the details to know that this is true–he has admitted as much himself.
Additionally, and equally important, Filner’s actions are a betrayal to all those in the broad, historic progressive coalition who worked to elect him. I have spoken to dozens of my friends in labor and community activist groups over the last few days and folks are universally angry and depressed. His fall from grace will have broad and long-term consequences, disillusioning and discouraging people from hoping for change in our city and, discrediting by proxy those who aggressively contest the entrenched interests that Filner had rightfully been fighting. It will take a long time to recover from this.
In addition to the women victimized by Filner’s behavior, the losers in all of this are the people who had never before had a real champion in the mayor’s office—taxi drivers, hotel workers, and the working poor struggling for a living wage; the homeless and forgotten; and the residents of neglected neighborhoods and all of us who never thought we would see a mayor who would challenge the shadow government of private interests that has run this city for its entire history. Of course, San Diego’s power elite hates Filner and was out for blood from the beginning, so his reckless behavior in his workplace is not just morally wrong but criminally stupid.
Ironically, it was not his enemies on the right who have brought Filner down, but former supporters of the mayor. Indeed, as I write this they are building their case by bringing damaging evidence of Filner’s misdeeds to his supporters to pressure him to resign. The calls are in from Lorena Gonzalez to Toni Atkins for the mayor to step down with more to come. There are promises of impending lawsuits and whispers that Marco Gonzalez’s phone is ringing off the hook with stories from other victims.
The sad reality is that whether all of this is true or not, the drip, drip, drip of garbage will surely force him out or eventually get him recalled.
However, surreal and Kafkaesque the press conference that Gonzalez, Frye, and Briggs held was, it was politically effective. And, well-intended or not, their actions set a dangerous precedent of trial by press conference with no evidence. Even scoundrels deserve due process and it was a strange twist of fate that last week it was Manchester’s Union-Tribune that reminded us of this while the CityBeat called on Filner to resign.
While Filner’s apology certainly indicates that there is fire beneath the smoke, to think that a mayor of a major American city should step down without any due process being followed is dangerous. And the reports that some of the same crowd pushing this are simultaneously promoting the ever-opportunistic Nathan Fletcher as our savior in the wings ready to face off against his former Republican allies in a special election should raise some eyebrows. If it was the Lincoln Club doing this, the left would be up in arms about the process. It just doesn’t pass the smell test.
The sad truth here is most likely this: Filner is a creep who betrayed us and crushed our hopes and our self-appointed saviors speaking in the community’s name have overstepped and engaged in a political strategy that, if successful, would let the future of our city be shaped by a handful of insiders who decide the game before anyone even gets the full story.
By demanding Filner’s resignation before the full disclosure of the facts, this strategy seeks to close off the possibility of either redemption and/or a consideration of the option that a one term damaged and humbled Filner might be undesirable but less bad than the alternative and give progressives a chance to come up with a better plan. Maybe, maybe not, but their strategy seeks to kill this discussion before it has a chance to happen.
Trying Filner in the court of public opinion before anything is brought to bear is a skillful strategy for a lawyer but it disrespects the public’s right to know the full story before deciding what is the right course of action. “Just trust me,” doesn’t cut it. Bottom line: whether it’s right wing business interests, Democratic insiders, or powerful attorneys pulling the strings, this kind of inside game maneuvering does a disservice to genuine democracy. It’s business as usual all over again and odds are the die is already cast.
Thus, the real winners here are the same old downtown insiders who are busy popping champagne corks and laughing at Filner’s implosion and cheering the welcome help they are getting from unlikely sources. Unless something unexpected happens, whichever of the usual suspects ends up as our next mayor, the return to normalcy will mean a return to San Diego politics as we have always known them: welcome back to America’s finest tourist plantation. It’s a political circus that makes clowns of us all.