By Jim Miller
Last Tuesday, fortune favored the bold. David Alvarez defied the pundits and political insiders and beat the prohibitive favorite, Nathan Fletcher, in the race to face Kevin Faulconer in the run-off to be San Diego’s next mayor. This was a seminal moment for San Diego—perhaps the biggest political upset in history of the city.
It just wasn’t supposed to happen. Guys like this aren’t supposed to have a chance. Nobody knew who he was, the favored one had already been chosen, and all the experts thought he couldn’t win. He had powerful party insiders opposing him, the Governor of California campaigned against him, Sacramento politicians came out of the woodwork to support his opponent, and he was down near the single digits in the polls.
Everybody knew it was a crazy to run a little-known Latino councilman from South of 8 in a low turnout special election against a well-funded, favored son of the local establishment. It wasn’t his turn. The deck was stacked against him. Only folks who’d lost their minds would support him.
Then he won. David beat Goliath.
What was important about the interparty conflict that the primary represented was not the battle of personalities that much of the local media is obsessed with but the contest of political philosophies and orientations it represented. Alvarez’s unexpected triumph was a victory for progressives over corporate Democrats, activist over machine politics, and social movement unionism over business unionism. Like De Blassio’s win in New York City and similar triumphs of progressive populists across the country, Alvarez’s victory is a sign that business as usual inside the Democratic party and in the country as a whole can be successfully challenged.
And the consequence of all this is that the historic pivot toward a new, diverse, inclusionary San Diego has a chance to continue. Alvarez’s candidacy redeems the promise of a better San Diego that Filner betrayed. Thus out of a summer scandal and a fall of discord, new hope has been born.
On Tuesday night, you could see it in the joyful crowd of people celebrating the Alvarez comeback at Bread and Salt in Barrio Logan. It was multiracial, young and old, blue and white collar—a living embodiment of the notion of the beloved community. As a friend posted on social media, “No matter what the eventual election results are, I hope the Alvarez watch party is what the future of San Diego looks like.”
It is, and the future is now. And that’s something we should be excited about.
Surely, it won’t be easy, but we can do this. The Lincoln Club will crank up their hate machine and Manchester Inc. will unleash its toxic word hoard defaming all things Alvarez as the next Fliner nightmare brought to you by union thugs while Kevin Faulconer does his best neighborhood loving Filner imitation brought to you by downtown power brokers and developer money. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll no doubt remind you that David Alvarez is a “south of 8” guy in as many ways as they can muster.
But no matter how hard they try, they can’t change the fact that it’s not their San Diego anymore. Our city is move diverse, democratic, and less inclined to believe that Republicans in sheep’s clothing have their interests in mind.
And Faulconer is no moderate. He is bought and paid for, business as usual brought to you by a back room meeting between the House of Manchester and the Chamber of Commerce crew. Simply put, he doesn’t believe in Republican or Democratic potholes, he just spits out the party line from the memory hole at the Union Tribune.
Thus the business as usual crew are crowing and popping champagne corks now that they have their desired opponent. There is no way he can win. Not in this election with all their money and connections against him. It just can’t happen . . . until we make it happen and David beats Goliath, again.