A person walks past the Student Health Center at City College of San Francisco on Friday, December 8, 2017 in San Francisco, Calif.Photo: Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle 2017
In addition to smoking marijuana, college students can now major in it.
City College of San Francisco announced on Thursday it is planning to offer a degree in cannabis studies, which it says is the first of its kind in the United States.
“The degree is as an introduction to the complex biopsychosocial relationship of humans to cannabis in multiple cultural, institutional and interpersonal contexts,” CCSF officials said in announcing the cannabis studies associate of arts degree, suggesting that marijuana studies can be as much of a grind as any other college major.
Students will be required to take three three-unit cannabis classes — Introduction to Cannabis, Anthropology of Cannabis and Psychology of Psychoactive Drugs — and choose from other classes on such subjects as criminal justice, drug wars, and magic, witchcraft and religion.
“We’re behavioral scientists. We make everything complicated,” said Jennifer Dawgert-Carlin, chair of the behavioral sciences department which is offering the cannabis major.
Students will study marijuana as it relates to crime, race, income, business, revolution, religion and world history. They will do everything that can be done with marijuana except smoke it.
CCSF is a federally funded institution, City College Trustee Tom Temprano said, and federal law forbids cannabis students from partaking in cannabis — at least for now.
“Let’s see what happens in a Biden administration,” he said.
CCSF officials hope the new major — four years in the planning — piques student interest and boosts enrollment at the traditionally cash-starved campus. At present, the college is ready to welcome 100 or so cannabis majors.
The official description of the coursework required of all cannabis students suggests that cutting classes to light up is not a good idea.
According to a syllabus for Introduction to Cannabis Studies, students will explore the “social identity, regulation and enforcement (of marijuana) through the lens of social power and inequity.”
Students must write a four- to five-page paper “demonstrating an awareness (of) the role of mass media in shaping hegemonic narratives,” the kind of sentence best parsed while abstaining.
Psychatrist and pain specialist Dr. Michael H Moskowitz, MD, signs his latest book ‘Medical Cannabis: A Guide for Patients, Practitioners, and Caregivers’ for a patient on Thursday, February 22, 2018, in San Rafael, Calif.Photo: Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle
Students enrolled in the Anthropology of Cannabis class will study the “archaeological evidence of cannabis use” by other civilizations and read up on such subjects as the “biblical representations of cannabis” in the Old and New testaments.
In Psychology of Psychoactive Drugs, students will make 3-D clay models of the nerve cells of drug users. Other CCSF cannabis classes offered through its extension division will deal with manufacturing and selling cannabis.
The hope, said Dawgert-Carlin, is that cannabis students will transfer to four-year colleges — even though, she conceded, no four-year college offers a cannabis studies program. Students will have to switch to other fields, she said.
All CCSF classes in the new major will have cannabis quizzes, cannabis homework, a cannabis midterm and a cannabis final exam. There will also be cannabis research projects — just not that kind of research.
Chronicle staff writer Steve Rubenstein first joined The Chronicle reporting staff in 1976. He has been a metro reporter, a columnist, a reviewer and a feature writer. He left the staff in 2009 to teach elementary school and returned to the staff in 2015. He is married, has a son and a daughter and lives in San Francisco. He is a cyclist and a harmonica player, occasionally at the same time.
In the first major change to general education across its system in decades, all 430,000 undergraduates attending Cal State universities must take an ethnic studies or social justice course, a requirement approved by CSU trustees Wednesday following a fierce two-day debate that left some longtime social activists in the awkward position of voting “no.”
The requirement will take effect starting in the 2023-24 academic year in the nation’s largest four-year public university system. Five trustees voted against it — including State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and social justice activists Lateefah Simon and Hugo Morales — who said it did not hew closely enough to the definition of ethnic studies. One trustee abstained.
Two questions dominated their debate: What should an ethnic studies requirement include? And who should decide: faculty, trustees or state lawmakers?
“I’m trying to hold with fidelity to what ethnic studies is and has been and what those who framed it and have been fighting for 52 years have asked for,” Thurmond said at the meeting Wednesday, referring to the discipline’s focus on the experience of four oppressed groups in the U.S.: African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Indigenous peoples.
Morales asked to rename the proposal as simply a “social justice” requirement. “This is about social justice, which we have championed,” he said.
But Chancellor Timothy P. White said that disciplines evolve, and the requirement his office was advancing offers students more choices.
“Ethnic studies has matured,” he said. “It’s deep, it’s powerful, but it’s more than what it used to be.”
The new requirement creates a three-unit, lower-division course requirement “to understand ethnic studies and social justice.” The requirement could be met by a traditional ethnic studies course or by a class focused on social justice or social movements.
Many were opposed to White’s plan — including educators and activists — and prefer a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), that more narrowly defines the requirement, limiting it to ethnic studies courses. AB 1460, which passed both the Assembly and Senate, will go back to the Assembly for concurrence next week before being sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. If he signs it, that requirement will supersede the one approved by the CSU Wednesday.
“We’ve asked you to join the Legislature and support 1460, not put us in the same position we were in 1967, where we as entities were trustees fighting faculty, fighting students,” Weber, former president of the National Council for Black Studies, said during public comment Tuesday.
Questions about the content and mission of ethnic studies courses — which have also been raised in the discussion over whether to mandate a requirement at the K-12 level — go back half a century, when students and faculty at San Francisco State went on strike to create the first-ever ethnic studies department.
“The CSU is really proud of its heritage as the birthplace of ethnic studies,” said Loren Blanchard, executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.
Blanchard said the new requirement “elevates” the study of the four racial and ethnic groups that traditionally comprise ethnic studies to the same level as the natural and life sciences, the arts and humanities. It also “makes room for the voices and experiences of other oppressed and marginalized groups,” he said.
The requirement, for instance, could also be met with classes in Jewish or Muslim studies, LGBTQ studies or social justice, including courses on social change and social movements in the U.S., historical and cultural perspectives in disability studies, and health disparities in urban communities.
“For the system to stand up and say we’re going to make three units be ethnic studies and social justice is important,” said Alison Wrynn, associate vice chancellor for academic programs, innovations and faculty development, in an interview prior to the meeting. “Our students see themselves with multiple identities. … Our requirement is going to give them that opportunity to really see themselves in the curriculum.”
But trustee Silas Abrego objected.
“Let’s be clear,” he said. “This is not a requirement for ethnic studies. A student could meet this requirement without ever having to take an ethnic studies course.”
The California Faculty Assn. has formally opposed the chancellor’s proposal and endorsed Weber’s bill.
“CFA is severely disappointed in today’s decision,” President Charles Toombs, a professor of Africana studies at San Diego State said in a statement after the vote.
Toombs said the chancellor’s proposal did not reflect adequate consultation with ethnic studies faculty in particular.
“Since the overwhelming number of ethnic studies faculty are people of color, the lack of inclusion of their expert voices is a potent and real example of how systemic racism works in the CSU,” he said.
Simon, an advocate for civil rights and racial justice, said she had received emails and phone calls from ethnic studies leaders around the country who expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal.
“It is not in my conscience at at this moment to support this,” she said. “That pains me [because] I understand the work put in … I understand the 50-plus year quest for ethnic studies.”
The systemwide Cal State Academic Senate opposes Weber’s bill, arguing that state legislators are improperly interfering in matters of higher education curriculum, setting a dangerous precedent. Some Cal State officials cited those faculty concerns.
“If we were in a different state, we would be scared out of our wits by the idea that the Legislature would be telling us what we should be teaching,” trustee Rebecca Eisen said. “This is our responsibility.”
Board Chair Lillian Kimbell agreed. “If we don’t vote to approve this proposal, essentially what we are doing is ceding to the Legislature their right to create policy on what we teach,” she said. “This is a protest against that.”
Nina Agrawal is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. She previously reported for WLRN-Miami Herald News and for the Latin American affairs magazine Americas Quarterly. A Southern California native, Agrawal is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and School of International and Public Affairs.
The United Nations, on Friday, urged America to avoid using excessive force against protesters and journalists, following a viral video that shows volunteer medics being shoved to the ground by police officers in Portland, Oregon.
“It is very important that people are able to protest peacefully, that people aren’t subject to unnecessary, disproportionate or discriminatory use of force,” Liz Throssell, U.N. human rights spokeswoman, said during a news briefing on Friday.
During the news briefing, Throssell also urged authorities to ensure that federal and local police were “clearly identified,” after photos have shown officers covering their badge numbers when using excessive force against protesters.
“The authorities should ensure that federal and local security forces deployed are properly and clearly identified and would use force only when necessary, proportionately and in accordance with international standards. Any victims of unnecessary excessive use of force,” have the right to a transparent investigation, she added.
She continued, “There have been reports that peaceful protesters have been detained by unidentified police officers,” adding that this is a call for concern “because it may place those detained outside the protection of the law and may give rise to arbitrary detention and other human rights violations.”
Throssell’s comments come as protests continue to take place across the country, initially sparked by the death of George Floyd on May 25.
In Portland, protesters and police officers have continued to clash, and a recently viral video shows two volunteer medics being pushed to the ground by law enforcement officials during a protest.
While speaking to CNN, Christopher Durkee, a trained EMT, and Savannah Guest, a former emergency medical services volunteer, explained the recent incident they experienced that was captured on video. According to CNN, the two were called by protesters to help treat an injured man, as police officers trying to disperse crowds walked toward them.
“As officers approached, we began backing up as they were commanding us to do,” Durkee told CNN, adding that he was then pushed to the ground by the officers. “My partner also fell to the ground, and my partner was hit with a baton repeatedly.”
After the video went viral, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on their behalf, against the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Service and the city of Portland, “for targeting and attacking them at Portland protests against police brutality.”
“Volunteer medics should be celebrated, not attacked or arrested,” said Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, in a press release. “Our clients are volunteering day and night to provide aid to the injured and to create a safer environment for protesters and bystanders. These attacks are unconscionable as well as unconstitutional. This lawlessness must end.”
Newsweek reached out to the U.N. for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
A portrait of Shahid Buttar on April 1, 2020, in San Francisco. Photo: Santiago Mejia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
Akela Lacy July 23 2020, 2:28 p.m. (theintercept.com)
THE CAMPAIGN OF Shahid Buttar, a democratic socialist challenger to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is stumbling amid allegations of sexism and mistreatment of staff in the workplace. The allegations, which former staffers described to The Intercept, prompted the San Francisco chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America to consider a draft resolution rescinding the organization’s endorsement of the candidate.
Buttar’s campaign has faced a period of personnel turmoil since the March 3 Democratic primary, with at least 10 staffers and contractors departing. That includes his top three staffers: campaign manager Jasper Wilde, finance director Emily Jones, and field director Otto Pippenger. Most staff on Buttar’s current team started after the primary, and he no longer has a campaign manager — a change he attributed to a restructuring toward a distributed leadership model. His previous staff, he said, were resistant to empowering volunteers.
In an interview with The Intercept, Buttar denied the allegations and argued that the former employees were dressing workplace disputes in the language of harassment and discrimination. “The allegations that I’m ultimately being accused of, with respect to the campaign, are not gender-related. … It’s a staff performance issue,” he said. “What has been characterized as staff turnover is ultimately staff improvement.”Join Our NewsletterOriginal reporting. Fearless journalism. Delivered to you.I’m in
Complaints about the campaign’s culture came to a head this week, when 44 members of the DSA SF chapter — including three former Buttar campaign staffers, Patrick Cochran, Raya Steier, and Sasha Perigo — signed on to a proposed resolution to rescind their endorsement of him. The resolution cited a sexual harassment accusation from a former acquaintance — which was made public Tuesday on Medium, and which Buttar has denied — and “a pattern of abuse including but not limited to sexual inappropriate behavior with his staff and volunteers.” The Intercept could not independently corroborate the accusation by the former acquaintance or the charge of sexually inappropriate behavior.
The proposed resolution goes on to state that Buttar “mismanaged his campaign by treating his campaign team, specifically the women, in a belittling, demeaning, hyper controlling and abusive manner. The Shahid Buttar campaign has had massive turnover for months because of Shahid’s behavior with many key staff positions still not filled.”
On Wednesday, the chapter’s electoral committee passed the resolution by a vote of 36 to 6. The proposed resolution, which also calls on Buttar to “participate in restorative justice by engaging in group conflict resolution to fully acknowledge the harm he has caused,” will go to a full vote on August 4, according to a Monday email sent by the chapter’s steering committee. The “resolution can be amended up until it has been voted upon and either passed or not by the membership,” according to the email.
Asked about the proposed resolution, which was initially posted in a public Google Doc to which access has since been restricted, the committee’s co-chair Faye Wang declined to comment, saying that they were still in the process of gathering information and couldn’t talk about internal processes until the chapter issued a formal decision or statement on behalf of members. “Sexual harassment and gender discrimination are antithetical to the principles of democratic socialism, and are issues that DSA San Francisco takes seriously,” Wang wrote in an email.Buttar rejected staff complaints about gendered discrimination, saying they amounted to a misunderstanding of his style of management.
In tweets posted Tuesday, Buttar rejected staff complaints about gendered discrimination, saying they were muddled and amplified by the sexual harassment allegation, and amounted to a misunderstanding of his style of management. “These claims have been amplified by former staff who have conflated our campaign’s attempts to manage concerns with their performance with gender-based discrimination,” he said.
The San Francisco Berniecrats are looking into the accusations against Buttar, the group announced in a Facebook post Tuesday. The San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters, which endorsed Buttar in 2018, said Wednesday on Twitter that it was aware of the allegations and taking them into consideration for its November election process. San Francisco City Supervisor and DSA SF member Dean Preston rescinded his endorsement of Buttar following the allegations from Croydon, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Buttar, an activist and constitutional lawyer who is well-known in San Francisco’s leftist political and art scene, advanced to the November general election following the March primary, in which he obtained 13 percent of the vote. Under California’s primary system, the top two candidates advance to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation. He previously challenged Pelosi in 2018, when he came in third in the primary and did not advance to the general election. Still, Buttar is the first serious left-wing challenger Pelosi has faced in her 30 years in office, and the race is a broader test of whether the Bay Area left can organize to replace her ahead of her potential retirement in 2022.
IN INTERVIEWS WITH The Intercept, seven former staffers and contractors on Buttar’s campaign described a pattern of public berating and insults toward staff regardless of gender, but particularly toward women on the campaign. They said Buttar was a tough boss, but his treatment of staff crossed a line.
On Tuesday, Mission Local reported that a number of former staffers said they had signed nondisparagement agreements and that Buttar “denied the existence of the NDAs.” The Intercept obtained a copy of a campaign contract that included a nondisparagement clause and in a Wednesday interview, Buttar acknowledged that some staffers, including his former campaign manager, Wilde, had signed such contracts.
“I can vouch for the culture of misogyny that existed in the campaign,” said Raya Steier, a DSA SF member and a former full-time field organizer for Buttar’s campaign who joined the campaign in May and resigned in June. “I have experienced it personally.”
Steier said they’d seen Buttar publicly berate and humiliate multiple women staffers, including Wilde and Buttar’s former campaign finance director, Emily Jones. Steier, who came to the U.S. from India, helped start the #MeToo movement there by releasing the name of academics accused of sexually harassing students at universities around the country. Following university investigations, at least four professors were fired. “These are patterns of abuse that I know very closely,” they said.
Steier said they left for those reasons, as well as concerns that Buttar’s campaign was all for show.Jones said her entire team quit “because Shahid insulted them at some point or another. … It is more diabolical when a man in hippie pants is a misogynist.”
Regarding the complaints about workplace culture, Buttar said skilled volunteers felt alienated by former staff and were made to feel like they couldn’t participate. He pointed to a number of campaign metrics to show that performance had improved following the staff departures. The campaign more than doubled its fundraising between March and June and made more than 110,000 calls after the primary, “roughly all of them” after the staff changes, said Patricia Brooks, a communications volunteer for Buttar’s campaign, compared to roughly 7,000 phone calls and 12,000 canvass attempts before the primary. Brooks said the campaign also grew its email list by 110 percent, with 37,300 emails on its list, and added at least 2,200 volunteers after the primary, for a total of 3,000.
Some staffers pointed to Buttar’s salary as a point of contention. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Buttar is making just under $100,000 a year, about one-tenth of the $1.1 million his campaign has raised so far. It’s legal for candidates to pay themselves with campaign funds during the election cycle, a reform that was fought for so that candidates who are not wealthy enough to go without income for a year or more can make bids for office. Staffers were nonetheless surprised. “When people found out, there was a huge amount of frustration in our circles internally,” said Sasha Perigo, a local columnist and DSA SF member who worked part-time on contract doing email fundraising for the campaign. “People were like, are you fucking kidding me?”
Buttar noted that his salary is equivalent to his previous salary working for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The idea in any way that I’m benefitting is frankly preposterous,” he said.
Jones told The Intercept that Buttar lashed out at his staff, and at women staff in particular, both in public and private. She began consulting for the campaign on a freelance basis at the end of December and joined the staff on February 19. By May 15, she submitted her resignation. Jones said her entire team, including an email fundraiser, someone who handles social media ads, and the public relations team, quit “because Shahid insulted them at some point or another. … It is more diabolical when a man in hippie pants is a misogynist.”
“Everybody quit,” she said. “Imagine people have a $4,000, $5,000 salary during a pandemic and they quit their job. Imagine that.”
IN THE DAYS following the March primary, Buttar attempted to mend relations with frustrated campaign staff, according to Jones and an internal email obtained by The Intercept.
During a March 7 meeting Jones described as a campaign “intervention” with staffers, the campaign’s public relations firm the Worker Agency, and other unofficial senior campaign advisers, Buttar apologized to staffers for his past actions. Buttar, in an interview, described the meeting as a breaking point between the campaign and the staffers who ended up leaving, with major disagreements over strategy. (The Worker Agency, which dropped Buttar’s campaign in April, declined to comment.)
The next day, Buttar apologized directly to Jones in an email. “I’ve come to understand that my impatience and preoccupation has made you feel disrespected, and I owe you an apology for that. I am truly sorry, and did not realize how my actions were impacting you,” Buttar wrote, going on to describing “unfortunate dynamics” between him and Jones, and him and Wilde. “If you have the patience left to give me another chance, I would like to do the same with you.”
Patrick Cochran, former volunteer coordinator for Buttar’s campaign and a DSA SF member who signed the proposed resolution, joined the campaign on January 15 and left May 15, citing “Jasper and Emily being treated like shit,” he told The Intercept. “Also, I just thought the campaign was directionless, and Shahid was not a viable candidate,” he said. “Something in the campaign was off.”
“As a male staffer, I felt like I never was treated bad by Shahid,” Cochran said “He treated Jasper and Emily terribly.”“If you’re gonna attack Nancy Pelosi for her freezer and her ice cream, you better make sure that your house is clean too.”
“There was obviously a huge gulf of difference between my interactions and their interactions, which led me to believe he was misogynistic,” he said, referencing Wilde and Jones. “We had a weekly meeting, and it was pretty frequent for Shahid to kind of belittle or brush aside any points they made. And especially Emily, it would get into really uncomfortable and just downright misogynistic and just mean how he would treat Emily whenever she brought up a point in our meetings.”
“He’s tried to use the defense, ‘I’m a tough boss,’ which is completely not true. … There are demanding bosses that are like that. It wasn’t like that,” he said. “Because if he was a tough boss, he would have been tough to me.”
“We always just thought he was doing this for his own personal profile,” Cochran said. “If you’re gonna attack Nancy Pelosi for her freezer and her ice cream,” he said, “you better make sure that your house is clean too.”
In the Monday meeting with DSA SF, Buttar responded to concerns about staff turnover by pointing to performance issues, according to Jones and another staffer who attended. “I had a lot of frustrations with the campaign staff that was, you know, frankly, challenging to manage and did very much have their own ideas about what was in the campaign’s best interest,” he said.
“Due process is important,” Buttar told The Intercept when asked about the meeting. “There are a great many facts here that should come out. And I would love for DSA to explore them.”
Perigo told The Intercept that Buttar publicly berated her work and treated his employees poorly, sometimes along gendered lines. “I’m receptive to feedback on my work,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of bosses before, and I’ve never had this problem with any of them.” Perigo left the campaign in April at the same time as other staffers “in solidarity with Jasper” and others who’d resigned. “I just felt that the campaign was a vanity campaign,” she said. “There were a lot of times where he would berate me to the point where I was like, should I be here? Like what is the point? This isn’t a huge moneymaker for me. It’s just part-time,” she said.
“I noticed a pattern where Jasper was constantly made to apologize for Shahid’s very brash behavior. And I felt that that dynamic was very gendered,” she added. “And that is part of why I signed the DSA resolution.”
“What kind of socialist candidate are you if you’re mistreating comrades in your own chapter?” she said.
Correction: July 23, 2020, 7:25 p.m. ET A previous version of this article misstated the number of volunteers who have joined Buttar’s campaign since the primary.
Shahid Buttar’s campaign against Rep. Nancy Pelosi was always a longshot. He was challenging the person most responsible for challenging Donald Trump, and while Pelosi has angered some progressives for not moving faster on impeachment and other issues, Buttar is not Alexandria Ocasio Cortez or Jamaal Bowman.
The allegations by Elizabeth Croydon are horrifying:
Another instance that is intimately embarrassing and traumatic for me to talk about happened about a decade later. After a Guerilla Poet Insurgency meeting/performance, a small group of us sat around at a table to catch up, including Shahid. One of my friends asked how long it had been since people had had sex. Others answered. I responded that I had been celibate for some years. Shahid’s response shocked and embarrassed me. “Oh my god, that is way too long! How can you go without sex that long? That’s insane! I couldn’t do it, you poor thing. It must be so hard.” I told him that my celibacy was a voluntary decision because it helped me cope with surviving sexual assaults, batteries and other misconduct. I felt degraded, nauseated, and revolted that he would mock me in front of friends who looked to me as an outspoken voice for women.
Later when the group walked back to the communal house where Shahid used to live, he said “I still can’t believe you aren’t getting it.” Shahid turned to the woman that he was with and said. “Can you believe Liz has been celibate that long, honey? Oh my god what is wrong with you? Don’t worry Liz, we’ll find someone to fuck you. Someone will do it. Someone has to FUCK you, Liz. I’d do it but I’m taken.” I turned around to see Shahid smiling spitefully as he had done years ago in his kitchen as if to taunt me for rejecting him years before. I repeated that celibacy was my choice and asked him to let it go. Once we got to the house, Shahid again started telling people that I hadn’t “been fucked” in a long time and asked other men if they wanted to have sex with me saying that he had to recruit someone to do it. I reminded him I was a survivor of several sexual assaults and batteries. While ridiculing me was being framed as “humorous” it never had a humorous tone. I did my best to hold my composure but the truth is, my PTSD had been triggered. The more he taunted me, the more painful and vivid memories of the sexual assaults flooded my mind. I remember crying all night until my eyes were swollen because of the contempt and degradation I was shown in front of other women.
Buttar, of course, denies the allegations. In a statement on Twitter and in an interview with Mission Local, he said:
“I feel very strongly that survivors need to be heard. I’m grateful that all the facts may come out. She describes a communal and group house I had in D.C. in 2005 to 2008. We were both performers in a group called D.C. Guerilla Poetry Insurgency. This was a place we frequently held events. That much is true. The rest is not.”
There is a lesson here for DSA and other local and national figures who endorsed Buttar because he said he was a democratic socialist who supported the right issues. Which he said, and which he did.
This is San Francisco. This city has a well-established local progressive movement, which includes both grassroots activists and organizers and elected officials. There are lots of people who have been part of that movement, visible in it, active and working with others, for many years.
Buttar worked on national campaigns for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but when it came to grassroots local activism, over issues like displacement and evictions and immigrant rights and police misconduct and so many other things, Buttar was not part of that movement. When he announced he was running for Congress, a lot of community folks had no idea who he was.
That’s a problem. As it turns out, it was a major problem.
As Rebecca Solnit famously said, a vote is not a love letter; it’s a chess move. The future of the congressional seat held by Nancy Pelosi is critical.
Pelosi has promised to retire after her next term (when she will be 82). She says if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, she would have retired in 2016.
It’s always tempting to go with the radical of the day, but in this city, we have to think long-term. In two years, San Francisco will elect a member of Congress who will likely be there for a generation. Should that be State Sen. Scott Wiener, who clearly wants the job and would be a formidable candidate? Or should it be former Sup. David Campos, who would be the first person who arrived in this country as an undocumented immigrant elected to Congress? Or should it be Jane Kim, who might have the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders? Or should it be Pelosi’s daughter, who has made noises about wanting to run?
These are real questions, with real, lasting impacts, that progressives need to talk about now. Buttar’s campaign was, by most accounts of people who pay serious attention to local politics, a diversion.
DSA, which has become a major, essential part of the local progressive movement, will have to come to terms with this, and they will. So will the San Francisco Berniecrats, Progressive Democrats of America, and the Tenants Union.
But all of us have to think in the future about how we choose and endorse candidates for something as important as a lifetime seat in the US Congress.
Tim Redmond Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
It has become, for liberals and leftists enraged by the way Republicans never suffer the consequences for turning electoral politics into a cesspool, a kind of smoking gun. The late, legendarily brutal campaign consultant Lee Atwater explains how Republicans can win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Now, the same indefatigable researcher who brought us Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, James Carter IV, has dug up the entire forty-two-minute interview from which that quote derives. Here, The Nation publishes it in its entirety for the very first time.
The back-story goes like this. In 1981, Atwater, after a decade as South Carolina’s most effective Republican operative, was working in Ronald Reagan’s White House when he was interviewed by Alexander Lamis, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University. Lamis published the interview without using Atwater’s name in his 1984 book The Two-Party South. Fifteen years later—and eight years after Atwater passed away from cancer—Lamis republished the interview in another book using Atwater’s name. For seven years no one paid much attention. Then the New York Times‘ Bob Herbert, a bit of an Atwater obsessive, quoted it in an October 6, 2005 column—then five more times over the next four years.
Those words soon became legend—quoted in both screeds (The GOP-Haters Handbook, 2007) and scholarship (Corey Robin’s 2011 classic work of political theory, The Reactionary Mind). Google Books records its use in ten books published so far this year alone. Curious about the remarks’ context, Carter, who learned Lamis had died in 2012, asked his widow if she would consider releasing the audio of the interview, especially in light of the use of race-baiting dog-whistles (lies about Obama ending work requirements for welfare; “jokes” about his supposed Kenyan provenance) in the Romney presidential campaign. Renée Lamis, an Obama donor, agreed that very same night. For one thing she was “upset,” Carter told me, that “for some time, conservatives believed [her] husband made up the Atwater interview.” For another, she was eager to illustrate that her husband’s use of the Atwater quote was scholarly, not political.
So what does the new contextual wrapping teach us? It vindicates Lamis, who indeed comes off as careful and scholarly. And no surprise, it shows Atwater acting yet again in bad faith.
In the lead-up to the infamous remarks, it is fascinating to witness the confidence with which Atwater believes himself to be establishing the racial innocence of latter-day Republican campaigning: “My generation,” he insists, “will be the first generation of Southerners that won’t be prejudiced.” He proceeds to develop the argument that by dropping talk about civil rights gains like the Voting Rights Act and sticking to the now-mainstream tropes of fiscal conservatism and national defense, consultants like him were proving “people in the South are just like any people in the history of the world.”
It is only upon Professor Lamis’s gently Socratic follow-ups, and those of a co-interviewer named “Saul” (Carter hasn’t been able to confirm his identity, but suspects it was the late White House correspondent Saul Friedman), that Atwater begins to loosen up—prefacing his reflections, with a plainly guilty conscience, “Now, y’all aren’t quoting me on this?” (Apparently , this is the reason why Atwater’s name wasn’t published in 1984 but was in 1999, after his death).
He then utters his infamous words. The interlocutors go on to kibitz about Huey Long and barbecue. Then Atwater, apparently satisfied that he’d absolved the Southern Republican Party of racism once and for all, follows up with a prediction based on a study he claims demonstrates that Strom Thurmond won 38 percent of South Carolina’s middle-class black vote in his 1978 Senate campaign (run by Atwater).
“That voter, in my judgment,” he claims, “will be more likely to vote his economic interests than he will anything else. And that is the voter that I think through a fairly slow but very steady process, will go Republican.” Because race no longer matters: “In my judgment Karl Marx [is right]… the real issues ultimately will be the economic issues.” He continues, in words that uncannily echo the “47 percent tape” (nothing new under the wingnut sun), that “statistically, as the number of non-producers in the system moves toward fifty percent,” the conservative coalition cannot but expand. Voila: a new Republican majority. Racism won’t have anything to do with it.
Not bloody likely. In 2005, the political scientists Nicholas Valentino and David Sears demonstrated that a Southern man holding conservative positions on issues other than race is no more likely than a conservative Northerner to vote for a Democrat. But when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions—like whether one agrees “If blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites”—white Southerners were twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote Democratic. As another political scientist, Thomas Schaller, wrote in his 2006 book Whistling Past Dixie (which naturally quotes the infamous Atwater lines), “Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters…the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.”
Which one particular Republican spinmeister, when he wasn’t preening before political scientists, knew fully well—which was why, seven years after that interview, in his stated goal to “rip the bark off the little bastard [Michael Dukakis]” on behalf of his candidate George H.W. Bush, Atwater ran the infamous ad blaming Dukakis for an escaped Massachusetts convict, Willie Horton, “repeatedly raping” an apparently white girl. Indeed, Atwater pledged to make “Willie Horton his running mate.” The commercial was sponsored by a dummy outfit called the National Security Political Action Committee—which it is true, was a whole lot more abstract than saying “nigger, nigger, nigger.”
Rick PerlsteinTWITTER Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001),Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008), and The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Richard Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (2014).
There is overwhelming evidence a surge of mostly older, Trump-fearing voters decided the Democratic primary — and that Bernie Sanders failed to counter an establishment messaging campaign that Trump would beat him in a general election.
Why did Joe Biden win the Democratic primary and Bernie Sanders lose it?
Everyone has a theory: Sanders went too far left, or too far woke; he couldn’t expand his base, particularly into the black electorate; his surprise 2016 showing mostly owed to anti-Clintonism, and his insurgent campaign turned off loyal Democrats; meanwhile, Biden was an electoral powerhouse able to excite voters with his “moderate” agenda and historic ties to the party.
Then there’s the downright inexplicable. How did Sanders lose when surveys and exit poll after poll showed the public, and especially Democrats, overwhelmingly supported his policies, even in states he lost badly? How was he so decisively beaten despite being the first in either party to ever win the popular vote in the opening three contests, given that every Democrat since 1976 who’s won the first two alone has clinched the nomination? And when no nominee since 1972 has placed below second in either, how did Biden pull off a historic rout after coming a lowly fourth and fifth? More strangely, how did he do it when he neither visited nor even had a campaign operation in many of the states he ended up winning?
Answering these questions means understanding the topsy-turvy world of the 2020 election, the continuing power of legacy media, and how primary elections can swing wildly based on delicate shifts in perception.
All About Trump
The 2020 primary was all about Donald Trump. From the contest’s beginning to its end, anywhere between 55–65 percent of Democratic votersprioritizedpicking a nominee who could beat Trumpover one they agreed with on the issues, unsurprising for an incumbent election. This was favorable turf for Biden, who made defeating the president the crux of his campaign, to the extent that he once told audiences the first thing he’d do as president was “make sure that we defeat Donald Trump.”
Just as consistently, voters saw Biden as the candidate by far most likely to win against Trump. For the seven months to January 2020, he hovered around 40 percent on that question in a Washington Post–ABC News poll, while Sanders trailed a distant second in the teens.
“If there would be a horse leading right now for me, it would probably be Biden, because all the polls indicate he would beat Trump handily,” one fifty-seven-year-old voter told the New York Times.
“Basically whoever can beat Donald Trump, but I think Biden has the best chance,” another older voter said when asked who she was backing, pointing to head-to-head polling.
As Patrick Murray, the director of Monmouth University Polling Institute told the paper, voters in Iowa felt “they have to vote for Joe Biden as the centrist candidate, to keep somebody from the left who they feel is unelectable from getting the nomination.”
Besides a corporate and political establishment united against him, Sanders had to overcome something else: decades’ worth of conventional wisdom, internalized by mostly older Democratic voters, that only unexciting centrists can win elections, and running leftward is electoral suicide.
This sentiment wasn’t just in Iowa. On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, mostly older voters in the state’s rural parts told VTDigger the same message: they preferred Sanders, but were going to vote for Pete Buttigieg because his more centrist politics would appeal to non-Democrats.
“It’s more important to get Donald Trump out. Period,” one retired pilot told the paper, having decided against voting for Sanders after watching Trump survive impeachment. “It’s more important than my personal politics.”
In Pennsylvania, one 2016 Sanders voter now focused on beating Trump fretted that “the S-word” would sink him in rural Pennsylvania. Interviewing thirty suburban voters, the Philadelphia Inquirerfound a “consistent dividing line”: those most concerned with winning went for Biden, while those who prioritized a particular issue went for Sanders. In the wealthy Virginia suburb of Ashburn, one progressive health and wellness consultant reported her mostly Republican clientele “hate Trump, but they won’t vote for Sanders,” leading her to go for Biden. “Whoever can beat Trump is what I care about,” she explained.
These narratives were reinforced by the invasion of liberal news sources by the tiny, unrepresentative group of “Never Trump” Republicans, who incessantlywarned Sanders was an electoral liability. (“A sociopath will beat a socialist, I think, seven days a week and twice on Sunday,” said the man who brought us Sarah Palin). “I thought Never Trump Republicans wouldn’t vote for Sanders,” one older voter, a former professor, told the Times in March, switching to Biden despite her support for Sanders’s ideas.
Sanders’s greatest obstacle was arguably convincing this cohort of voters to abandon their long-held skepticism about the Left in electoral politics, and to defy the relentless media messaging that reinforced it. And for a brief moment, he did. After winning the vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, and after Biden failed to crack third in either, perceptions of Biden’s electabilitycollapsed, and for the first time in the race, Sanders led the field in both electability and voting intention.
But rather than momentum, these developments prompted a barrage of attacks and apocalyptic warnings from Democraticofficials and pundits about Sanders’s threat to Democrats’ chances in November. A group of party centrists spent millions blanketing South Carolina with ads making these charges. Party leaders and rival candidates openly vowed to deprive him of the nomination if he won the most votes.
When Sanders defended Fidel Castro’s literacy program on 60 Minutes it was seized upon by anti-Sanders officials in Florida for a round of withering attacks and warnings of how they would play in the state. A statistical analysis by In These Times found CNN covered Sanders three times as negatively after his blowout Nevada win as they did Biden after his romp through South Carolina, assailing Sanders’s electability above all.
Many factors led to Biden’s triumph in the Palmetto State, from its conservatism and Biden’s close association with the nation’s first black president to, most importantly, Rep. Jim Clyburn’s endorsement that Sanders, crucially, never tried to head off. But it’s difficult to argue this media narrative didn’t play a role in the old, white tidal wave that swept Biden to victory.
Datashow that while the nonwhite vote in South Carolina rose 10 percent since 2016, the white vote more than doubled. And while the number of voters aged eighteen to forty-four rose by 42,028, turnout among those forty-five and older skyrocketed by nearly three times that (123,130), with most of the gains concentrated among those sixty-five and over. As he would in every state that followed, Biden dominated among this group, and among voters who prioritized beating Trump.
Biden’s electability and support rebounded overnight, buoyed by more than $100 million in free media, much of it positive. As In These Times found, while post-Nevada negative coverage of Sanders fearmongered about the senator’s electability, what negative coverage there was of Biden focused mostly on the challenges he faced to win the nomination, and was even encouraging (“Vice President Biden has to get a little more inspirational”). While CNN never interviewed Sanders after Nevada, instead inviting Biden on to ask him if his chief rival would be a “McGovern-like mistake for this party,” it did interview the former vice president after he dominated in South Carolina. The network didn’t give Sanders the same courtesy it had given Biden to comment on his rival’s win.
What happened next is well known: with no path forward in the more diverse states ahead, and at the urging of former president Barack Obama, Biden’s fellow centrists stepped down and endorsed him, adding to his momentum; Sanders neither sought nor received the same assist from his only ally, Elizabeth Warren, who vowed to win the nomination by overturning the judgment of the primary voters.
Not-So Super Tuesday
The race essentially ended on Super Tuesday. Biden swept to victory in various conservative Southern states on the back of older anti-Trump voters, many of whom settled on Biden at the last minute. Virginia, competitive on the eve of South Carolina, saw a record turnout that suddenly swung behind Biden, with two-thirds concerned about nominating someone “too liberal,” and some explicitly saying they were out to block Sanders.
“The idea of risking the nomination to somebody like Bernie Sanders, the concern would be that he wouldn’t have the broad appeal to defeat Donald Trump,” one voter said.
“[Trump] has been the single biggest driver to the Democratic Party of Virginia,” former governor and lobbyist Terry McAuliffe told the Times. “There are a lot of like-minded Republicans who said, ‘I can’t vote for Trump but you got to give me somebody who we can vote for.’ Biden was always at the top of that list.”
Meanwhile, in states that Sanders should’ve won, Warren’s presence took a further toll. Sanders’s losing margins in Maine, Massachusetts, and Texas (1, 7, and 4 points, respectively) were dwarfed by Warren’s totals (16, 21, and 11 percent). In delegate-rich California, in which Sanders had heavily invested but won by only 7 points, she received 13 percent. We can only speculate how exactly these numbers would have shifted had Warren followed Buttigieg and Klobuchar’s lead. But it’s clear it would have made a difference.
On the eve of South Carolina, a slim plurality (21 percent) of Buttigieg voters had Sanders as their second choice, with Biden and Warren splitting 19 percent. Yet when the dust had settled a few days later, it was clear Buttigieg’s largelyolder, whitevoter base had shifted mostly to Biden in the wake of the South Bend mayor dropping out and endorsing the former vice president. At that same point, a whopping 40 percent of Warren voters had picked Sanders as their second choice, with Biden and Buttigieg splitting a mere 16 percent. How might a Buttigieg-style exit from the race have not just arrested Biden’s sense of momentum, but impacted these numbers?
These kinds of decisions had vast reverberations in a race where many voters weren’t sure what to do until the moment they got in the voting booth. Late deciders, a significant fraction of Super Tuesday’s voters and more likely to be looking for a candidate to beat Trump, swung overwhelmingly for Biden. In Minnesota, Maine, and Massachusetts, all states in which Biden was given little chance to win on the eve of voting, 55, 47, and 51 percent of voters made up their minds in the last few days, lifting him to victory.
The Super Tuesday result, made worse by the slow count of California’s votes, fatally dented Sanders’s perceived electability among the key older demographic, and did the opposite for Biden. Such voters had allowed themselves to be persuaded by the septuagenarian socialist after his first three primary wins; Biden’s victories in South Carolina and Super Tuesday gave them permission to go back to where they had always been most comfortable. In every state thereafter, Biden held a near-monopoly on voters over fifty, mirrored by Sanders’s domination of those below that age threshold. But 2020 wasn’t the year of youth turnout surge.
The irony was, the fears driving many older liberals from Sanders were never well-founded. He annihilated his rivals in donor numbers from Obama-to-Trump counties, had historic electoral strength in such areas, and had the largest lead among independents in head-to-head polling with Trump among all his rivals. This trend continued in the primary. As the Wall Street Journal later noted, “where voters are older, moderate or closely aligned with the Democratic Party, rather than independents, Mr. Sanders doesn’t win”; but in states with “either unusually large shares of self-described ‘very liberal’ voters, or unusually large numbers of independents participating,” he did.
According to exit polls, Sanders won independents in eighteen of twenty-three contests between February 3 and March 17, including in twelve of the seventeen states he lost to Biden. By contrast, Biden won Democrats in seventeen of those contests. Even in California and Colorado, primaries he convincingly lost where non-Democrats were allowed to participate, his losing margins against Sanders among Democrat voters were slim: 33–30 and 25–23, respectively. Democratic voters tried to imagine what people who weren’t like them wanted; unwittingly, they actually did the opposite, mostly voting in line with how other Democrats voted, and rejecting the leaning of a majority of independent voters.
One could point to any number of the Sanders campaign’s strategic errors to explain its defeat, including a failure to aggressively prosecute Biden’s record. One could also point to the unquantifiable impact of voter suppression, regularly cited to cast doubt on Republican victories, but shrugged off by the media when it disadvantaged Sanders.
Perhaps the overarching mistake, though, was declining to adjust to the political climate of the Democratic Party in 2020, where cautious, fearful, and mostly older Democratic voters concerned primarily with simply beating Trump needed assurance that someone with Sanders’s politics was “electable.” Ironically, Sanders may have benefitted from flipping the conventional advice, and running a more centrist campaign for the primary to assuage these voters’ concerns, before moving left in the general, when they had nowhere else to go.
Instead, Sanders ran the same issue-focused campaign he had run in 2016. Absent the historic youth voter surge he promised, always a questionable prospect, and with the campaign declining to expand to a national level its innovative organizing approach aimed at turning out nonvoters in the early states, running this strategy could work as long as the field remained divided. Once the establishment got its act together, Biden, the sole corporate Democrat with any significant nonwhite support, ended up the only warm body who could serve as the vessel for panicked stop-Sanders Democrats, and voters were driven to him by a unified front of messaging from the media and party establishment.
Biden ran a poor, often nonexistent campaign, and was on the wrong side of the issues from most of his party’s rank and file. And yet in many ways, he and the establishment that dragged him over the finish line more accurately took the pulse of the Democratic voting public in 2020, capitalizing on a political climate they helped create. Sanders ran a campaign to win the presidency; but Biden and the establishment that willed him to victory ran one for the Democratic nomination.
Bret Weinstein Matt Taibbi is an old school journalist beating all the odds in the modern era. He has long been a correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine. Bret and Matt discuss the state of the world in the run-up to the 2020 election. Taibbi endorses Unity 2020. Like this content? Subscribe to the channel, like this video, follow us on twitter (@BretWeinstein, @mtaibbi), and consider supporting me on Patreon or Paypal. Find Matt on Substack: https://taibbi.substack.com/ Theme Music: Thank you to Martin Molin of Wintergatan for providing us the rights to use their excellent music.
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Indivisible Marin & Common Cause For the People Phone Bank for HR1/S1: Saturday, May 8 and May 15, 10 AM–12 noon. Phone bank with Indivisible Marin every Saturday to support the For the People Act and oppose the filibuster! Sign up for a shift here.
Indivisible Marin & Common Cause For the People Phone Bank for HR1/S1: Saturday, May 15, 10 AM–12 PM. Phone bank with Indivisible Marin every Saturday to support the For the People Act and oppose the filibuster! Sign up for a shift here.
Making Asian America: Brief Excerpts on Labor, Belonging, and Empire Join us for DSA SF’s newest reading group to commemorate AAPI Heritage Month, “Making Asian America.” There will be three sessions (Labor, Belonging, and Empire), each of which will examine a different aspect of Asian American political organizing within its historical context. The first session was Sunday, May 2, and the next two sessions will take place this Saturday, May 15, and Saturday, May 29, all at 2:30 p.m. Sign up here.
The Institute for the Critical Study of Society at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library Sunday Morning at the Marxist Library OUR CURRENT SCHEDULE (NOTE: These are all tentative and may be changed. Please check back the week before, or sign up for our weekly reminders/updates at email@example.com) Sun, Dec 27, 2020: 10:30 am to 12:30 pm CONFIRMED: The Three Concepts of Freedom Synopsis: In this session we will compare and contrast the Liberal, Democratic, and the communist concepts of freedom. We will discuss that the Liberal freedom consists of the legal guarantees against outside intrusions. Democratic freedom emphasizes the right to participate in the… Continue reading →
Senate Democrats will soon face a choice: protect our democracy and pass the For the People Act, or protect the filibuster – an outdated and abused “Jim Crow relic.” The crisis facing our democracy couldn’t be more real, and – thanks to existential threats like the climate crisis – couldn’t be more urgent. That’s why we need climate hawks like you to get involved in the fight to restore our democracy. We’ve asked you to sign petitions. Now it’s time for the next step: a virtual town hall with Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Elizabeth Warren next Monday, May 17… Continue reading →
#30RightNow Month Of Action The campaign to get rent relief for supportive housing tenants in this year’s budget cycle is well underway, and we have a whole week of actions for the cause. Read our policy statement here! The biggest announcement is that the #30RightNow campaign will be holding an in-person rally on Tuesday, May 18 at 1:00 p.m. in front of City Hall to demand the mayor fund the 30% rent standard in all supportive housing in this year’s budget cycle. We ask that all attendees follow COVID-19 protocols and have at least one shot of the vaccine. Press release can be found… Continue reading →
Public Bank of the East Bay Posted by LaborSolidarityCommittee WHEN: May 18, 2021 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm Repeats WHERE: ONLINE, VIA ‘ZOOM’ MEETING We meet over Zoom. If you’d like to join us, and aren’t on our organizers’ list, drop us an email and we’ll send you an invitation. If you would like to join the meeting early and get an introduction to the concepts of public banking, or more locally to who we are and what we do, please email us and we’ll see you online at 6:30. Donate to keep us moving forward It is the mission of Public Bank East… Continue reading →
2nd Annual People’s Assembly on BlackRock CODEPINK will join this year’s BlackRock People’s Assembly on Wednesday, May 19, at 4pm ET/1pm PT. It will be an inspiring 90-minute global event kicking off a week of actions leading up to BlackRock’s annual meeting. Space is limited — reserve your spot now! BlackRock—the world’s largest asset manager, with massive investments that drive both environmental destruction and human rights violations—has made multiple high-profile commitments, while still pouring billions into fossil fuels, deforestation….and nuclear weapons. We are excited to announce that Representative Rashida Tlaib will be joining the People’s Assembly as a featured speaker —… Continue reading →