On a local level, the Gonzalez move will have a complicated impact. It will, in some ways, damage his ability to play a significant role in San Francisco politics in the future. That's in part because Gonzalez has taken himself out of the position of a leader in the local progressive movement.
San Francisco progressives don't like lone actors: the thousands of activists in many different camps don't always agree, but they like their representatives to be, well, representative. That means when housing activists — one of Daly's key constituencies — need someone to carry a major piece of legislation for them, they expect Daly to be there.
Sup. Tom Ammiano hasn't come up with his landmark bills on health care, public power, and other issues all by himself; he's been part of a coalition that has worked at the grassroots level to support the work he's doing in City Hall.
Daly sought to find a mayoral candidate last year through a progressive convention. That seemed a bit unorthodox to the big-time political consultants who like to see their candidates self-selected and anointed by powerful donors, but it was very much a San Francisco thing. This is a city of neighborhoods, coalitions, and interest groups that try to hold their elected officials accountable.
Obama's politics are far from perfect, and Nader and Gonzalez have very legitimate criticisms of the Democratic candidates and important proposals for electoral reform. But right now the grassroots action in San Francisco and elsewhere in the country — the movement-building excitement — is with Barack Obama. The activists who made the Gonzalez mayoral effort possible are now working on the Obama campaign.
In fact, Daly has repeatedly voiced hope that an Obama victory could help empower the progressive movement in San Francisco and give it more leverage against moderates like Mayor Gavin Newsom who support Hillary Clinton (see "Who Wants Change?" 1/30/08).
Daly said the Gonzalez decision complicates that narrative a little. "I don't think it's undercut," Daly said, "but I think it's confused a bit."