SF's new political era - Page 3

What Mayor Lee and a new board mean for the city

Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal

Although the notion of identity politics took hold during the social movements of the 1960s and '70s — when liberation and organizing movements among women and various ethic and other identity groups fed a larger liberal democratic surge that targeted war, economic inequity, social injustice, and other issues — it's also a political approach that has divided the populace.

"One of the central charges against identity politics by liberals, among others, has been its alleged reliance on notions of sameness to justify political mobilization," says the Stanford Encyclopedia. "Looking for people who are like you rather than who share your political values as allies runs the risk of sidelining critical political analysis of complex social locations and ghettoizing members of social groups as the only persons capable of making or understanding claims to justice."

Mar explains that the reality of identity politics and whether it's a factor in the current politics at City Hall is far more complex.

"With me, David Chiu, and Jane Kim as a block of three progressive Asians — and I still define David Chiu as a progressive though I think some are questioning that — we all come out of what I would call a pro-housing justice, transit-first, and environmental sustainability [mindset]," Mar told us. "But I think because of our ethnic background and experiences, we may have different perspectives at times than other progressives."

For example, Mar said, many working class families of color need to drive a car so they'll differ from progressives who want to limit parking spaces to discourage driving. He also has reservations about the proposed congestion pricing fee and how it might affect low-income drivers.\

"I think often when progressive people of color come into office — Jane Kim might be one of the best examples — that sometimes there's an assumption that her issues are going to be the same as a white progressive or a Latino progressive," he said. "But I think kind of the different identities that we all have mean that we're more complex."

Campos, a Latino immigrant who is openly gay, noted that "as a progressive person of color, I have at times felt that the progressive movement didn't recognize the importance of identity politics and what it means for me to have another person of color in power."

But, he added, "I don't think identity politics alone should guide what happens. A progressive agenda isn't just about race but class, sexual orientation, and other things. It's not enough to say that identity politics justifies everything."

University of San Francisco political science professor Corey Cook told the Guardian that identity has always been a strong factor in San Francisco politics, even if it was overshadowed by the political realignment around progressive ideology that occurred in 2000, mostly as a reaction to an economic agenda based on rapid development and political cronyism.

"I'm not sure that identity wasn't relevant, but it was swamped by ideology," Cook told the Guardian. Now, he said, another political realignment seems to be occurring, one that downplays ideology compared to the position it has held for the last 10 years. "I'm not sure that ideology is dead. But the dynamics have definitely changed."

Cook sees what may be a more important change reflected in Chiu's decision to put the political moderates in control of key board committees. But he said that shift was probably inevitable given the difficulties of unifying the diverse progressive constituencies.

"It's hard to hold a progressive coalition together, and it's amazing that it has lasted this long," he said.

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