Chris Daly's progressive primary


Sup. Chris Daly’s proposal for a progressive primary -- and his pledge for candidates who want to participate -- is starting to get attention in the mainstream media. The Chron had an item on it that, not surprisingly, makes it look like some sort of commie-style litmus test. (“I pledge allegiance to the Progressives,” the headline read. And even by Chron standards, the comments were pretty harsh.)
I’ve never been personally too fond of the idea of the progressive primary, particularly in its rather elaborate manifestation. (You can see what some of the D6 candidates think of it here.) I think the whole thing could have been done as a caucus, and cost a lot less money. And I told Daly when he first suggested this that he ought to make his “pledge” into a scorecard: Let the candidates answer the questions, then decide how much you like them based on their answers. That’s what the Guardian does in its endorsements. The pledge term just doesn’t sound very good, and it leaves progressives open to the charge that we expect purity and will somehow blackball candidates who don’t follow the every whim of one supervisor.

Truth is, Daly just compiled his list of 30 questions from the endorsement questionnaries that a bunch of progressive groups put out for Democratic County Central Committee Candidates; he used a copy of ours, too. And the positions on the list are pretty much representative of the general consensus of progressive San Francisco. So it’s less a “purity test” than a determination whether someone generally adheres to the positions that the Tenants Union, the Sierra Club, Local 1021 and the Milk Club promote. There’s no big secret here, and nothing terribly alarming -- all of these same District Six candidates are going to appear before all of those organizations and answer, in one way or another, all of the same questions. Daly just put it all in one place.

And if we had an umbrella progressive organization in San Francisco, which Daly, among others, has tried but failed to create, what this would be is the basic platform of the city’s left. There may be some in the progressive camp who disagree with some of it, and others who think it should be longer, stronger, etc., but it’s pretty basic stuff.

The problem, really, is that it’s not coming from an organization -- it’s coming from Chris Daly. And the winner of the progressive primary gets Daly’s endorsement. I like Chris, and he’s been solid on almost every issue (PDF), and taken on causes nobody else will touch -- but any one individual politician who tries to establish this kind of standard is going to set himself up for bad press.