Gonzalez Pens Open Letter to Pelosi

Written by Matt Gonzalez. Posted in News, Opinion, Politics

Published on October 12, 2010 with 48 Comments

Former San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez. Photos by Luke Thomas

By Matt Gonzalez, special to FogCityJournal.com

Editor’s Note: Mr. Gonzalez has penned the following open letter to Rep. Nancy Pelosi calling into question Pelosi’s refusal to engage in the democratic process through open debates.

October 12, 2010, 11:24 am

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi,

I write you because a large number of your constituents, myself included, are tired of your leadership.  As Speaker of the House, and representative of California’s 8th Congressional District, you have failed to offer a satisfactory explanation for many of the political choices you have made. Even your most ardent supporters are at a loss to defend your escalation of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan after you became Speaker (despite your promises to end the war), and for your support for the Patriot Act, its subsequent reauthorization, and for your support for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, among other things. Equally reprehensible was your vote on March 21, 2003, two days after President Bush authorized the Iraq War invasion, in support of a resolution declaring “unequivocal support and appreciation to the president…for his firm leadership and decisive action.”

Recently, it came to my attention that your opponent in the 8th congressional race, John Dennis, had challenged you to a debate and that you had declined his offer.

The press reported that when John Dennis spoke with you in Washington D.C., on September 23rd, you said you would “not be in the District enough” to debate him. You did not offer more details explaining why that was the case. You also did not suggest the alternative of holding a debate in Washington nor did you make other arrangements to accommodate the democratic process.

As a matter of fact the excuse you did give, that you wouldn’t be in San Francisco, is unconvincing. The press reported that as recently as October 7th, you attended a baseball playoff game in San Francisco. A public debate could be completed in 2 hours, which is less than the length of an average professional baseball game.

Photo courtesy TerezOwens.com

Regrettably, your refusal to defend your congressional voting record does not come as a surprise to me. You also declined to debate anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, when she challenged you two years ago, and you have not debated any of your opponents in the over two decades since you were first elected to office (a race you won despite not having held prior elective office).

A democratic society cannot flourish or long endure if our elected representatives avoid articulating and defending their views, or otherwise subjecting their political beliefs to public scrutiny. Debate among political opponents has a long and healthy history in the United States; one that you apparently have little regard for and/or disdain.

Although you may want to dismiss your congressional opponent John Dennis because he is a Republican, I assure you that he is a serious candidate with views worthy of consideration. In addition to being firmly anti-war and committed to defending civil liberties, Dennis is pro-gay rights, opposed the Wall Street bailouts and has joined in the populist call challenging the legitimacy of the Federal Reserve. Recently, in the Capitol Times, liberal commentator John Nichols posed the question of whether John Dennis was a “Prototype of the new urban Republican.” He noted that Dennis

presents a credible alternative to Pelosi when it comes to issues of war and peace. In the tradition of old-right Republicans like Ohio Sen. Robert Taft and Nebraska Congressman Howard Buffett — and their heirs, [Texas Congressman Ron] Paul and a handful of others, such as Tennessee Rep. John Duncan Jr. and North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones Jr. — Dennis calls for “ending both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and withdrawing our troops as safely and quickly as possible.” And he says: “I do not believe that our troops should be forced to be policemen of the world. Our troops, first and foremost, should protect Americans where they live — in America.”

John Nichols goes on:

In an anti-war town like San Francisco, that’s a more attractive position than Pelosi has articulated in this campaign. It positions the Republican as a genuine alternative to the Democrat in a liberal district.

The same goes for civil liberties. Dennis says: “The Constitution was written to restrict the actions of the government, not individuals. That is why we call ours a limited government. Unfortunately, American political vocabulary is filled with a lexicon of different types of liberty: civil liberty, economic liberty, sexual liberty, financial liberty, etc. Yet, in the end, there is only liberty. And if we support some types of liberty but not others, ultimately we will be left without liberty at all.”

Specifically, he says that he opposes “warrantless wiretaps,” “the creation of extra-judicial systems to deal with enemy combatants” and “waterboarding and other forms of torture,” and he says: “I believe our government must respect the 800-year foundation of the law embodied in the principle of habeas corpus.”

Again, on these issues, Dennis’ stances are closer to those of the district than Pelosi’s. As such, he offers a real alternative — even in a liberal district. … Dennis is, as well, genuinely libertarian on a host of social issues. As such, he can’t be painted into the right-wing corner, as so many Republicans are. (10/6/10, The Capitol Times).

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has called John Dennis “a good person who is truly antiwar and truly wants to make the world a better place.” (9/30/10, Mother Jones). Texas Congressman Ron Paul has said “John Dennis is truly committed to Liberty, personal freedom, fiscal discipline and a more sensible foreign policy.”  (1/6/2010, Business Wire). Dustin Reid, who works promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, wrote an article in yesterday’s Huffington Post entitled: “Beyond Left and Right Why John Dennis Should Be a Liberals Pick in San Francisco”. He noted “despite running as a Republican, Dennis is essentially running on a pragmatic, progressive agenda that brings together the most salient issues across parties. Issue by issue liberals, as well as conservatives, should consider Dennis over Pelosi in San Francisco.” (10/11/10, Huffington Post)

I believe your refusal to debate John Dennis should be openly met with the same disdain you have for public debates. I intend to vote for John Dennis and I will encourage everyone I know to do the same. No candidate who refuses to debate his or her opponent deserves the support of anyone, particularly after a history of failed leadership, such as the one you have exhibited. To do otherwise, is to sanction your refusal and encourage similar behavior by other elected representatives.

To be sure, I do not agree with all of John Dennis’ views, nor he with mine.  But on the most pressing issues facing our country today, I believe we have more points of agreement (than you or I) and I respect his willingness to publicly defend those views.

John Dennis and Matt Gonzalez discuss the nation's ills during an anti-war rally held in San Francisco, 9/4/10.

Matt Gonzalez is the former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors & 2008 vice-presidential running-mate to Ralph Nader on an Independent ticket.

Matt Gonzalez

Matt Gonzalez is the former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors & 2008 vice-presidential running-mate to Ralph Nader on an Independent ticket.

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  • Robert B. Livingston

    Someone tell Matt Gonzalez that we do not have a democratic society.

    Does he think Pelosi cares about his letter when she ignored the thousands that Cindy Sheehan delivered to her?

    This is just more grandstanding in a broken system.

    The only way to invoke change is to end sending good to bad by making believe the system works. It doesn’t.

    We must completely break with it.

    Do not support anyone who wears a label of a war party Democrat or Republican. Wearing either label is tacit support for the wars and and a thoroughly corrupt system.

    Beware anyone who tries to steer you into the big tent whatever label they wear.

    That tent spells evil and more years of futility.

    The best thing that could happen is that every San Franciscan against the war resign their affiliation with any party that rubberstamps lies of 9/11, the wars, and the corrupt economic and political system.

    Let them send in troops and lock us all up and show what they are really about.

  • Luke,

    I remember Harry Reasoner saying back in 1956 in speaking about Adlai Stevenson that he was amazed to see a politician who could write better than he could (like self, Harry wasn’t bashful but was honest). Matt’s like that. Hopefully you can get him to write at least a monthly column for you on all of the top positions up for grabs next year.


  • Really,

    Ever seen a year like this? We could potentially have a new mayor, senator, congressional representative, district attorney, city attorney, sheriff, new police and fire chiefs, 4 new supervisors and a new Board prez.

    I’d call that fluid. (However, h. brown will continue because there are no term-limits for bloggers).

    go Giants!


  • Ralph

    Guess if Dennis is lagging in the polls and is running out of money, Pelosi has little to gain, but much to lose in a debate. A debate will just give Dennis more exposure and credibility. In this election, it is her popularity in the 8th District that counts, not her nationwide popularity. I predict the “Wicked Witch” of Washington will win in a landslide.

  • Pelosi may win in D8, but she may lose the Speakership. If she loses the Speakership, will she resign?

  • Jerry Jarvis

    I could care less about a one term sup, a failed mayoral, VP , party exiting candidate/ lawyer, from SF has to say.

    I can see why h Brown worships him.

  • Rob Anderson

    So the anti-American left has gone so far around the bend that they meet the anti-American right coming around the corner. Just what we need: libertarianism, the political philosophy embraced by backward adolescents everywhere. Freedom! Gee, I wonder why no one ever thought of that before?

    Livingston’s comment is more candid: “Beware anyone who tries to steer you into the big tent whatever label they wear. That tent spells evil and more years of futility.”

    Yes, best to throw up a small tent just big enough to hold a limited number of the lunatic right and the fringe left. And our true enemy is the government of the United States. President Obama is evil. Never mind reforming the medical system and the financial system and pulling our troops out of Iraq.

  • marc

    Dennis would appear on stage with Gonzalez, Pelosi would not. That, my friends, is what this boils down to.

    Matt is “all out” against the duopoly unless the duopolist appears on stage with him, witness Dennis Kucinich in 2004.

    I guess that Dennis libertarian capitalist economic policies don’t bother Gonzalez.


  • lisapelletier

    “Politicians do corporate bidding and stage hollow acts of political theater to keep the fiction of the democratic state alive.” ~Chris Hedges

    That was my reaction to the Gonzo-Dennis-Paul “snooze fest” (‘anti-war’ demo), as Cindy Sheehan dubbed it. While I agree that Pelosi is thoroughly despicable for all the reasons stated, I suspect this is just a bit of political theatre from someone who is positioning himself to run for mayor or DA. According to Peter Camejo (in his memoir North Star), Gonzalez is one of the shrewdest political strategists around. If that’s the case, then he knows that there’s no way in hell that Pelosi would ever agree to debate Dennis when her seat is absolutely secure. She’s a good strategist in her own right. So, this is just more political posturing from a pseudo “anti-politican” who is happy to sell out workers, if furthers his own ambitions. I suspect that Matt and Nancy are political soul mates who got separated at birth, and no longer recognize that they are twins. Political bowerbirds of a feather…. Yawn!

  • GoGiants

    Pelosi is only secure as long as San Franciscans buy her “good liberal” act, she is anything but. She is a warmonger and Constitution-shredder. I’m voting for Dennis.

    Pelosi has been running the ball for Obama’s wars, not just sitting back and letting everyone vote their conscience. In a recent round of $40 billion war funding, Pelosi underwent procedural backflips to insure members could pass war funding while appearing to be against it for the folks back home.

    The reason is simple: were an up or down vote on war funding to be held, many Democrats would have to vote against it or risk being tossed out on their ears. So a scam was needed, called the “self-executing rule.” David Swanson of WarIsACrime.org explains:

    “In this self-executing rule, the [war funds] bill was to be considered passed if at least one amendment to it was approved. Otherwise it was to be considered dead. Either way, there would be no vote on the bill. There was, however, a vote on the rule….

    So, we watched Republicans like Ron Paul speak against the war and the rule, other Republicans speak in support of the war and against the rule, and Democrats speak against the war and in support of the rule that would fund it. We saw Democrats, like Congresswoman Maxine Waters, speak in support of the rule that would fund the war on the grounds that she would then get a chance to vote for an amendment to defund the war. Think about that. Rather than blocking war funding, you support it in order to vote for a doomed amendment which if passed would have to be approved by the Senate and the President too. Not a single Democrat — even those who would vote against the rule — spoke against it.

    In the end 38 Democrats, including very few progressives, voted No on the rule, which passed 215 to 210.”


    In other words, even making it as easy as possible for the members to pass war funding by giving them elaborate cover, it nearly failed. The bottom line is Pelosi is not just presiding over a vote in which members vote their conscience. She is actively running the war ball for Obama.

    Dennis is a rather unusual Republican who has attended a Burning Man festival and wants to legalize marijuana (though he doesn’t smoke it.) He attended the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade accompanied by a gay pro-Second Amendment advocacy group, The Pink Pistols, and says Pelosi has turned her back on the gay voters by refusing to make the repeal of DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a priority. Dennis campaigns with his best friend who is gay.

    But Dennis’s strongest contrast to Pelosi remains his strong stand against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he wants to end immediately. Dennis questions the need for the hundreds of US military bases abroad and says a “review should be conducted of all 700+ foreign bases now to validate each one’s strategic necessity to the defense of American citizens in order for those bases to remain open.”


    John da’ man. If Pelosi is dumped based on his anti-war stand, San Francisco will end the wars, because the message will not be missed by Washington.

    Pelosi Approved Torture:

  • Robert B. Livingston

    The problem with the change is that no matter how many people one can organize and mobilize, Power cares less so long as everyone goes back to work on Monday morning to do its bidding.

    We do not need the big tent or a smaller tent– we just need to own ourselves for a change and not be owned by anybody. People seem to no longer know what being free really means.

    I respect the folks that took over the Leslie Hotel Sunday.

    Yeah, they probably broke the law, but their message was unmistakable: It is a crime to have vacant buildings with so many people who are homeless.

    I respect the folks that tied themselves down in the intersections when “Operation Iraqi Freedom” commenced– they meant business and the Powers That Be trembled.

    Afterwards, rebellion was co-opted by folks like John Nichols and organizations like ANSWER who preached the need to organize… impotently. (Yes, we could still occasionally take over intersections, wink.) Their emphasis on keeping faith in the system and on identity politics fed prejudices on all sides and helped make the “Tea Party” phenomenon something real from nothing.

    We can change things now. But it won’t be by making the “reasonable choices” that lull us into a false sense of security and amnesia about crimes past and happening now.

  • marc

    And those folks who took over the Leslie Hotel demonstrated that they can learn from past experience.

    Instead of throwing themselves into the maw of the system and submitting to arrest, they snuck out of the building beforehand and were able to make their point while remaining free and not getting caught up in legal crap.

    The system adapted an immune response to protest in the 1990s and it appears that folks are beginning to adapt again in turn.

    Too bad that Gonzalez is devolving.


  • Jerry Jarvis

    We can change things now. But it won’t be by making the “reasonable choices” that lull us into a false sense of security and amnesia about crimes past and happening now. – Robert B. Livingston

    How do we include?

    With Jim Mekos

  • Livingston,

    For all your smoke I can’t find any fire. What exactly are you suggesting?


  • polarpetrus

    John Dennis is fantastic! He is not an Establishment Whore like the Establishment candidates of both parties. Or as Dustin Reid writes in his HuffPost blog from few days ago: “John Dennis is beyond left and right”.

    If the people of the Bay Area want some real change and somebody to represent real SF-values vote John Dennis as he is anti-war, against the war on drugs, against all bank and “too big to fail”-bailouts, for Auditing the Fed and actually Ending the Fed, against the Patriot Act, against Government regulating human life (for example sexual behavior like gay-marriage), etc.
    Of course Nancy Pelosi is exactly opposite to Dennis and she doesn’t in anyway represent the values of the Bay Area. Vote her out 2010! Look at Pelosi’s voting record in the House of Representatives and you see what she is really about.

    As Dustin Reid suggested I am all in favour of Rachel Maddow organizing a TV debate between Pelosi and Dennis on her Show.

    John Dennis 2010!

  • Robert B. Livingston

    I thought I’ve been plain, h. But if my sparks don’t take here, I really have better things to do.

    Being smarter, as Marc suggested, is a good start.

  • Kevin Riley OKeeffe

    I think the Gonzalez endorsement of John Dennis is spectacular and principled. I was just thinking a few weeks ago that if a guy like Gonzalez were sincere, he’d endorse a candidate like John Dennis over some venomous poltroon of Nancy Pelosi’s ilk. I can’t honestly claim I expected it to happen, but now that it has, I feel very proud to have voted for Matt Gonzalez for Vice-President in 2008, and I wish I could vote for John Dennis (alas, I live in San Jose’s 15th Congressional district). If I had a damn job, I’d send John Dennis some money!

    This is exactly the sort of post-partisan, trans-ideological collaboration we need in order to effect a genuine national political realignment. Its insane for the supporters of, say, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, to see each other as enemies. We can and must be allies, else the degenerate gang of criminals that lords it over this once-great nation can safely ignore us both, into perpetuity. Neither dissident leftists nor dissident rightists can ever effect real change in this society, but perhaps if we combine our efforts, we can emerge victorious. And as the Gonzalez endorsement letter amply demonstrates, we have a LOT more in common than the professional liars of the dominant press would have us believe.

    As a Republican who voted for Ralph Nader in 2004 & 2008, I ask my neighbors in San Francisco to consider becoming Democrats who support John Dennis for Congress.

  • Rob Anderson

    Pelosi will of course bury Dennis, which is as it should be. She has helped President Obama push through important reform measures for our medical system and our financial system. The consumer protection agency, now being formed by Elizabeth Warren, will play a huge future role in protecting Americans from financial institutions. None of this is good enough for the fringe left, even though the president is removing US troops from Iraq and will remove them from Afghanistan starting next year.

    “Pelosi may win in D8, but she may lose the Speakership. If she loses the Speakership, will she resign?”

    Why on earth would she resign? She’s represented the 8th Congressional district well since 1987 and has only been Speaker since 2006. You folks need to get a grip.

  • Bob Richard

    Pelosi has an opponent who opposes imperialist war, opposes torture, and at the same time supports jobs, health care and education for all — all things that the supposedly “libertarian” right opposes.. She is Gloria La Riva, candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party.

  • Hope Johnson

    Gonzalez’s criticisms of Pelosi are valid but so long as he actively supports the very people who adamantly ensure Pelosi remains in power, his words are meaningless.

    Gonzalez has helped create campaign swag for D6 candidate Debra Walker, held a joint fundraiser with DCCC Chair Aaron Peskin for D8 candidate Rafael Mandelman, and, in a move that reeks of currying political favor from the DCCC, endorsed inexperienced DeWitt Lacy second in D10 rather than providing an unfettered endorsement for the far more progressive D10 candidate Tony Kelly. These are the very people who make sure Pelosi gets elected without need of debates, offering no alternative candidates, Democratic or otherwise.

    So long as Gonzalez’s work bolsters the people who keep Pelosi sheltered, why should Pelosi give a rat’s ass about what he writes in a letter or who he votes for?