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.

More Posts

  • Rob Anderson

    Why should anyone in Pelosi’s district care who the radical left votes for? You folks couldn’t even find a plausible candidate to oppose Gavin Newsom in 2007, even after his widely-publicized bad behavior. It’s no accident that you are a small minority.

  • marc

    Matt Gonzalez likes the Clash. The Clash’s best album, perhaps the best rock album of all time, was 1979’s double disc “London Calling.”

    Side three is amazing, four songs that run together from Stagger Lee to Koka Kola to The Card Cheat. Side 3, track 2 is “Death or Glory.”

    The indisputably best line from that track is wholly applicable to Matt Gonzalez, he who inveighed mightily from the left pontificating sanctimoniously against the corporate duopoly yet today cozies up to all sorts of fringe duopolists on the island of the lost toys:

    “I believe in this
    And its been tested by research
    He who fucks nuns
    Will later join the church”

    In 1983, on the way out to the US Festival in SoCal, the Clash stopped in Texas to play a couple of gigs. We all drove from Dallas up to Wichita Falls to the show, a few days later, friends all went down from Austin to San Antonio to see this show, crappy live recording, probably on cassette:


    And finally:

    “From every dingy basement on every dingy street
    every dragging handclap over every dragging beat
    That’s just the beat of time-the beat that must go on
    If you’ve been trying for years we already heard your song”


  • Hope,

    Matt’s not endorsing Lacy now. He made it clear that Kelly was his first choice. You don’t like him supporting Mandelman? Is Wiener your candidate now? I prefer Meko in D-6 but Gonzo has his freedom to endorse another artist and make campaign buttons with em (they aren’t IED’s for God’s sake!).

    See you Civic Center tonite?


  • Hope Johnson

    @ h

    Your mischaraterization of my post and personal preferences does not change the hypocrisy of complaining about Pelosi’s lack of participation in the democratic process while actively supporting those who work to allow her to get away with it. It’s like cheating on your own diet – just saying you won’t eat it doesn’t keep you from getting fat.

  • marc

    @Hope, but it does get you on stage and in front of a microphone!


  • lisapelletier

    @Hope, Gonzalez knows that Nancy Pelosi couldn’t “give a rat’s ass” about his letter, if she even deigns to reads it. And surely he knows that John Dennis’ quest to unseat “the wicked witch of the west” is quixotic at best. So what’s this about? We haven’t heard zilch from “the Great Unifier” since he ran for mayor. Now all of a sudden, if Gonzalez so much as sneezes, we’re sure to read about it in FCJ. You spoke of his currying favor with the DCCC and you’re definitely on to something there. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more than that, but keep that line of thought.

  • marc

    Let’s see, Gonzalez is expressing his leadership by siding with Adachi against health care for dependents of City workers, and yet Gonzalez has the audacity to aver with a straight face:

    “I write you because a large number of your constituents, myself included, are tired of your leadership.”

    Indeed. Perhaps if Pelosi took the budget knife to health care for families, Gonzalez would not be so tired of her leadership?

    Getouttaheah, we’re tired of your non-leadership as we face an economic transformation that threatens to relegate the majority of us to serfs. The last thing we need is a gaggle of legal professionals who get paid more than most of us will ever imagine sanctimoniously admonishing us to suck it up and accept our austerity like good little serfs.


  • lisapelletier

    ay, que malo eres, Marc! 😉

    (Matt shaking his fist) “You are mean, mean, mean…to ME!”

    Seriously, though, I’m glad you raised the issue of Prop B and the economic agenda behind these austerity measures. A key component of the corporate agenda is the push to drive down the wages and benefits of ALL workers, not just those in the public sector.

    As journalist Shamus Cooke writes, “The most important policy of neo-liberalism is the one always least discussed. The key component to boosting corporate profit rates is attacking workers wages and benefits. Hardcore neo-liberals are vehemently anti-union, since they view organized labor as a form of ‘unnatural regulation’ of the labor market.” (from “How U.S. Neo-liberalism Infected Global Capitalism”)

    You don’t have to look far to discover this for yourself. In fact, you can read about it in their business journals, etc. According to an editorial in The Economist, “In the corporate world, slimming a workforce by a tenth is standard fare. There’s no reason why governments should not do that too… Public-sector pay can be cut, given how secure jobs are… Public-sector pensions are far too generous.” (“Stop!”, Jan. 2010)

    And sometimes they come right out and say that American workers will have to get used to the same wages that workers in the developing world are accustomed to.

    So, we need to ask ourselves why Adachi and Gonzalez are jumping on the same bandwagon as Meg Whitman, Schwarzenegger and venture capitalist Mike Moritz. Moritz is not someone who is especially empathetic towards the homeless or the poor. He has contributed $5,000 to the Sit/Lie campaign.

    What I’d like to know, and I asked Matt this question in an open letter that didn’t get published: “What is the quid pro quo from your friends in the billionaire class?” I think I know the answer but we’d like to hear it from Matt. So far, Jeff Adachi has faced the workers in open debate and discussion. I give him credit for that.

    However, Matt, who threw down the gauntlet and then skedaddled when the workers tried to confront him with their questions and concerns, and has yet to expalin what’s behind this campaign. So, it’s not without a tinge of irony that I read his letter to Nancy Pelosi.

    I’m throwing down the gauntlet to Matt Gonzalez~ Perhaps it’s time to show some leadership yourself, hombre. At least, have the integrity to face up to the workers in a public forum.

  • marc

    Gonzalez is still too scared to debate me on this, because he knows from a progressive, liberal or even moderate point of view, Prop B is indefensible.


  • marc

    @Lisa, the American standard of living is predicated upon subjugation of the global south under brutal dictatorships which have been put into place to provide us with cheap raw materials to subsidize out convenience. For some inexplicable reason, people in the global south have grown weary of us killing their kids so that we can have cheap gas and are looking towards other industrialized/ing nations such as Brazil, Russia, India and China as trading partners.

    We will have to face austerity, both internal and external in nature. Externally, this will be a Good Thing, as it will require us to pay full freight for imports rather than seize them with the military and the attendant backlash. The dollar will no longer be the universal economic solvent, freeing it to serve as domestic means of exchange, as most of the problem we are seeing is due to the contradictions of the greenback serving both incompatible roles.

    We need not face domestic austerity, that is when the economy is all internal to what we produce and consume, we have much more latitude to maneuver. There is a political contest to he had on the distribution of internal product. Matt Gonzalez and Jeff Adachi are throwing salt onto our wounds by weighing in on the side of the billionaires who would consign working Americans already adjusting to a global reconciliation of our take to the norm to a further debasing in order to keep the billionaires whole.

    We’re going to have to take a serious hit, as the late 20th century American economy that seemed normal to us growing up in it was a total anomaly. But we need not be ground into serfdom by domestic plutocrats, those who will hopefully end up mighty tasty barbecued with a tasty sauce.


  • Hey Marc,

    I’ll debate you on this or any other issue. How about next Friday at 5:30pm at our usual forum across from City Hall? When I offered this a couple of months ago you mocked me which I assume means that you’re afraid of me.

    Man up, Marc!

    Go Giants!


  • marc

    h, you’re not the one going around leading campaigns, you are a court jester, so there is no reason for me to debate you.


  • lisapelletier

    @Marc, you’re right, we don’t have to accept these (internal) austerity measures. With a little imagination, we could come up with better alternatives that won’t drive down the wages and benefits of workers (& sinking the economy further). Take this proposal by Alex Schmaus @SocialistWorker.org:

    “Many of the largest accumulations of wealth in the state aren’t even taxed at all. According the California Labor Federation, the state gives away more than $50 billion in tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals each year. Closing just some of these loopholes could solve the budget crisis with zero furloughs and service cuts.”


    Despite Prop 13, there are still ways to get the rich to pay their fair share of taxes. Take this proposal by Tim Redmond in an editorial @SFBG (see comments, “SF’s 16 billionaires…”, 9/23/10):

    “There are all sorts of creative ways to tax the rich, even in California, even in San Francisco, even with Prop. 13. One of my favorites is a city income tax (yes, we can do that, see Weekes v. Oakland, Cal Sup. Ct 1978). Imperfect, since it’s actually a tax on income earned in the city, but it’s a start.

    “If we had a local vehicle license fee that rose steeply based on the value of the car, and a local luxury tax, and a much higher real-estate transfer tax on high-end properties, that would be a modest start. I’m also in favor of a commercial rent tax on rent more than $1 million a year (and guess what — the Guardian is a commercial landlord!). And I’m favor of making the business tax more progressive, and taxing the gross receipts of higher-end companies at a much higher rate.”


    Former labor secretary and economist Robert Reich suggests that the best remedy to get us out of the current economic malaise is to empower workers. When workers have better wages and benefits, they have more spending power to get the economic engine rolling again.


    I submit that these proposals would do more to rescue the city and save essential services, including the public defender’s budget (which I support), than pimping for billionaires and their neoliberal agenda. Sadly, nothing Adachi has proposed so far will help to save social services if it merely serves to undermine workers’ wages and negotiating power.

    In Europe, the workers are holding massive demonstrations against these austerity measures. Now is the time for American workers to stand together in solidarity before it’s too late.

  • lisapelletier

    P.S. It does look like Gonzalez is scared to debate you, Marc. Which is strange because Rod Ciferri tells me that Gonzalez is one of those rare individuals who isn’t afraid of anything. Go figure! Well, perhaps he’s just shy and could use a little encouragement. Hmmm…what if we get Chris Daly to loan you his chicken suit…you know, the one he used to taunt Gavin Newsom during the last election? he,he.

  • Marc,

    I understand. You’re such a great man and I’m no one. I was just trying to give you a public forum other than this redundant online blathering that so demeans all of our image of you.

    And, what exactly makes me a ‘jester’ and you a serious speaker? I’m smarter than you. I’m better educated than you.

    You’ve reduced yourself to a level below that of Arthur Evans and Rob Anderson and we’re all sorry to see it.

    Get a real job flipping burgers or mopping floors for a few years to pay for your own health care. We are sick and tired of carrying your lazy entitled ass. Do some manual labor and carry your own load. We’ve all done it although you seem to think you’re too good.

    Go Giants!


  • marc

    h, so angry!

    Don’t you refer to yourself as the court jester when you’re not projecting your disgust with your own position by trying to bring everyone else down to your pathetic level?

    Compared to the contempt for San Franciscans that we’re seeing passing for electoral politics in this town these days, I’ve got nothing to worry about.

    What makes me a serious speaker was that I was able to read the proposition, research the campaign financing involved and identify the elements of class warfare in the project.

    This is evident by the “get out in front of it” line of Prop B that tries to spin the attack on health care into bolstering health care. Billionaires are quite adept these days at spinning a Big Lie into political success.

    Some of us name class warfare for what it is. Suckers like you, so desperate for attention, go along with it to be part of something big.

    For someone who sang my praises for so long, either you were wrong then or you’re wrong now.

    Once I’m on the other side of your friends and their new found billionaire buddies, all of a sudden in your estimation I’m not what you’d cracked me up to be?

    I’d hope there was a third path in the US between being worked to death and starving.


  • Marc,

    You’re nearly 50 years old and you’ve never worked a day for the City of SF in your life. Yet you scream and whine that they aren’t treating you properly. Where the hell do you get off with that? You sob about the poor children who will be cut off in their sick beds when the only child you care about is yourself.

    I reserve my right to admire and love you. You’re a hell of an intellect and a thoroughly committed leftie. All that smoke I blew up your kazoo about you being smarter than me though? I was only kidding.

    Debate me.


    Alioto Plaza


    Bring your brain

    Go Giants!


  • lisapelletier

    h, I must say, I got a kick out this piece. Is this your hero now?~

    “In yet another display of arrogance, selfishness and a totally deranged view of reality, former Board prez and mayoral candidate, Matt Gonzalez, fielded a puff piece on Randy Shaw’s Beyond Chron yesterday.

    “Basically, the faux interview (anyone who thinks Gonzo didn’t write the questions as well as the answer is an idiot) was an attempt to undermine next Saturday’s Progressive Convention and, particularly, D-6 supe Chris Daly, who came up with the idea. Let me give you a few highlights of how a truly delusional mind works.

    “This is what Gonzo thinks of other potential viable Progressive candidates who haven’t entered the race: “They simply are more risk averse than me.”

    “He goes on to say, “Many others are scared,” which is a crock of shit. They’ve all been waiting for him to move and he’s trying to undermine Daly’s gathering because Matt’s jealous of Daly who is the new leader of San Francisco Progressives. Far from being a coward, it is Daly who has led from the left and taken on attack after attack on our behalf. It is Daly with the victorious army in the field itching for another battle.

    “So, Matt wants to weaken Daly by putting forth another candidate who’d be more beholden to him (and, a gullible place holder) … more beholden than Daly.

    [yada, yada…]

    “And, this guy says that the candidate chosen by the Progressives should be able to heal the divisions in the left?

    “This butthead is the one who created most of the divisions! Let’s not even get into him bringing in the ISO and Peter Camejo for an attempted surge to overwhelm local Greens.”


  • lisa,

    I stand by every criticism I’ve made of Matt and every other politician I’ve ever covered. I also stand by my long standing evaluation of him as the best politician I’ve ever seen and that goes back 60 years and includes some greats.

    I always kick them in the ass, girl. I’m always trying to get them to put their fortunes and friendships and egos on the line to run and forward my vision of public policy.

    Gonzalez for Mayor!!

    Go Giants!


  • lisapelletier

    well, then Matt better get with the program, hadn’t he?~

    So then if Matt is elected mayor, he’ll be in charge of shifting the most desperate people from the Tenderloin to Treasure Island? (seeing that he’s there to forward your vision of public policy) Dug your interview with the boys at SFBG…you slay me, h.

    Chris Daly for Mayor!!!!

    Gonzo for Master of Disaster!

    Go Bears!