The D5 Progressive “Coalition” Meltdown

Written by Steven Hill. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Published on November 07, 2012 with 89 Comments

A failure by the top-tier District 5 progressive candidates to employ a ranked choice strategy made it possible for a well-financed moderate candidate to win. File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Steven Hill

November 7, 2012

A lot of people are wondering what happened in District 5. The story is pretty straightforward. The supporters of the three progressive candidates failed to support each other, and so the progressive vote split allowing London Breed to win. All three progressive candidates had campaigns that for one reason or another had difficulties, but on top of that they failed to unite or at least not to attack each other (though there was a late attempt to do that by the Christina Olague and John Rizzo campaigns).

For example, if you look at the first-round vote totals, you can see that Olague, Rizzo and Julian Davis together have 13,000 votes. Breed has only 7200. Even if you add in Thea Selby’s 3500, the two of them together don’t come close to the Progressive Three.

If those progressive votes had held together – like we see so often with Asian voters, for example, who tend to vote for other Asian candidates even when the Asian candidates are attacking each other – one of those three progressives (most likely Olague) would have prevailed.

Instead, if you look at the round by round vote totals you can see what clearly happened.

When Selby (who is in fifth place) is eliminated in Round 2, Breed picks up 967 votes compared to 913 for Rizzo, 542 for Olague and 533 for Davis. So the progressives together picked up far more of Selby’s voters second rankings than did Breed.

Next round (Round 3), Davis is eliminated: London Breed picks up 1082 votes, Rizzo 1223 votes and Olague 1203 votes. So the two remaining progressives still picked up twice as many votes as Breed, but in addition 1246 Davis voters had their ballots go into the exhausted pile. So a quarter of his voters did not select Rizzo or Olague as a second choice. That was the beginning of the progressive fracture.

Next round (Round 4), Rizzo is eliminated: Breed picks up 1345 votes, Olague picks up 1521 votes. So Breed picked up nearly as many votes from Rizzo supporters as did Olague. In addition, 3712 Rizzo voters – over half of his voters – did not have either Olague or Breed as a lower choice, and so those ballots became exhausted.

A complete crumbling of the progressive vote in District 5.

As a counterexample, in the Jean Quan-Rebecca Kaplan-Don Perata race for mayor in 2010, the candidate elimination and round by round vote totals were fairly similar to this race with the exception of the final round. That’s when Kaplan was eliminated and two out of three of her voters selected Quan as their next choice. If something similar had happened in this race, Olaguewould have picked up approximately 4500 votes instead of 1500 votes from Rizzo. And she would have won District 5.

But given the challenges of the three progressive campaigns, as well as the horrible infighting for reasons we all are aware of, that progressive coalition did not hold together, providing an opening for Breed.

London Breed at her presumed D5 election-victory party last eve.

Steven Hill

Steven Hill

Steven Hill is a writer, columnist and political professional based in the Bay area who is a frequent speaker at academic, government, NGO and business events, speaking on a wide range of topics related to political economy, political reform, climate change, global complexity, geo-strategy and trends. Mr. Hill is the author of several books including "Europe's Promise: Why the European Way Is the Best Hope for an Insecure Age (www.EuropesPromise.org)" and "10 Steps to Repair American Democracy, 2012 Election Edition" (www.10Steps.net). His articles and interviews have appeared in media around the world, including the New York Times, Washington Post, the BBC, National Public Radio, Fox News, C-Span, Democracy Now, International Herald Tribune, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, The Nation, Washington Monthly, Salon, Slate, Politico, HuffingtonPost, American Prospect, Die Zeit, International Politik (Germany), Project Syndicate, Le Monde Diplomatique, Hürriyet Daily News (Turkey), Courrier Japon, Taiwan News, Korea Herald, Montreal Review, India Times, Burma Digest, Egypt Daily News, Ms., Sierra and many others. His website is www.Steven-Hill.com.

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  • Kristina

    people still don’t know how to fill out those ranked-choice ballots (or maybe don’t understand the consequences of not filling in 2nd and 3rd choices?)

    • Chris J.

      If there are such voters, their number is pretty small.  I analyzed the ballots using a computer program, and in D5 only about 12% of the voters didn’t rank a second or third choice when it would have helped them to do so.  But even so, it’s possible that many of those voters did so knowing the consequences.

  • http://twitter.com/pinkbarrio rosa barrio

    I recall that one Obamabot on here said Julian Davis’s campaign was “all over.”  I said:  “Really? He might do pretty well,” and he did.  He came in 4th. If his campaign had been “all over” as the Obamabot suggested, he would have come in 8th.

    And as for “savior” Obama being re-elected, it’s Bush Fourth Term, unfortunately.  Real liberals and real progressives (as opposed to faux-liberals and faux-progressives) voted for Dra. Jill Stein or Christopher Durham and his running mate, as two examples.

    • SFC415

      Right, because Bush was *just about* to get around to repealing DADT and reforming health-care AND setting a timetable to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan?

      Progressives need to stop whining when they don’t get everything they asked for and more. Politics are about compromise. Maybe that’s why “real liberals and real progressives” are real good at losing and not so good at politics? You remind me of the dirty kids on Haight who instead of asking for change ask for $5. 

  • Dog

    Fact: The data presented here indicates Breed couldn’t possibly win in a D5 runoff a month from now. For better or for worse, yet again, We see RCV working against the interest of progressives and against the will of the majority. Just sayin’.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

      The only thing that went wrong in this race is that we progressives blew it. We failed to use a unity strategy from the beginning, and to also educate voters about Breed’s corporate record, and we lost. Period. IRV had nothing to do with it. (We also should have spared some of the troops on the ground that we delivered for Mar to instead get out the vote for the progressive block in D5.)

      • EssEffOh

        Eric, we’re delusional if we think that candidates who have sufficient drive and ego to run for office will also always (if ever) come together in some pie-in-the-sky “unity strategy from the beginning.” This isn’t going to happen. We can keep wishing for it and keep complaining when candidates don’t do it, or we can look at reality and realize we’re asking something of candidates (and campaign staff and volunteers) that essentially defies human nature.

        We need to wake up to the fact that progressives in this town are so fractured and angry at one another that we simply are not going to come together in “unity strategies.”  Runoffs FORCED us to come together in a unity strategy. Look at Gonzalez 2003.  Without being forced to come together, progressive unity has collapsed. 

        RCV isn’t working to reflect the will of the majority and it certainly isn’t helping build a unified progressive movement. Think about it. It shouldn’t be up to candidates and campaigns to make an electoral system work.  The system should work DESPITE how the campaigns and candidates act. Indeed, the system MUST work despite how the candidates and campaigns act or it is by definition a flawed system.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

          No & Yes

          First, the faulty assumption you are making is that IRV is worse than what we had before. It isn’t. It is better. And if progressives had used the IRV system effectively in D5, we would have won. (SF IRV will also be vastly improved as soon as voters can list more than three choices.)

          However, with that said, proportional representation for electing the Board of Supervisors would clearly be far better than IRV, and I think it is time for us to start a serious effort to institute proportional representation in San Francisco.

          • Daniele

            how would that work in a supervisorial race?

            • EssEffOh

              If we had a runoff in December, Olague would be the consensus progressive candidate and would not only win against London Breed, but would be back in the good graces of progressives and owing her allegiance to progressives instead of downtown.

              Much of the intra-progressive animosity would be healed along the way and all kinds of good people from various campaigns would be working together, bonding, and laying the groundwork for increased progressive power. 

              Instead, with RCV, progressives are further fractured, despondent, and powerless.

            • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

              Voters would vote their party affiliation (which would determine how many Supervisor seats they garnered) and then also rank their choices for who they want their party to appoint to their Supervisor seats.

          • EssEffOh

            Eric, we can’t even win a supervisor’s race in district five right now, how in the world are we going to get proportional representation?

            You say that IRV/RCV is better that than system we had before without providing any evidence or even bothering to make an argument.
            I loved RCV in theory, but overall do not like what it’s doing in practice in SF. The Kim / Walker / Keyes fight in District 6 2010 was horrible for progressives and created wounds, grudges, and rifts that have only grown worse over time. RCV has created problems like David Chiu who gets to pretend he’s a progressive when it suits him, but who royally fucks over progressives at the most crucial times. 

            RCV lets’ everyone off the hook of having to take a side. Organizations and leaders just take all sides because they now have three endorsements instead of one.Compare the importance, unity, and chance-of-winning between Gonzalez 2003 and Avalos 2011 and explain to me exactly how RCV is better than what we had before. I’m all ears.

            • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

              It serves nothing to engage in yet another debate about the already established pros and cons of IRV. There are a lot of reasons that IRV is better than winner take all, and they have been stated many, many times. All of the very real problems you outline above were created by progressives not getting their act together and working together (not by IRV) and would have generated just as much infighting and division within winner take all elections.

              As to your disdain of an effort for proportional representation, it is nothing but knee jerk pessimism and doesn’t really merit a response.

              • EssEffOh

                I’ll say it again, RCV lets’ everyone off the hook of having to take a side. Organizations and leaders just take all sides because they now have three endorsements instead of one.  Compare the importance, unity, and chance-of-winning between Gonzalez 2003 and Avalos 2011 and explain to me exactly how RCV is better than what we had before. I’m all ears.

                • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

                   Again. Oakland clearly proves you wrong.

                  • Dog

                    Oakland proves no such thing no matter how many times you say it.

      • EssEffOh

        Eric, we need to recognize the cold hard fact that people like Enrique Pearce and even Rose Pak, who are running / funding and/or profiting from progressive campaigns, have no incentive or inclination whatsoever to concede to “unity strategies.” Never. Going. To happen.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

           The only thing that would have been required to run a successful unity strategy would have been for Olague and Rizzo to have run as a team together from the beginning.

          • Dog

            Olague is an incumbent. Why should John Rizzo even run for D5 Supe if he supports the incumbent?! You’re not making any sense.

            Three months ago many, many progressive individuals and organizations were very understandably worried that Christina was too close to Ron Conway’s and Willie Brown’s mayor. She co-founded the Run Ed Run campaign for godsake (when Avalos was already running!). This was hardly the sort of recent behavior that proves progressive loyalty, let alone progressive leadership in the city’s most progressive district.

            There actually WAS a unified, explicitly agreed-upon strategy among leading candidates in D5, established months ago, and it was to take on the mayor’s appointee, Christina Olague. If Christina had been good-enough for progressives to unite behind or unite with, she would have gotten all the key progressive endorsements and indeed never would never have even had viable progressives candidates like Rizzo and Davis running against her.

            If it was worth it for Rizzo to bothering to run against the incumbent, then why would he then also unite with her in some unified strategy?! This notion is utterly absurd! On the other hand it may have made sense for them to unite at the last minute, under the unusual circumstances. Which is EXACTLY what they did.

            • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

              Your long screed is just nonsense. John Rizzo ran because he rightly believed he would be the best Supervisor for D5 if elected. And there simply was no progressive consensus to unseat Olague because she was Lee’s appointee. A lot of progressives supported both Olague and Rizzo early on. The only progressive who stupidly ran on a platform of attacking Olague, and as a result helped turn the election in that district against progressives, was Julian (ego trip) Davis.

              • EssEffOh

                Why would anyone run against an incumbent and then immediately join that incumbent in a unified strategy? Why would any incumbent agree to join in a unified strategy with an upstart opponent?

                I can guarantee you that this have never once happened in the history of the world and will never happen in the future.
                To expect candidates to behave this way is ludicrous.

                • EssEffOh

                  Eric, keep on wishing for opponents to join in unified strategies and keep complaining everytime they inevitably don’t.

                  But, for better or worse, it’s just not going to happen, just as it didn’t happen this time in D5 or two years ago in D6. Meanwhile a runoff would force the better unity we once had in the progressive ranks and would also get Christina elected.
                  I’m looking for solutions not to just place blame candidates and campaigns for not acting the way we want them to.

                  • Daniele

                    Maybe
                    power, like money, is corrupting, and just like in the financial world, we need
                    regulations to keep people in line. In this world, that “regulation”
                    would be a runoff, and the corrupting “symptom” is an inability to
                    “come together”—either on the part of the candidates or the
                    electorate. In this world (of power), even with a voting method (RCV) designed
                    to empower “the vote”, even so called “progressives” are
                    corruptible….

                     

                    Unless
                    of course you have an unassailable, charismatic candidate who naturally brings
                    the voters, at least, together…but we didn’t get that this time…or did we?

                     

                    Goodnight.

                  • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

                     Nonsense. It happened in the Oakland Mayor’s race. Clearly unity is doable.

                    • Dog

                      You need more than just the 2010 Oakland mayoral race to prove that RCV works well and specifically that it works well to unify candidates. D5 this year and D6 2010 are great examples of how RCV tears SF progressives apart and leaves them torn apart. And Oakland 2010 isn’t a good comparison with D5 2012 in which you’re expecting an incumbent, who was of course leading in the polls until late in the campaign, to agree to run along with her opponents early in the campaign when she was the odds on favorite to win as the incumbent. It’s ridiculous to think an incumbent would do this, particularly an incumbent who was, at the time, getting her support from the mayor and Rose Pak.

                • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

                   Regardless of whether it has happened before, progressives should have chosen that strategy for the good of eachother, and the city.

                  • Dog

                    Eric, in case you hadn’t noticed, there is nothing resembling a unified progressive block in San Francisco anymore, be it during election time or ever.

                    Back in the days of runoff elections circa 2000/2003 there was a more or less clearly defined progressive block. Now, for example, you have many “progressive” leaders and organizations endorsing both John Avalos and Ed Lee for mayor.

                    Be honest, with your understanding of the history and nature of SF politics, do you think someone who supports both Ed Lee and John Avalos for Mayor (and maybe even David Chiu, as well, for good measure!) can truly be considered to be squarely in the progressive camp? Of course not! This is only one of many examples of the problems we face. The evidence is everywhere that the unity and clarity, and hence, the power, of progressive SF has disintegrated. Another example: who do you consider to still be truly progressive on the Board of Supes? It’s nearly impossible to say nowadays. There is no clarity or unity. This certainly wasn’t the case in 2000.

                    So Eric you’re fantasizing about the unity within some progressive entity that actually no longer exists. And RCV must take a big share of the blame for the disintegration of progressive unity that we have witnessed over the time period since RCV was introduced. We no longer have runoffs that bring us together at the end of divisive election cycles, so we’re constantly being broken into factions while never being brought back together. Plus RCV means that people like Jane Kim, Eric Mar, and David Chiu can link themselves with and support non-progressive candidates and policies whenever they like. They never really have to pick a side and throw their lot with either downtown or with progressives. And progressives can’t say anything about this because they have no unity or power, if “they” indeed even exist at all

                    You can keep fantasizing about progressives and half-progressives and pseudo-progressives who don’t like each other, coming together in unity strategies. Or we can return to RCV which very effectively forced that unity and which defined what it actually meant to be progressive in San Francisco.

                    And you’re going to have to provide more evidence for the effectiveness of RCV than one mayoral race in an entirely different city. I’ve got plenty of evidence right here in our own city that RCV has fractured and weakened progressives to the point where we’re nearly finished altogether.

                    And I’ll say it again. Never in history (in Oakland or anywhere else) has someone running against an incumbent also then unified with that incumbent and ran with that incumbent. If an opposing candidate thinks an incumbent is already “good-enough” and that opposing candidate is willing to publicly proclaim that, than why should anyone bother supporting that opposing candidate? And that opposing candidate would be nothing more than a selfish idiot to run against the incumbent in the first place. This is obvious on its face.

  • Christopher Cook

    Good interesting D5 vote analysis from Steven
    Hill. Confirms what I suspected all along: despite rank choice voting,
    too many “progressive” candidates fighting instead of uniting. Still not
    enough clarity and focus about what it means to be progressive. Why did
    all those Rizzo #2 votes go to Breed?  Why so many splits in the #2 counts? To me this “meltdown” argues
    for sharper focus and discussion on what it really means to be a
    progressive in SF. We can have multiple candidates, and make the debate and campaign richer, but without clarity of core principles and positions it’s easy to lose a lot of votes due to moderate #2s or expired ballots.

  • CitiReport

    I don’t dispute Steven’s thesis, but I think there is a context that needs to be considered. In the case of Quan-Kaplan-Peralta, the candidates and their records/political values were well known. Certainly no one was in doubt about what Peralta’s candidacy would mean. 

    But in the D5 race, there was virtually no information on Breed. She was under the radar in comparison to Olague, Rizzo and even Davis. I did not see any articles looking through her record on the Redevelopment Commission, which is honeymoon central for developers and business interests. Nor was there mention of her work on the staff of Treasure Island, one of the pieces of her history directly relevant to her views on rent control since Treasure Island’s contracts exempt them from rent control. What was her role on that issue? 

    Breed became the default position in large measure because she represented “none of the above” and was politically anonymous. 

    Was that the fault of progressive candidates? Only if you believe that the role of candidates is to expose the views and records of their competitors. Frankly, I have regarded that as the responsibility of the media to inform voters. And yet in SF, the mainstream media is closely tied to developer interests — including their own development plans as we all know regarding the Chronicle. It’s not a conspiracy, but it is simply the politics of self-interest.

    CitiReport, where I blog, is equally at fault. We did not explore Breed’s record and we should have. Our effort was limited to a questionnaire on ethics, which Breed declined to answer. Thus she remained under our radar other than mentioning a few times that she had declined to answer questions about ethics. 

    So, in my view, the Oakland example is an imperfect match given the well-known histories of the candidates while in SF, the lack of information has to be considered in looking at Breed’s victory. The lesson may well be for future candidates to keep their head down and mouth shut. That doesn’t seem like a key to victory for the public, however.

    • ProgHog

      I think that’s the role of the candidates, to expose what other candidate’s positions are. If neither Olague, Davis or Rizzo exposed Breed’s positions on development, how can you possibly blame that on the media or on RCV? Maybe if Davis and Olague weren’t so busy attacking each other, and if Rizzo had shown up as strong early in the campaign as he did in the final 10 days, Breed would have been outed as a moderate (though actually I saw plenty of info in the media, whether BG or Chron, that Breed was more moderate).

      And don’t forget, if there had been a second runoff election, then the progressives would have been battling each other to see which of them would get into the runoff against Breed. So they likely would have been attacking each other even worse than they did with RCV. Remember the 2003 mayoral election, when Ammiano, Gonzalez, Alioto and Leal all attacked each other because they knew only one of them would get into the runoff with Newsom. That kind of system is a “last person standing” method, and it would destroy prog unity even more. Then, after attacking fellow progressive candidates to be the last one standing, you have to try and unite them for the runoff. Very tough to do. Alioto never did endorse Gonzalez, and Ammiano only did so begrudgingly to keep peace in the progressive family but didn’t lift a finger to help elect Matt.
       
      So there is no electoral method that can force prog candidates to unite, unfortunately. There has to be something present called “character,” or all bets are off. RCV is still far better in that way in most races than a two-round runoff method. But in this race, even RCV couldn’t work a miracle with three flawed candidates who did more to battle each other than London Breed.
       

      • Dog

        “That kind of system is a “last person standing” method, and it would destroy prog unity even more.”
        This simply isn’t true. Despite all the infighting that happened between Ammiano, Gonzalez, and Alioto in 2003 everyone eventually worked together to fight Newsom and it was the last time progressives in this city organized together in a unified fight. Today progressives are so fractured there isn’t even a progressive movement to speak of. It’s dead.
        Ironically RCV has left progressives in a fractured mess that is perhaps beyond repair. It has not brought us together. At all.

        • ProgHog

          You have a different memory than me of the 2003 mayoral election, then. Perhaps you were part of the progressive faction that went on to the runoff in December, but I remember many other progressives who had supported other candidates in that race than Gonzalez being very dissatisfied and not joining in with the overall effort. Many people were disenchanted and alienated by the bitterness of the progressive candidates going after each other to see which one would survive and face Newsom in a runoff. To Matt’s credit, he managed to engage a lot of new people, especially young people. But many other progressives who supported other candidates kept an arms length distance away.

          • EssEffOh

            Of course it is impossible to ever get everyone, particularly leftists, to agree on something. But the Gonzalez 2003 campaign is 100 times preferable to what we have now. Back then we were at least forced to take a side and try to work together however reluctantly.

            Now with RCV, people like David Chiu get to be considered progressive one week and then shit all over progressives the next week, with no consequences because there is nothing resembling a unified progressive block anymore to hold people accountable. There is NO PROGRESSIVE UNITY now, whatsoever. 

            We are completely fractured, angry at one another, distrustful of one another, and have no power. RCV has played a huge roll in this, in large part because it allows officials and organizations to constantly ride the fence and never take a firm stand when it comes to endorsements and allegiances. You can in effect endorse “everyone,” cover all your bases and appease progressives and corportists alike with no consequences. 

  • Dog

    A runoff would settle this. The discussion would be over. We can talk forever about how voters, candidates, and even journalists are doing RCV the “wrong way” or we can start to consider the possibility that without a monumental public education effort RCV frequently won’t reflect the will of the majority, let alone the hopes of progressives. Whose gonna pay for and carry out this monumental public education effort? Cuz unless it happens and happens soon, we’re screwed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

      Yes.  RCV advocates assume that other voters are as interested in elections as they are in sports, as most of us who frequent FCJ are.  

  • Greg

    None of this is the fault of the voting system, as some commentators suggest. The voting system did what it was supposed to do. The failure was on the part of the progressive leadership, and the candidates themselves, particularly Olague.

    They were discussing this race at SPUR today, and Latterman’s opinion was that it would’ve been hard for Olague to redefine herself in 3 weeks in the case of a runoff. I tend to agree.

    Progressives were too divided. Some came back to supporting Olague after the Mirkarimi vote. Others could never forgive her for that, or for her other votes. She just did too much damage to herself. On the moderate side, the mods abandoned her when the mod money abandoned her. So she was left out to dry by both sides.

    Julian could have consolidated progressive support if they hadn’t torpedoed his candidacy, with the help of certain parts of the progressive coalition.

    Rizzo could have consolidated progressive support if only he’d worked as hard as he did on that first community college board race.

    But it’s no use speculating “what if” at this point. The lesson for progressives is that we won’t get anywhere by cannibalizing each other. And the lesson for progressive electeds is, as always, abandon your base at your peril.

    • Greg

      btw… I meant to say that some progressives couldn’t forgive her for 8 Washington and other things, *not* the Mirk vote. The mods couldn’t forgive her for the Mirk vote.

      I think had she gone in there, said “thanks for the appointment Mr. mayor,” and then immediately started voting against him every single time, didn’t pull crap like like flirting with the conservatives on IRV… basically shown that she was as strongly progressive as she ever was -had she done that, Davis’s campaign and Rizzo’s campaign would never have gotten off the ground because progressives would’ve coalesced around the one strongest candidate -her. Oh sure, the mayor’s moneymen would have immediately unleashed a gazillion dollars of dark money against her like they did with D1. And it would’ve had the exact same results, because everyone would know where she stands.

      But like I said… coulda woulda shoulda.

  • Tommarc

    I hope either Ed Lee or Ross Mirkarimi can help Christina land a job next year.

  • Daniele

    seems to me—and i don’t live in the district anymore so don’t vote there—that it is incumbent on each candidate—given the reality of RCV—to very pointedly tell their supporters who to put down as #2 and #3. That seems easy enough. It means each candidate has to be abreast of the other candidates, which I’m assuming they already are–but it does become harder to do this when there are so many other candidates. Still—it means keeping that larger view instead of just thinking about oneself–and that is a little more work. If I understand the logistics exposed in this article, that’s the only logical conclusion I can come up with.

    That said, I also think that “keeping a larger view” also translates to not focusing on only the faults of any particular candidate—but keeping things in perspective about the true substance of their worth…

    So, *did* any of the candidates pointedly tell their supporters who to put down as #2 and #3? I don’t think RCV is a lost cause if candidates would only make these adjustments. But they are healthy adjustments. I guess you could argue that those #2 and #3 choices are up to the voters. But I still think that given the relative newness of RCV, the candidates need to drive the point home.

  • R.E. Stone

    I wonder whether Olague got some payback for her Mirkarimi vote.

  • Dog

    “None of this is the fault of the voting system . . . The voting system did what it was supposed to do. The failure was on the part of the progressive leadership, and the candidates themselves, particularly Olague.”
    This statement appears to be self-contradictory. A voting system that relies on the selfless actions of “the progressive leadership, and the candidates themselves” in order to function as intended, is a voting system that is inherently and fundamentally flawed.  Asking candidates to truly cooperate for one another’s benefit in every election is simply not going to happen. And you can take that to the bank.  This is in no way meant as an insult to any particular candidate in the this or any other race.  It’s merely a recognition of the realities of politics and human nature.

    But even if candidates “very pointedly tell their supporters who to put down as #2 and #3,” as Daniele suggests, in a local district race it’s likely many people will never hear the candidates pointed demands on whom to vote for number 1 and 2 or even if they did hear the candidate’s demands, many voters would simply ignore it and vote for whom they please. Blaming candidates for how voters vote for 2 and 3 assumes that voters are sheep with no minds of their own. This isn’t necessarily true, least of all in a progressive place like district 5.

    The biggest problem with RCV is that it is systematically fracturing progressives into smaller and smaller camps in each successive election and is weakening our citywide power.  Back in the days before RCV, you had battles within the progressive camp but the eventual runoff always brought us under the same tent where we were able to meet each other, get to know each other as collaborators, and fight for a unifying common cause.  This has not happened since we met as a massive group under that huge literal tent outside the Gonzalez for Mayor campaign headquarters on that cold, rainy Election night in December 2001.  

    There have been some pretty unifying supe races, like Daly ’06, or Mar 2012, i suppose.  But for every unifying district supe race there has been an at-least-as-divisive supe race such as D6 in 2010 and D5 2012.  RCV hurts progressives the most in mayoral races.  Avalos 2011 might have resembled the Gonzalez campaign in terms of unifying progressives and flexing progressive power had their been a runoff. Instead progressive power was terribly diluted and the Avalos campaign wasn’t able to become nearly as big or as unifying as Gonzalez 2001.  This is the fault of RCV not Avalos or the progressive troops.

    With RCV we have seen the steady and tragic decline of progressive unity and progressive power in this city. I defy anyone to prove otherwise.  I didn’t want to believe that RCV was bad for progressives but the last three elections cycles in particular have proven that it is.

    • Dog

      some of my numbers got mixed up there (Gonzalez for Mayor was 2003, of course. etc), but y’all get my point! : )

      • Greg

        The voting system just reflects the state of the electorate and the candidates. The more accurately, the better. And given the candidates self-destructing, it pretty much did that.

        In this case, the “experts” seem to think that the result would have been the same with a runoff, and I tend to agree.

        In other cases, where the IRV result notably differs from the result that would be obtained with runoffs, the IRV result appears to be superior in the sense that it reflects the will of the voters more faithfully. The case that is often brought up is the 2010 D10 race, where the result was clearly different because the eventual winner would not have even been in the runoff. The runoff would have been between a middle-aged white progressive named Tony Kelly, and an unknown Vietnamese woman. Kelly would probably have won, but as much as I like Tony Kelly and his politics, I have to ask whether that would have been an accurate reflection of the district?

        As much as I hate to admit it, Malia Cohen would have likely beaten ANY ONE of the top 5 candidates in a runoff one-on-one, but -and this is the big “but” where tradtional runoffs totally fail -she never would have gotten the chance.

    • Daniele

      hi Dog,
      yeah, i went to sleep last night thinking that RCV only works if it is *used*—I mean really milked— as it is meant to be used. To the extent that it isn’t, it doesn’t seem to, based on this latest D5 example anyway, and more as you point out.
      RCV demands a lot from everyone~in theory a noble and seductive even proposition on its face~but in practice? Is it working? It’s worth taking a dispassionate look…

      This analysis of Steven Hill is troubling to me…with so many not even voting for a 2nd and 3rd…Another reality maybe: people are “busy” and don’t feel the need (or see the necessity as it were) of voting 2nd and 3rd…How many of these voters will even be reading this article—let’s be real. 

      So…is what might’ve seemed on its face a more nuanced way to vote and touted as the only way to prevent a spoiler, starting to look like false/faulty idealism? with a noble intent to be sure, but something is amiss in the land of RCV. Is it fair to place on a candidate that burden of knowing all he/she needs to know about another candidate in order to advise, when things change (as we saw in this election) from day to day? And then the burden of hammering it home all the time, in debates, in literature, on the street? And as you mention, is it even the place of the candidate to do this?

      Do we suffer loss after loss until the electorate becomes “used to/appraised of” the necessity to use that 2nd and 3rd vote as if it’s as important as the 1rst choice? Habits~and this is a *long*, intrenched habit of voting for 1 person~die hard…That is indeed human nature. Ever try to break a habit of your own?

      When a race is as crowded as this D5 race, which is also a good thing for all the voices you get to hear—does RCV pose a threat? An unintended threat to the majority of the voters? I’m wondering if we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. 

      You know, progressives are often put down by some as being too intellectual…smart, well-educated. Well, maybe this is one instance where that is coming back to bite us. Maybe, in the case of voting, simpler *is* better….and what seemed like a boon at first glance is really a bust in the real world? 

      Maybe it’s just a matter of limits. RCV has its limits: it would be great in the case of a straightforward Nader, Gore, Bush scenario, but in the case of multiple candidates—and similar ones at that— it’s too fraught with complicating factors….

      —anyone?

      • Daniele

        Actually, I take it back. Hill’s first paragraph says a lot:
        …if you look at the first-round vote totals, you can see that Olague, Rizzo and Julian Davis together have 13,000 votes. Breed has only 7200. Even if you add in Thea Selby’s 3500, the two of them together don’t come close to the Progressive Three.

        It all comes down to coalition-building. And keeping the *larger perspective* of substance over personal weaknesses…as in the Julian Davis case…and even Olague’s case. I don’t know her personally, but I know from having lived here long enough that she has a solid progressive background…Fear is a big seducer…maybe fear won out this time, pure and simple. 

        If we didn’t have RCV, then all we’d be left with is a splintered race, and where would that leave us?

        I think this race does expose a deficit in a “larger view capacity” on the political front (coalition-building), and on the personal front (perspective/ability to separate the chaff from the wheat when it comes to substance).  

        Speaking as an artist now, one of the most important things you learn in art school when you draw is to ‘keep a larger perspective”, ie, look at *all* relationships. If you just focus on one thing on your page, your drawing will not be strong. But when you actually train your eye to see how one object relates to another elsewhere on the page/on the stage of life, that’s when a drawing comes alive. That is how you separate the good artists from the not-so-good. I see a perfect parallel here in the political world.

        RCV does offer us an opportunity to be “good artists”. So for a minute there, I wasn’t so sure. Now I see, upon further reflection, that we have to rise to the challenge of becoming better “artists” if you will, and learn to see the larger picture. Art doesn’t lie…what is true in art is true in life–it is a reflection of it, so I don’t mind using the analogy here.

        Maybe a hard lesson to swallow, but are we willing to learn?
        …and maybe London Breed won’t be as big an un-progressive as we might fear. Surely, she is looking at the numbers too and will take their meaning into account.

  • http://district5diary.blogspot.com/ Rob Anderson

    London Breed will turn out to be a party line SF progressive. The notion that she’s a “moderate” is based on little but her former association with Willie Brown. When you look at the people and organizations that endorsed her, it looks like any other SF candidate.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

       Breeds votes on Redevelopment totally blow your assessment out of water Rob. She is not remotely progressive.

      • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

        Has the Redevelopment Agency been replaced with something of another name?  And does Breed still serve?  If so, I assume she’ll have to step down as a Supe.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

          The Redevelopment Agency has been replaced by two new bodies. One is a technical oversight board populated by Downtown cronies which has the task of perpetuating the financial and legal agreements already underway at Bayview, Transbay, Mission Bay etc. The other is the Redevelopment Successor Agency Commission which has yet to be appointed by the mayor’s office. The latter has 5 seats and must have at least 2 filled by D6 and D10 residents (one each).

  • JustSayin

    The fact is, no method can guarantee that candidates and their supporters, whether progressive or otherwise, will unite. Other methods that could be used other than RCV, such as a two round runoff, have even more crazy-making problems when it comes to split votes and spoiler candidates. Look at other races around California that now use a two round runoff, otherwise known as the “top two” primary. You see similar stories to the District 5 race. In Congressional District 31, which is a liberal-leaning district where Latinos are a near-majority and whites less than 30 percent of the district, two white Republican candidates ended up finishing in the top two and going on to the November election. That was because the Democrats ran too many candidates who ended up attacking each other to see who would get into the top two, resulting in none of them making it.  In progressive Norm Solomon’s District 2 race for Congress, a similar thing happened – a bunch of Democrats ran against one Republican, and the Democrats attacked each other so Norm barely missed making the runoff to the Republican. When Secretary of State Debra Bowen ran for Congress with several other Democrats in one Republican in the race, the progressive vote split between Bowen and another progressive Democrat, resulting in a Republican making it into the runoff against a moderate Democrat. If they had use RCV, Bowen probably would have won the race because the other progressive in the race liked her more than the other candidates and the progressive vote would not have split. The point is, ALL electoral methods can result in splitting the vote among like-minded candidates. There is no method that will guarantee that this can never happen. But RCV is the best method to ensure it happens as little as possible. Also, don’t forget what happened in progressive candidate Eileen Hansen’s supervisorial race in 2002 for district 8. She finished first in November but lost to Bevan Dufty in December because she couldn’t rally progressives to turn out in a very low turnout December election. Dufty won in December with fewer votes than he had in November, because the turnout was so low! Since no electoral method can force the candidates to unify, that’s where leading organizations like the Bay Guardian are supposed to help voters at least to do so. Unfortunately, in this race the Bay Guardian didn’t play it’s usual role in that regard, and instead showed a very schizophrenic pattern and an incredible lack of leadership. Even after they jumped ship on Julian Davis, and seemed to be saying that Olague was now the progressive choice, they never did endorse her. At the last moment they appeared to give a push for John Rizzo, but it was too little too late. So there is enough blame to go around. But I don’t see that the electoral method had anything to do with this mess up. This was self-inflicted by a progressive circular firing squad.

  • JustSayin

    The fact is, no method can guarantee that candidates and their supporters, whether progressive or otherwise, will unite. Other methods that could be used other than RCV, such as a two round runoff, have even more crazy-making problems when it comes to split votes and spoiler candidates.

    Look at other races around California that now use a two round runoff, otherwise known as the “top two” primary. You see similar stories to the District 5 race. In Congressional District 31, which is a liberal-leaning district where Latinos are a near-majority and whites less than 30 percent of the district, two white Republican candidates ended up finishing in the top two and going on to the November election. That was because the Democrats ran too many candidates who ended up attacking each other to see who would get into the top two, resulting in none of them making it.

    In progressive Norm Solomon’s District 2 race for Congress, a similar thing happened – a bunch of Democrats ran against one Republican, and the Democrats attacked each other so Norm barely missed making the runoff to the Republican.

    When Secretary of State Debra Bowen ran for Congress with several other Democrats in one Republican in the race, the progressive vote split between Bowen and another progressive Democrat, resulting in a Republican making it into the runoff against a moderate Democrat. If they had use RCV, Bowen probably would have won the race because the other progressive in the race liked her more than the other candidates and the progressive vote would not have split.

    The point is, ALL electoral methods can result in splitting the vote among like-minded candidates. There is no method that will guarantee that this can never happen. But RCV is the best method to ensure it happens as little as possible.

    Also, don’t forget what happened in progressive candidate Eileen Hansen’s supervisorial race in 2002 for district 8. She finished first in November but lost to Bevan Dufty in December because she couldn’t rally progressives to turn out in a very low turnout December election. Dufty won in December with fewer votes than he had in November, because the turnout was so low!

    Since no electoral method can force the candidates to unify, that’s where leading organizations like the Bay Guardian are supposed to help voters at least to do so. Unfortunately, in this race the Bay Guardian didn’t play it’s usual role in that regard, and instead showed a very schizophrenic pattern and an incredible lack of leadership. Even after they jumped ship on Julian Davis, and seemed to be saying that Olague was now the progressive choice, they never did endorse her. At the last moment they appeared to give a push for John Rizzo, but it was too little too late.

    So there is enough blame to go around. But I don’t see that the electoral method (RCV) had anything to do with this mess up. This was self-inflicted by a progressive circular firing squad.

    • Daniele

      hey there. i agree. see my last post about it in response to my previous post.

    • EssEffOh

      I promise to stop beating the dead horse soon, but if we are to take seriously Steven’s points above, the problem of a majority progressive district electing a non-progressive candidate would indeed be solved in a December runoff. Olague would, in all likelihood, win.

      And just to reiterate, there are very good reasons why other candidates didn’t run in a unified campaign with Olague as she was considered by many (myself included) to be way too close to the mayor. And anyways, anyone who thinks the incumbent would have agreed months ago to a unified strategy with opponents perceived to me more progressive than her, is delusional.

      And honestly, why should she have agreed to this? Because advocates of RCV insisted she must?

      Candidates are never going to do what we want them to in the context of RCV no matter how much we wish they would and no matter how much we complain.

      And it’s not just up to the candidates. Candidates risk losing the trust and fervor of their supporters if they are perceived to be selling out or watering down their messages by aligning themselves with other candidates.

      • Greg

        EssEffOh,
        It’s not that clear cut. I thought Rizzo and Davis’s votes would go her way on election night too. But based on how scattered the seconds were, now I’m not so sure Olague would have won in a runoff. Latterman also tended to think that Breed would’ve won.

        But there’s a more fundamental problem with traditional runoffs. Runoffs leave open the possibility of something like CD 31 happening. There, because of vote splits among Democrats, and low turnout in the primary, we have a Democratic leaning district where the majority of voters went in on election day in the general and found themselves disenfranchised, having to choose between 2 Republicans with no Democrat on the ballot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

    Indeed.  Good analysis. Thank you.

    I am not a fan of IRV, though I would favor an IRV primary followed by a run-off if neither candidate gets 50% of the vote.  If that were the system in place, Christina Olague and London Breed would be headed into a run-off, and real differences between them would no doubt emerge much more sharply.

    That said, this is hardly the first time a progressive San Francisco coalition has failed to form in a San Francisco race.  Unless I missed something, none of the long list of candidates who all supported public power and public banking – Jeff Adachi, John Avalos, Terri Baum, David Chiu, Leland Yee, Phil Ting – endorsed any of the others as their #2 or #3 vote, even though Mayor Lee was the sole viable candidate who supported neither public power nor public banking.  Did I miss something?
    I don’t know what happened in D10 in 2010, except that Tony Kelly and DeWitt Lacey were the progressive favorites.  Did they endorse one another before it was over?  

  • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

    I also think the politics of race need to be factored into what happened here.  Though London Breed is perceived to be the outsider in a field of progressive candidates, because of her votes on the Redevelopment Agency Board, an African American resident of District Five got on KPFA on Monday and said that all kinds of irrelevant scandal had been dragged into this race, and that there were lots of good candidates, but  London Breed was  closest to the community and its needs, by which I’m sure she meant particularly close to what’s left of D5′s historically African American community.   

    Who did the Black identified San Francisco Bay View endorse and stand by?  #1 – Julian Davis, because they like his politics, and he’s Black.  #2 – Christina Olague, because they like her politics and she’s Latina, also a person of color.  #3 – London Breed, because of her accomplishments at the African American Cultural Center, because they hope she might be a more progressive supervisor than her Redevelopment Agency votes suggest, and because she’s Black.  

    What did African American Eric Smith write in Beyond Chron?  “For the second time, San Francisco will have two African American women on the Board of Supervisors. . . uniting Bayview and the Fillmore. . .”  

    Who is pictured in the photos on Breed’s campaign website?  Different people, but far more African Americans than not, including longstanding community leaders like Amos Brown.

    What did Bay View Editor Mary Ratcliff write to me after this election?  “There’s also the fact that Blacks in the Fillmore all across the economic spectrum see London as ‘one of us.’  Poor folks cite her growing up in public housing; upscale folks are impressed that she was on the Redevelopment Commission, that she ‘made it.’”If anything the past three years should tell us that race is a factor in SF elections.  It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, just a reality.  Most FCJ readers, including myself, would probably love to see the day when “the color of a man’s [or woman's] skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes,” but we’re a long way from there yet.

  • EssEffOh

    Some people, Steven Hill included, don’t seem to remember that it was pretty much the consensus a few months ago that the incumbent Olague’s claim to the very label “progressive” was highly in question. She was appointed by Willie Brown’s and Ron Conway’s mayor.  The same mayor she supported last year in a very obvious snub to the very obvious progressive candidate, John Avalos. Plus all the questionable votes she made (including, ironically, her decision to oppose the sacred cow of RCV!).

    This widely held concern about Christina’s progressive leadership/loyalty is why she did not receive several key progressive endorsements from the likes of the Milk Club, the Guardian, and even John Avalos (who only ran to Olague last-minute after Davis’ troubles and the controversial Mirkarimi reinstatement).

    The very reasonable doubts about her progressive leadership is why she had other viable progressives like Rizzo and Davis running against her in the first place.  It would make no sense whatsoever for progressive candidates to bother running against an incumbent, and try to distinguish themselves from that incumbent, why also running together in some magical unified progressive strategy with that incumbent. This notion defies logic and defies a basic understanding of how politics works and what motivates people to run and what motivates people to support candidates.

    Olague’s recent-past problems with progressives aside, history shows us that, in all likelihood, fellow progressive D5 candidates, other progressive leaders, progressive organizations, and progressive volunteers would unify around her for a December runoff and a month later she would not only defeat London Breed, but she would also be squarely back in the progressive camp and in the good graces of progressives because she would owe all her votes to them instead of Rose Pak and the Mayor.
    See? A runoff would more or less heal the wounds of a divisive campaign and help restore the power and clarity of the progressive movement in SF.  Instead we lost D5 and no one gets along. Say what you want about the merits of RCV but please don’t say it’s helping the progressive movement in SF because it’s actually systematically tearing it apart.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

      But that’s the whole point. Progressives should have used their brains and better analyzed the situation in D5 to recognize that defeating Breed was the number one priority, and we should have unified at least the Rizzo and Olague campaigns much more strongly and sooner, to accomplish that goal.

      • Dog

        Eric, in case you hadn’t noticed, there is nothing resembling a unified progressive block in San Francisco anymore, be it during election time or ever.

        Back in the days of runoff elections circa 2000/2003 there was a more or less clearly defined progressive block. Now, for example, you have many “progressive” leaders and organizations endorsing both John Avalos and Ed Lee for mayor.

        Be honest, with your understanding of the history and nature of SF politics, do you think someone who supports both Ed Lee and John Avalos for Mayor (and maybe even David Chiu, as well, for good measure!) can truly be considered to be squarely in the progressive camp? Of course not! This is only one of many examples of the problems we face. The evidence is everywhere that the unity and clarity, and hence, the power, of progressive SF has disintegrated. Another example: who do you consider to still be truly progressive on the Board of Supes? It’s nearly impossible to say nowadays. There is no clarity or unity. This certainly wasn’t the case in 2000.

        So Eric you’re fantasizing about the unity within some progressive entity that actually no longer exists. And RCV must take a big share of the blame for the disintegration of progressive unity that we have witnessed over the time period since RCV was introduced. We no longer have runoffs that bring us together at the end of divisive election cycles, so we’re constantly being broken into factions while never being brought back together. Plus RCV means that people like Jane Kim, Eric Mar, and David Chiu can link themselves with and support non-progressive candidates and policies whenever they like. They never really have to pick a side and throw their lot with either downtown or with progressives. And progressives can’t say anything about this because they have no unity or power, if “they” indeed even exist at all

        You can keep fantasizing about progressives and half-progressives and pseudo-progressives who don’t like each other, coming together in unity strategies. Or we can return to RCV which very effectively forced that unity and which defined what it actually meant to be progressive in San Francisco.

        And you’re going to have to provide more evidence for the effectiveness of RCV than one mayoral race in an entirely different city. I’ve got plenty of evidence right here in our own city that RCV has fractured and weakened progressives to the point where we’re nearly finished altogether.

        And I’ll say it again. Never in history (in Oakland or anywhere else) has someone running against an incumbent also then unified with that incumbent and ran with that incumbent. If an opposing candidate thinks an incumbent is already “good-enough” and that opposing candidate is willing to publicly proclaim that, than why should anyone bother supporting that opposing candidate? And that opposing candidate would be nothing more than a selfish idiot to run against the incumbent in the first place. This is obvious on its face.

  • Radlysf

    Divide and conquer worked again. Progressive leadership failed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

    The 2003 Gonzalez campaign wouldn’t have happened if ranked choice voting (RCV) had been in place.  I was in Chicago at the time of the primary and when I called home to ask what happened and heard that Tom Ammiano, progressives’ previous mayoral favorite, had finished way behind Matt Gonzalez, my response was, “Huh???  Who is this Gonzalez guy?”  I lived in Tom’s district, 9, at the time, and wasn’t paying as much attention to Board politics.  

    Then I came home and saw Gonzalez signs all over my favorite SF neighborhoods and started listening to what this Gonzalez guy said in the run-off, which became one of the most heated, and defining, races in San Francisco history.  Nothing like that is ever going to happen with ranked choice voting (RCV).

    • Daniele

      Yeah, this whole discussion really has me thinking and trying to sort it all out…been too busy job-hunting once again to really synthesize, but I sure do want to try. Maybe a synthesis of RCV *and* run-off? How’s that for nuancing the stone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

    BTY, re RCV:  Norman Yee has pulled into first place in D7, almost 3 percentage points ahead of Dianne Feinstein’s candidate, FX Crowley, who is in 2nd, ahead of Elsbernd’s, Mike Garcia.

    • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

      Actually that doesn’t seem to be true, or at least not unless today’s results differ.  The Department of Elections is posting a summary page, which is actually no more than a record of 1st ranked choices counted on Tuesday, election day.  How do they ever expect any of the general public to make sense of this stuff if they can’t even represent it sensibly to someone like myself who’s particularly interested???  

      • ProgHog

        Ann, please contact Director of Elections John Arntz and voice your complaint. john.arntz@sfgov.org. They do the minimum possible, unfortunately, to make it easy for voters. That’s how they have always been. Look at this election, where FINALLY Arntz ran the RCV tally on election night. For years, ever since the first RCV election in 2004, experts and RCV advocates had been telling him “there’s no reason to wait to run the RCV tally,” but Arntz always came up with excuses and lame reasons and waited until Friday to run the tally. Even though that meant the media and the public didn’t have access to all the 2nd and 3rd rankings for three days, and so his “preliminary results” of releasing first rankings only on election night was not preliminary at all, in fact it hid the real preliminary results from the public for three days. Now, nine years later, finally he’s doing what people had asked him to do, but he still confuses people by giving little thought to the presentation of the information. They never do anything like consulting with “usability experts” to try out things like ballot design, website design in advance. Pathetic really, it’s government issue all the way at the DOE.

    • ProgHog

      Hmmm, don’t know where you are getting that from. The DOE website has results as of today at 4 pm and shows that the race has tightened, but that Crowley is still in front — by less than a hundred votes! See http://sfelections.org/results/20121106/data/d7.html

      • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

        You’re right.  I talked to them and asked why, if their summary was a summary of 1st ranked choice votes on the night of the election, it wasn’t labeled as such.

    • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

      In today’s RCV results, Norman Yee has pulled within 97 votes of FX Crowley.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Brookse32 Eric Brooks

         As of Saturday, Nov 10, Yee now leads by 29 votes.

        • Daniele

          amazing.