Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Time I Ran Against Nancy Pelosi

By Justin Raimondo

All the brouhaha over the big Massachusetts upset has me thinking about my own memorable brush with electoral politics. Leaving out such minor details as the results of the election, and the great disparity in our respective political philosophies, Scott Brown’s campaign to unseat the heir apparent of "the Kennedy seat," as David Gergen stupidly averred during one of the Brown-Coakley debates, gave me a feeling of deja-vu. "With all due respect," Brown shot back, "but this isn’t ‘the Kennedy seat,’ it’s the people’s seat" – a theme of independence from and rebellion against "the Machine," as he put it, that carried him all the way to a most improbable victory.

Machine politician Martha Coakley is very much in the mold of Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat I challenged in 1996, when I stood as the Republican candidate in California’s 8th congressional district. Coakley had every reason to expect to waltz into "the Kennedy seat," and my distinguished opponent displayed a similarly hubristic penumbra. Pelosi was elevated to her present position by the late Sala Burton, wife of congressman Phil Burton, an old-time machine politician in the mold of Boss Tweed, Tom Pendergast, and Richard J. Daly.

In those days, the fabled Burton Machine ran the City like it was Boss Burton’s personal fiefdom – which it was. The Republican party in San Francisco had long since atrophied into the political equivalent of Miss Havisham’s wedding cake, moldering in complete irrelevance and regularly polling in the mid-teens. No one rose up – or was spared from falling down – the political ladder unless he knelt and kissed the ring of the capo di tutti capi, which is why it took even the legendary Harvey Milk three campaigns for City supervisor (i.e. city council) before he could become America’s first elected openly gay official in the gayest city in the world. Harvey didn’t kiss anyone’s ring.

When old Phil died, the "the Burton seat" passed to his wife, naturally enough: she won the special election hands down, without even bothering to campaign, but only lived a few years beyond her swearing in. On her deathbed, she anointed Pelosi – then a high-end "fundraiser" for the Burton Machine — daughter of Baltimore mayor and longtime congressman Thomas D’Allesandro – to take her place, and has never once bothered to campaign since receiving the Mandate of Heaven.

This is not mere complacency: it is a sense of entitlement that cannot contemplate for a moment the concept of being held to account. To politicians who live in big city Democratic bastions, the very idea of a general election is nothing but a joke – as is, increasingly, the concept of a primary. The party Machine grips the levers of power so tightly that it is virtually impossible to challenge its political monopoly from the inside.

The genesis of my campaign was the run-up to the war in the former Yugoslavia, which was then being debated by a set of players that, today, seems almost impossible to imagine. One the one side, we had the Clintonian Democrats, who were backing the President’s clear determination to bomb some of the oldest cities in Europe into submission, who justified their pro-war stance in the name of a fulsome liberal internationalism. On the other side were the Republicans, who disdained the meddlesome self-righteousness of such war-hawks as Madam Pelosi and Hillary Clinton – the latter reportedly badgered her husband unmercifully until he consented to order bombing raids over Belgrade. Only John "Boots on the Ground" McCain dissented from the emerging post-cold war Republican consensus that it ill behooved the United States to go charging off policing the world.

Oh, those were the days, my friend – we thought they’d never end!

My decision to run was based, in part, on the idea of building a libertarian caucus of the GOP, an "entryist" strategy, as the Trotskyists used to say, which is precisely what the Ron Paul movement is attempting to do today, albeit with a bit more success than I managed to achieve. Ah, but that’s the price of being too far ahead of one’s time: not that there weren’t some small satisfactions. I and a few of my political co-thinkers, having tired of the internal bickering that plagued the Libertarian Party, had left the organization many of us had spent decades in and decided to "reach out" to Republicans. The cold war was over, many conservatives were coming to their senses – slowly, to be sure, and tentatively – and, on the all-important foreign policy question, were coming around to the libertarian position, i.e. opposition to global meddling on the part of the US government. When the Berlin Wall fell, the chief aide of a prominent Republican politician called me and said, in effect, we’re all on the same side now.

Read the rest here.

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