What is a “left of left firebrand” anyway?


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If my fellow Examiner columnist Joel Engardio wants to pen anti-union propaganda on behalf of City College Trustee Alex Randolph, he should just go ahead and do it.

In last Sunday’s column, Engardio favorably contrasted the effective trusteeship of current trustees Alex Randolph and Rafael Mandelman against a menace from unnamed
challengers from the left. Nary a mention of the other five similarly competent trustees.

In a column purporting to assert “City College’s needs over political ideology,” Engardio leaked his ideology everywhere.

(Engardio, besides his Examiner columns, reports involvement with SF Moderates, Alice Toklas Democratic Club and the Democratic County Central Committee. Meanwhile, besides my Examiner columns, I also work with SEIU Local 1021 among other movements. Broke-Ass Stuart is running for Mayor. So I’d like to thank Willie Brown for opening the floodgates of the Brazenly Partisan San Francisco Columnist with No Journalistic Ethics.)

Engardio described Mandelman as a “left of left firebrand.” This is insulting both to Rafael and to the very notion of leftist firebrands.

Rafael and I grew up together. Since we were 14, no one has ever not liked him. Ever. Rafael, of course, works well with his colleagues on the College Board; he even has kind words for Scott Weiner, who he ran against for District 8 Supervisor. Rafael is passionate and principled, but not in a firebrandy manner.

Rafael, arguably, is politically to the right of Bernie Sanders — a viable candidate for President. Engardio should venture east of Twin Peaks every once in a while for a reminder that words mean things.

“Left of left” should not be used to refer to a liberal Democrat, but as an appellation reserved for those who believe in the abolition of the state or armed revolution. Those people I call my friends and family.

According to Engardio, specters “from the left are campaigning with the divisive tone of ‘take City College back.’” Which would totally be a divisive tone if anyone were doing so. Turns out, none of the candidates say anything about taking City College back. The only result yielded by a web search for the phrase “take City College back” is the following, clearly Soviet subversion: “This year’s women’s basketball team has a shot to TAKE CITY COLLEGE BACK to the semifinals.”

If one were to take City College back, it would be from the accreditation commission that sought to deny educational opportunities to tens of thousands of students as penance for the sins of administrators. That goal is shared not only by Randolph’s alleged challengers from the left, Wendy Aragon and Tom Temprano, but by such frothing anarchists as Dennis Herrera and Nancy Pelosi.

In San Francisco, corporate Democrats tar progressives with insinuations of incivility or tone or not “bringing people together to find real solutions” without regard for reality. Voters care a lot more about positive policies than a stalking horse-like tone. Progressives don’t have a monopoly on such character defects.

Let’s not forget that Mayor Ed Lee threatened supporters of Aaron Peskin for Supervisor, but that was an incivility the moderates could shrug off. Progressives work well with others because democratic participation is a core progressive value.

In exalting Randolph at the expense of Mandelman, Aragon and Temprano, Engardio could not resist a pot-shot at unions. “It’s hard to imagine them embracing fiscal responsibility and making necessary cuts in classes and services, especially with faculty and staff unions endorsing them.”

Never mind that Mandelman is also endorsed by unions. Never mind that City College’s problems involve governance, not unionized workers. If the goal were a City College that can continue to succeed at educating students, why would anyone not want teachers to be central to reform? Obviously, front-line workers who have committed their careers to the viability of this institution might have far better ideas to improve the college than me, Engardio or their own Trustees. That’s not hard to imagine at all.

Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian. Catch him on Wednesday, September 23 at the KALW Public Radio Comedy Showcase at Pianofight or @natogreen.

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