By Jim Miller
In the aftermath of the Filner resignation, a group of Democratic Party insiders and money people are continuing to run around with their hair on fire trying to anoint Nathan Fletcher as our savior and discourage other truly progressive candidates from entering the field.
Of course this includes folks like Christine Forrester, who runs a marketing consulting firm that connects businesses with hedge fund money, and former Labor Council leader Lorena Gonzalez, who has long been championing her personal friend, the former Assemblyman with an 18% labor voting record over the vociferous objections of many in labor.
Indeed, anyone who has been closely following the inside moves behind the curtain of the Filner scandal knows that the backroom meetings and fundraising efforts designed to put the fix in for Fletcher began simultaneously with the press conferences that kicked off our month-long three ring circus.
Let me be clear, Filner certainly opened the door for them with his bad behavior but they didn’t waste a second rushing in to ensure his quick political demise and Fletcher’s ascendancy. It’s not a conspiracy; it’s just inside game politics and Machiavellian opportunism at its worst by Democratic power brokers and moneyed interests who want to fix the game before any of us get to play.
To critics, who point out that Fletcher’s actual record on issues is bad from a progressive perspective, the tack will immediately shift to the need to prevent Carl DeMaio from becoming wanker in chief . Fletcher, with his corporate connections that include Irwin Jacobs’: big pockets can quickly pick up a couple million and save us from Carl’s impending reign of terror.
Of course, as of this writing, it’s not yet official whether DeMaio is in the race, but it is the specter of his potential rule that many are invoking to encourage Democrats to ignore Fletcher’s horrible record and utter lack of core principles.
But before we panic and dismiss the possibility of backing a genuine progressive who might actually continue the populist policy agenda that San Diegans voted for last fall, let’s take a hard look at who Nathan Fletcher actually is . As anyone who has followed this column knows, I have written fairly extensively about Fletcher’s various efforts to repackage himself during the mayoral primary.
Today I’ll follow a different path and allow Fletcher to speak for himself.
Thus for your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled the collected works of Nathan Fletcher, and I humbly submit that a fitting title for this esteemed document be: Our Savior Nathan Fletcher, the Magic Democrat: “There Are No Two Ways About It, Losing Sucks.”
Prepare to be inspired, dear reader.
1) Nathan Fletcher asking for the endorsement of the Republican Party before the San Diego mayoral primary election in early March, 2012:
Thank you for having me. I’ve been a Republican my entire life, which is telling because I came out of a Democratic household. When I was a child, I represent a generation who’s first president we remember was President Reagan, who very clearly and succinctly outlined the difference between the candidates, between being an individualist and a collectivist, and that basic American dream is we have the power if left to our own devices to achieve greatness. We don’t need government to do it for us, we need it to stay out of the way.
I applied this at an early age. As a teenager I walked door to door. I spent summers in college sitting outside Home Depots registering voters. I worked on campaigns where I slept in headquarters. I went months without pay because I wanted the money to go to the cause. I organized African American ministers behind education reform and school vouchers. I was the Political Director of the California Republican Party where we gave more money and support to our grassroots causes and our county parties than at any point in our history, because I believe in that effort. I traveled around the country teaching youth outreach and voter registration at the request of the National Party.
Then I went abroad to promote our principles and ideas in East Timor and Cambodia and Serbia. And time and again I’ve demonstrated commitment to our cause as a team player.
In 2001, things changed. Our country was attacked and I was asked to serve in a different way and I spent a period of time from 2002 to 2006 defending not only the principles of our Party but the principles of our country. I served in Iraq, in Fallujah and Ramadi and Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle, on the Somali border and in Yemen. I witnessed the great pain of loss and terrible sacrifice of close friends of mine and family members who believed in these causes.
When I came back I wanted to continue to serve. I ran for the legislature where I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder to make the tough decisions. We’ve taken protests in our office where we had 20, 30 cops there because we refused to raise taxes. We’ve got mailings dropped across our district. When the Democrats said, “Alright, if you won’t vote for taxes we’ll put up an all-cuts budget,” I stood and voted for an all-cuts budget, not one that reduced welfare but one that eliminated it because we had to take a stand. When we had to vote to eliminate SB 400, the most egregious pension bill at the state that ever passed, I not only voted for it, I was the whip to go get other Republicans who weren’t inclined to stand up to do it.
(Note: the “protest” he’s talking about here was an action by community college students and teachers at his office taking him to task for failing to vote for a single revenue increase to help higher education. Fletcher freaked out and called in an army of cops to monitor a group of about 50 students, teachers, and faith leaders. He actually organized a counter event of Republican supporters who verbally assailed the students after Fletcher’s dog and pony show was over).
Time and again I’ve demonstrated that, but I’ve also shown that, consistent with your principles, if you articulate it the right way you can bring people together to get good things done, like we did with Chelsea’s Law, with regulatory reform, with pension transparency and other measures.
And as your Mayor, I’ll do the same. I’ve taken the tough positions. I opposed Proposition D, I support the Comprehensive Pension Reform, I support the ban on Project Labor Agreements, I support the outsourcing of City services. But as your Mayor, I will also make sure our principles are translated into achievable action items that get done, because it’s not enough to have ideas, you’ve got to be able to turn them into reality to positively impact people’s lives.
One charge that’s been made this week, the only one I think that’s been accurate, is that I didn’t work as hard for this endorsement as others did. And that’s because I’ve been torn between what is in my best interest and what is in the best interest of this Party. And I’d be honored to have your endorsement, but I see a greater purpose and good that says, let’s unite behind the City Council candidates, between passing Pension Reform, between our other causes. And at some point being part of a team means you have to care more about the team than your individual ambitions. If this Party chooses to endorse, I’d be honored to be your endorsed candidate. If you choose not to endorse, I’ll be honored to join our team either as a member or as a nominee for Mayor after the primary as we defeat Bob Filner and as we get our city back on track.
I’ve lived our principles. I am the American Dream. I grew up in a blue-collar family, the first to go to college. I am a reflection of that which is what’s great about us, that ability that anyone can achieve success. I’ve lived our principles as a Party. I’ve defended our principles as a Party as a Marine in combat. I’ve fought for our principles as a legislator, and if elected Mayor, I will take our principles and I will turn them into action as we move our city forward.
I am very proud to have a long and committed track record with this Party and with this cause. I’m very proud to have stood with you for years, going back to the early days, walking door to door, registering voters. As a legislator I’ve raised and given more than a quarter of a million dollars to our candidates and causes, and will do the same.
Thank you very, very much for all that you do every day to make our Party great. Thank you for allowing me to be a member of this group and for participating in today’s process. I appreciate it. Thank you.
***Note: 17 days later he became an Independent.
2) Nathan Fletcher talking to the San Diego Union-Tribune about his decision to become an Independent in April 2012:
Well I think you’ve got to go and look at what I actually said. And what I said is that I’m rejecting the partisan environment of today. People say “well did you ever consider becoming a Democrat.” I didn’t. Because I think there’s unwillingness on that side as well to step out and solve problems, whether we’re talking about pensions or managed competition or some of these other types of issues.
And the other thing is that there’s not one position of mine that’s changed. There’s not one issue that’s changed. There’s not one principle that’s changed. The only thing that’s changed is the party label. And folks that have a tremendous amount of consternation in the move, it’s more of an adherence to that label than to what I represent and what I’ve been. I’m the exact same person today as I was yesterday as I was the day before. Many folks have struggled with this point and say things like “But he’s still a Republican! His wife worked for George W. Bush!”
***Once this maneuver failed and Fletcher did not make it out of the mayoral primary, he began to reinvent himself, with the unfailing help of his close friend, Lorena Gonzalez, as a “pro-labor” Democrat and eventually announced his change from Independent to Democrat without ever having to take a single vote or make any real political decisions other than that it might be easier for him to win a future race for office as a Democrat. See Fletcher’s voting record when it actually mattered below.
3) Nathan Fletcher on becoming a Democrat on May 4th, 2013:
I wanted to share with you an email I sent out to my donors and supporters this morning:
Ralph Waldo Emerson had a famous saying, “Life is a journey not a destination.”
For me, the last couple years have been quite a journey—going to war, serving in the State Assembly, campaigning for Mayor and now teaching and working in the private sector. You were a part of that journey as a friend and supporter. I appreciate your faith in me more than you will ever know. You hung with me when people said we had no chance of winning and then when every campaign was working overtime to make sure we didn’t. And you were patient with me in the aftermath of losing. There are no two ways about it—losing sucks. But time and distance have a remarkable way of providing clarity and perspective.
The last year has provided me a lot of time to reflect and I wanted to share with you a change I recently made. I joined the Democratic Party.
I was reluctant to make this move. It wasn’t due to any doubt about where I belong. It was simple dread over the criticism I would face. I know this is the party that reflects my values and beliefs, but I was reluctant to admit it. No one likes to be criticized. We all want to be liked. After I left the Republican Party, some compared it to me leaving a wounded Marine on the field of battle. There isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t think about my relatives and friends who died in war or how hard we worked to save soldiers wounded in combat. It is embarrassing, but I still cry when I meet the mother of a solider who was killed. Could people be so jaded to not see the difference between that and the politics of political parties? I think I’ve got pretty thick skin, but to be perfectly candid I didn’t want to go through it again.
Adding to that is the simple fact that life is good right now. I take my son to school, coach tee ball, surf with my friends and feel like I actually have a life. I love my work at Qualcomm and UCSD. I’m not sure I have ever been happier. I don’t know if I will run for office again, but have no plans to do so now. But I knew a change in party registration would immediately trigger a wave of “what is he angling for now”. And frankly, I didn’t want to deal with that either.
So why am I emailing you? Why now?
It is because of a conversation near the 10th Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq with someone who knows me better than almost anyone else, Lou Orozco. Lou and I served together as Marines in Iraq. We lived together, trained together, deployed together, and remain the closest of friends. After reminiscing about 130 degree Iraq heat, a couple funny and one or two sad stories our conversation turned to family, daily life and eventually politics.
Lou asked if I missed the Republican Party. I was honest—I didn’t miss it one bit. Then he asked how independent was working out for me. Again, brutal honesty–it didn’t fit. It felt empty.
I shared with him a conversation I’d had early this year with a Member of Parliament from Myanmar who I was helping train for his new role as a lawmaker. He had “googled” me (the surest sign of an open society) and read about my becoming an independent. His reaction was blunt: “It doesn’t mean anything. It conveys no values.” He is a member of the National League of Democracy, the minority party that is led by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. He went on to tell me that parties are imperfect, sometimes frustrating, but they reflect values, organize like-minded people, and help govern societies. In America, our elected officials wear lapel pins signifying membership in Congress or the state legislature. But in Myanmar, they wear a party pin. This gentleman removed his NLD party pin and gave it to me. Until I figured things out, he said, I could be in his party.
Here I was getting advice from a man I had traveled 8,000 miles to advise. His observation seemed obvious—true in any country or language and I knew he was right.
I told Lou that, during my year without any party affiliation, I’d had time to reflect on my values and principles and where they fit best. My votes and positions, candidates I endorsed and voted for had been in line with the Democratic Party. I told him I’d watched President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention three times trying to find something I disagreed with. I couldn’t. It was clear – at least to me – that I was a Democrat
(NOTE: See Fletcher’s two previous proclamations above).
I explained to Lou that because I grew up in a working class blue-collar Democratic family I was often asked why I was a Republican. It was because I thought their policies provided the best access to the American Dream. I no longer believe that is true. In my opinion, the GOP today is more focused on protecting those who have already achieved the American Dream than allowing others access to it.
(Note that Fletcher toed the Grover Norquist line his entire elected career).
I believe in the amazing opportunity available to us here in America. What unites us is the fundamental belief that there is nothing you can’t accomplish if you work hard, play by the rules, are willing to fail and start all over. That has been the path towards the American Dream for generations. But believing it requires a real commitment to ensuring that opportunity exists for everyone.
That means ensuring all children can access a quality education, afford college, and ensuring a strong middle class that the poor can not only aspire to reach but have a realistic shot at joining. It means working to create and protect the jobs that grow our economy. Access to American Dream means real solutions on issues like immigration and healthcare. It means that all people regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation enjoy equal rights and equal treatment. We should all be working towards a future that is inclusive, safe and free that creates opportunity and prosperity for every citizen. For me, that is the goal of a more perfect union.
Those values and principles haven’t changed, but I believe the Democratic Party will better make them a reality for people.
Lou wasn’t judgmental or surprised. This friend who has known me for years and well before any political career said he never understood why I was a Republican in the first place. He laughed when I told him a lot of local Republicans shared his thoughts.
He then nonchalantly said, “So be a Democrat. That’s who you are.” I told him about the criticism I would face. People would question my loyalty and say that I don’t stand for anything. I would feel like I let people down. I just didn’t want to go through it.
He reminded me that the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis doesn’t mean “Always Faithful” to a political party or group of people. It is higher than that. It is always faithful to your country, your faith, your values and convictions. The Marine Corps values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment require you to be true to what you know in your heart is right. Lou finished by telling me if I was a Democrat, then I needed to just acknowledge it, tell people why and move on. He and I had learned together that life is too short and precious to live any other way.
He was right. A few snarky emails and maybe a bad story in the paper are a small price for doing what you know is right. Shortly after this I tracked down a voter registration card and checked the box for the party where I belong.
My decision will make some people happy, like my Mom, a life long Democrat. Ironically it will please both local GOP and Democratic leaders. The Democratic Party Chair and many elected officials have been encouraging me to take this step for a while and the local GOP party chairman has said publicly that I should be a Democrat. Who knew I could unite them?
Despite my change in partisan affiliation, I have no animosity towards the Republican Party. I know many good people there, including friends, co-workers, and many I hold in high regard. I just owe it to them and myself to admit that I don’t belong anymore.
And I’m certainly not the first one to realize they were in a party where they didn’t belong. Prominent people, who have changed parties in the past, declared that they didn’t leave their party, their party left them. This was the case when Ronald Reagan went from being a FDR Democrat to a Goldwater Republican. It has also been true for Republicans that have changed to Democrat.
It is hard to dispute the Republican Party has changed over the last decade—in many ways the party has left me. But it is also true that during the same time I have changed as well. Our life experiences contribute greatly to how we view the world. In the last decade I went to war, became a father, governed in a period of great economic crisis and am now preparing to put two children in public school. I’ve sat with janitors who can’t afford healthcare, small business owners struggling to make ends meet, attended services for cops killed in the line of duty, met dreamers who are in the only country they have ever known and sat in classrooms with teachers doing the best they could in a tough environment. I learned a lot while confronting new information and a changing world.
That journey Emerson talked about has brought me to the Democratic Party. I’m proud to join the party and comfortable with my decision. I hope you will respect my decision and not fall into the cynicism that so often dominates our political discussions.
Either way, I will take the acceptance or criticism in stride and know that I am doing what I believe in my heart is right. I have found if you do that, you never go wrong.”
Poof! There you have it: add water, stir, and he’s a Democrat just like that. All you need to do is make a Facebook post and you’re good. Here’s the part that he hopes you’ll forget about.
Nathan Fletcher’s Actual Voting Record
On environmental issues: F
Fletcher’s voting record is ranked at 36% by the Sierra Club and 48% by the California League of Conservation Voters (Lifetime score).
On women’s issues: F
Fletcher gets a 23% ranking from the California chapter of the National Organization of Women.
On LGBT issues: D
Fletcher gets a 29%, 54%, and 92% ranking from Equality California. Two F’s and an A give him a D.
On seniors and Social Security: D
Fletcher gets a 68% ranking from the Congress of California Seniors. His earlier scores were all F’s at 20%, 21%, and 35% but let’s give him a mercy D.
On labor: F-
Fletcher gets a 29% ranking from the California Labor Federation (note this had dropped to 18% in the latest report).
On consumer issues: F
Fletcher is ranked at 19% by the Consumer Federation.
Looking for an A? Try the Chamber of Commerce who ranks Fletcher’s voting record at 92%. He’s also up there with a 94% record with the California Taxpayers Association and a 91.5% record with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Kissing Grover Norquist’s and the anti-tax zealots’ posteriors: A
So if you are looking for a candidate who always does whatever big business and the 1% ask of him, Nathan Fletcher is your man.
What has he done for the city? In 2010 Fletcher secured a backroom deal to lift a cap on downtown San Diego redevelopment funds. This effectively transferred stable property tax revenue from schools to building projects. Privatizing profit and transferring risk to the public sounds like something out of the DeMaio playbook, but in this case, it was part of Fletcher’s game plan. You can rest assured that there will be more of this kind of “partnering” with the private sector if Fletcher becomes mayor.
Despite this dismal record, we are being asked to support Fletcher as a “Democrat” with some surely being shameless enough to call him a progressive and being given smoke and mirrors as evidence of his imagined future as our savior (Lorena Gonzalez’s endorsement coming in 3, 2, 1 . . .).
As I said in the primary, there is a technical term for this kind of argument: bullshit. And those promoting it are operating not out of idealism about his magical transformation into a Democrat but out of the worst kind of cynicism, hypocrisy, and political opportunism. They want to anoint their Manchurian candidate as mayor and there’s nothing we can do about it unless we want to hand the office to DeMaio. Thus we have to elect the handsome smiling face of the business party rather than its snarling one. So the story goes.
As I said before the last mayoral primary:
If Fletcher’s well-funded effort to morph himself into a phony independent [update: insert phony Democrat] succeeds . . . we’ll have a contest between the Dr. Evil of the local libertarian hard right and his Ken doll opponent who talks like a moderate on his insipid TV commercials but who, in reality, is the same guy who fell all over himself to genuflect to Grover Norquist and heaped fawning praise on ALEC. Put succinctly, Fletcher is a Trojan horse par excellence.
In sum, a DeMaio/Fletcher run-off is the old guard’s wet dream. They win either way. Sure the Republicans might grumble a bit if Fletcher won, but they’d get the same kind of policy, and the same cozy little private government would rule because different factions of the city elite are backing both men.
Are we really going to be this stupid or will we give a real progressive a chance to salvage something from the wreckage? We shall soon see.