Perhaps out of the summer of scandal and the fall of discord, new hope can be born
By Jim Miller
With less than 24 hours to go until the polls open, San Diego’s special election for mayor has turned into a contest to see who will face Republican Kevin Faulconer in the run-off. A Datamar automated poll last Wednesday showed Faulconer at 44% with Alvarez pulling in at 25.3%, way ahead of Fletcher’s 15.9%. This was followed by yesterday’s UT poll that showed Faulconer ahead as well but with Fletcher up by two over Alvarez, 24% to 22%, a statistical dead heat.
The American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) final internal polling has the race to make the run-off at 20% for Alvarez and 14.3% for Fletcher with a big pool of undecided voters still waiting to make their call at the last minute. Thus, taking all of this into account, it’s most likely a dead heat leaning Alvarez heading into Tuesday. Alvarez can make the primary and win, but his voters have to show up for that to happen.
Bottom line: your vote matters a lot this time. We’ll either have a race between plutocracy and plutocracy-lite or we’ll have an opportunity to keep a bold progressive agenda alive in San Diego. It’s your choice.
We Can Redeem the Promise
A couple of weeks ago, the Chicano student group MEChA (whose leader is one of my American Literature students, Juanita Lopez) invited David Alvarez to speak to a packed room at City College. During his visit, Alvarez spoke about his story: how he grew up the son of working class parents, struggled with asthma exacerbated by industrial pollution in Barrio Logan, and had brothers who got into gangs. Ultimately, though, he made it to college, took a couple of classes at City College and then graduated from San Diego State.
He told them he didn’t always like his classes but he stuck with them and succeeded. Then he talked about a professor he had at San Diego State who challenged him to make the world better, and he offered that same challenge to the students in the room.
Alvarez spoke of his early work as an activist, social worker, and educator in the community and joked that he never thought he’d become a politician, but there he was.
His manner was easy, and he seemed happy to be speaking to students who came from a similar background and were working through the same kinds of struggles that he had as a young man. His take away point for the students was not “vote for me” but rather “if I can do it, so can you.”
What struck me about the event was not only how comfortable in his skin Alvarez was as he took hard questions from the audience, but also how much his story resonated with the students. Nearly every one of them who asked him a question started with “thank you for coming to speak with us” or “thank you for representing our community.” It was clear to anyone who was in that room that his story was their story.
And that’s why an Alvarez victory would be so important for San Diego. If the last mayoral election represented a historic victory for a progressive coalition over business as usual in our city, an Alvarez win would not just redeem the promise that Filner betrayed but embody an even bolder new direction for our city’s future.
David Alvarez is that future, and he stands for a progressive politics that will be transformative not because he is our savior but because he is one of us and will have an open door to all of us, wherever we come from, whether we have friends in high places or not. He represents a vital, inclusive, forward-looking San Diego that leaves no one behind.
Perhaps out of the summer of scandal and the fall of discord, new hope can be born.
That’s what I think not just as I teach students like Juanita Lopez at City College, but also as I work with the AFT student interns who have been grinding it out for weeks on the campaign—it’s not about Alvarez, it’s about them and the future that they deserve.
Our interns have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of their neighbors as they either connect with people or have a phone hung up or a door slammed on them. Nevertheless, as they work and learn, I think, at base, they are holding on to the vision that making their city better is the right thing to do, that despite it all, in the end, there is a beloved community to be had if only we all can get there.
In my literature class, it’s the time of year when I teach the transcendentalists, Walt Whitman among them. Hence, as I stood in the back of the room watching the students question Alvarez and as I work with the AFT interns on the campaign, seeing them struggle and hope, I think of this line from “Song of Myself,” America’s great poem of radical democracy and utopian possibility:
Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams
Now I wash the gum from your eyes
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light of every moment of your life.
It’s not about you or me or David Alvarez or any one set of interests: it’s about all of us and our hope for a future better than the one that threatens to kill these young peoples’ dreams in their infancy because they don’t have the money to pay the cost of admission.
That’s the Alvarez story: “If I can do it, you can too.” No better tale could be told to our fine city.