first published in Fog City Journal, October 12, 2010
John Dennis, Congressman Ron Paul, Tony Hall & Matt Gonzalez, September 4, 2010. Photograph by Luke Thomas.
OPEN LETTER TO NANCY PELOSI
by Matt Gonzalez
Representative Nancy Pelosi
California’s 8th Congressional District
Washington D.C. Office
235 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
I write you because a large number of your constituents, myself included, are tired of your leadership. As Speaker of the House, and representative of California’s 8th Congressional District, you have failed to offer a satisfactory explanation for many of the political choices you have made. Even your most ardent supporters are at a loss to defend your escalation of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan after you became Speaker (despite your promises to end the war), and for your support for the Patriot Act, its subsequent reauthorization, and for your support for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, among other things. Equally reprehensible was your vote on March 21, 2003, two days after President Bush authorized the Iraq War invasion, in support of a resolution declaring “unequivocal support and appreciation to the president…for his firm leadership and decisive action.”
Recently, it came to my attention that your opponent in the 8th congressional race, John Dennis, had challenged you to a debate and that you had declined his offer.
The press reported that when John Dennis spoke with you in Washington D.C., on September 23rd, you said you would “not be in the District enough” to debate him. You did not offer more details explaining why that was the case. You also did not suggest the alternative of holding a debate in Washington nor did you make other arrangements to accommodate the democratic process.
As a matter of fact the excuse you did give, that you wouldn’t be in San Francisco, is unconvincing. The press reported that as recently as October 7th, you attended a baseball playoff game in San Francisco. A public debate could be completed in 2 hours, which is less than the length of an average professional baseball game.
Regrettably, your refusal to defend your congressional voting record does not come as a surprise to me. You also declined to debate anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, when she challenged you two years ago, and you have not debated any of your opponents in the over two decades since you were first elected to office (a race you won despite not having held prior elective office).
A democratic society cannot flourish or long endure if our elected representatives avoid articulating and defending their views, or otherwise subjecting their political beliefs to public scrutiny. Debate among political opponents has a long and healthy history in the United States; one that you apparently have little regard for and/or disdain.
Although you may want to dismiss your congressional opponent John Dennis because he is a Republican, I assure you that he is a serious candidate with views worthy of consideration. In addition to being firmly anti-war and committed to defending civil liberties, Dennis is pro-gay rights, opposed the Wall Street bailouts and has joined in the populist call challenging the legitimacy of the Federal Reserve. Recently, in the Capitol Times, liberal commentator John Nichols posed the question of whether John Dennis was a “Prototype of the new urban Republican.” He noted that Dennis
John Nichols goes on:
In an anti-war town like San Francisco, that’s a more attractive position than Pelosi has articulated in this campaign. It positions the Republican as a genuine alternative to the Democrat in a liberal district.
The same goes for civil liberties. Dennis says: “The Constitution was written to restrict the actions of the government, not individuals. That is why we call ours a limited government. Unfortunately, American political vocabulary is filled with a lexicon of different types of liberty: civil liberty, economic liberty, sexual liberty, financial liberty, etc. Yet, in the end, there is only liberty. And if we support some types of liberty but not others, ultimately we will be left without liberty at all.”
Specifically, he says that he opposes “warrantless wiretaps,” “the creation of extra-judicial systems to deal with enemy combatants” and “waterboarding and other forms of torture,”“I believe our government must respect the 800-year foundation of the law embodied in the principle of habeas corpus.” and he says:
Again, on these issues, Dennis’ stances are closer to those of the district than Pelosi’s. As such, he offers a real alternative — even in a liberal district. … Dennis is, as well, genuinely libertarian on a host of social issues. As such, he can’t be painted into the right-wing corner, as so many Republicans are. (10/6/10, The Capitol Times).
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has called John Dennis “a good person who is truly antiwar and truly wants to make the world a better place.” (9/30/10, Mother Jones). Texas Congressman Ron Paul has said “John Dennis is truly committed to Liberty, personal freedom, fiscal discipline and a more sensible foreign policy.” (1/6/2010, Business Wire). Dustin Reid, who works promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, wrote an article in yesterday’s Huffington Post entitled: “Beyond Left and Right Why John Dennis Should Be a Liberals Pick in San Francisco”. He noted “despite running as a Republican, Dennis is essentially running on a pragmatic, progressive agenda that brings together the most salient issues across parties. Issue by issue liberals, as well as conservatives, should consider Dennis over Pelosi in San Francisco.” (10/11/10, Huffington Post).
I believe your refusal to debate John Dennis should be openly met with the same disdain you have for public debates. I intend to vote for John Dennis and I will encourage everyone I know to do the same. No candidate who refuses to debate his or her opponent deserves the support of anyone, particularly after a history of failed leadership, such as the one you have exhibited. To do otherwise, is to sanction your refusal and encourage similar behavior by other elected representatives.
To be sure, I do not agree with all of John Dennis’ views, nor he with mine. But on the most pressing issues facing our country today, I believe we have more points of agreement (then you or I) and I respect his willingness to publicly defend those views.
Former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors & 2008 vice-presidential running-mate to Ralph Nader on an Independent ticket.