Public Comment

Commentary: I Will Put an End to Fake Democracy in Berkeley

By Christian Pecaut
Tuesday August 22, 2006

The last refuge of scoundrels is their long record of public service. Tom Bates long ago voided not only his 30 years of public office, but also whatever dignity and respect he had accrued prior to 1972. Such is the inevitable effect of consciously choosing to deceive those with less power than you have. So disastrous are these deliberate misreports of perception and understanding by more powerful people, that almost the entire ability for below figures to sort out what is accurate/inaccurate is destroyed. 

Tom and his supporter, Jack Kurzweil, have “learned” that if you call covert agendas “democratic process” then you can fool people long enough to trick them into consenting to your secret plans. Then, afterwards, whenever anyone protests, you can point to their “vote” and say, “Look! You chose these secret plans. I’m just going along with what the people want.” 

“Works like a charm!” they cackle, all the way to the bank, or the South Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation (Tom Bates), as the case may be. 

When I see bullying, and glimpse an opportunity to educate the general public, I will denounce the violation of public trust in sharp, accurate, unequivocal words. Such is the first and foremost duty of a mayor, who guards our city democracy. And, while I do sometimes make mistakes, I admit them and learn from the error. You see, one who knows, and can acknowledge when they’re wrong, is always right; one who does not know, or refuses to acknowledge when they’re wrong, is always wrong. 

And while unprincipled men may consider the successful manipulation of public forums just some “funny thing about democracy” (Letters, Aug. 11), I know too clearly the long-term, deadly consequences of such schemes. I wonder if Jack, Matthew, and Tom shrugged their shoulders and dismissed the murder of our progressive leader, Sen. Wellstone, just 10 days before election night in 2002, as just another “funny thing about democracy” in this country. 

Now we touch on a larger problem than just one rigged forum: the political failure that is “activism.” Here you incessantly “investigate” the largest and most obvious crimes, take weak political positions based on uncertainty, and finally, when you fail to obtain any victories, hide this fact behind a curtain of endless “education” and “outreach.” Another pertinent example of this destructive approach appeared at the Berkeley Progressive Platform Convention, back in June. You will also recognize the anti-democratic tactics demonstrated at the Wellstone candidates forum. The creators and enforcers of this problem control politics in this city.  

On the first day of the convention, I proposed an amendment to the preamble of the Fair Elections Platform that read: “In light of the recent stolen presidential elections, the theft of untold more Federal, state and local elections, and in the face of the purchasing of public offices across the United States by corporate and monied interests, we demand,” followed by the plank’s more specific points. The motion passed unanimously. 

By the time the second platform convention rolled around, a couple of weeks later, some mis-leaders of the “progressive community” in Berkeley had decided that they didn’t like the formulation I had proposed and the convention attendees had passed. Too volatile, too speculative, it would alienate people we are trying to “get on board,” and a host of other excuses, Laurence Schectman mumbled out at the start of the meeting. I’m fine with people having opinions and feelings about any political matter, especially the most important ones, but what did the leadership decide to do? They spent the entire first hour of the forum coming up with more “acceptable” “wording,” and then manufactured even more empty excuses for why they had to reverse the people’s unanimous decision. All to please unspecified, unaccountable outside parties who had met in secret, and decided that the convention participants’ unanimous vote be damned, we have to change the platform, no matter how anti-democratic we must be. The final not-unanimous “vote” decided on the following replacement: “In light of serious concerns about the legitimacy or recent elections, and in light of undue corrosive influence of corporate and monied interests, we demand.” I ask the reader the judge for themselves which version is more accurate and progressive. 

Here’s one example of the accumulated consequences of such deception. When people ask me, “Why are you running for mayor of Berkeley?”, I often say that Berkeley is the most progressive city in the United States, and I want to make sure it stays that way. Many, many people, especially those who respect and intimately participate in the current government and its supporting organizations, reply, “Really? We’re all just a bunch of hypocrites anyway! Haven’t you learned?” and then laugh smugly. 

That is one “lesson” I will never “learn.” Such statements reveal a deadly irresponsibility and ignorance at the highest levels of our city government. What I do know is that the vast majority of the people of Berkeley are not proud of the hypocrisy that infests their government, wastes their hard earned tax money, and lies to them with a deliberate, coordinated shamelessness. 

I ask the membership of the Wellstone Democratic Club, the Progressive Convention and all citizens of Berkeley to carefully weigh what is right and what is wrong when choosing who to endorse and who to entrust with your vote. I strive to the limits of my powers and courage to provide every in person in Berkeley with an accurate understanding of our shared political reality—and with that understanding firmly in grasp, I know that together we can transform Berkeley into the honest, solving democracy that we need. 

(For a comprehensive explanation of how I will make harmful deception impossible in Berkeley, please visit, and read or listen to “Jettison Sequence,” which explains, in explicit detail, in six hours, exactly how everyone (especially young people) is forced to lie and forced to accept lying as an everyday rule, alongside a description of how to stop this process permanently, and return our society to the principled truth-finding and caretaking that we were all born to enact in the world.) 


Christian Pecaut is a candidate for mayor of Berkeley.