Shahid For Change: EFF’s Director of Grassroots Activism Shahid Buttar is running for Congress!

Our city needs a representative in Washington who will work to curtail military spending and save social services. We need a champion in Congress who will defend the rights of all Americans and fight the prison-industrial-slavery complex. And our country needs public servants who will forcefully fight corruption in whatever form it emerges, from fraudulent weapons contracts to self-dealing politicians.
- Shahid Buttar in A Fresh Voice for San Francisco

Shahid and I met a decade ago during the Get FISA Right campaign. Over the years, I’ve been consistently impressed with his ability to mix solid legal analysis with creative and engaging approaches — and the way he listens to people’s concerns and reaches out to the people whose voices are often ignored. At BORDC (where he was Executive Director and I was a board member), and more recently as Director of Grassroots Activism at EFF and a board member of Center for Media Justice, he’s done an amazing job of helping build transpartisan grassroots civil liberties coalitions, relating NSA surveillance to issues like police violence, and drone strikes, advocating for voting right, and promoting events for social, racial and gender justice at Burning Man.

So I’m incredibly excited that he’s running for Congress against Nancy Pelosi.

I’m running for Congress because I can’t watch America’s constitutional crisis from the sidelines. San Francisco’s representative in Washington talks about resistance, but having occupied her seat in the House for 30 years, she has become a pillar of the establishment. Even worse, she has repeatedly caved under this maniacal President and compromised our rights.

Yeah, really! I very much respect what Nancy Pelosi has accomplished, overcoming the sexism of Congress and of the Democratic party to become the first female Speaker of the House — and then doing an outstanding job of moving legislation through in the two years she had a majority. But I had the same reaction as Shahid — and so many other people who care about civil liberties — this January when she supported a truly odious FISA Section 702 reauthorization bill. As Indivisible says in Is Your Democratic MoC More Conservative Than Ted Cruz on Surveillance? “Every Member of Congress had the opportunity to decide whether to protect Americans’ privacy, and shield vulnerable communities from unconstitutional targeting, or to leave broad spying authority in Trump’s — and Jeff Sessions’ — hands.” Pelosi was one of the 65 Democrats who voted to give Jeff Sessions unreviewable warrantless wiretapping authority to use against “black identity extremists” or whoever else he wants.

And then, as an encore a few weeks later, she decided not to whip Democratic votes to support DACA recipients. Sure, she made a passionate eight-hour speech …. but when the rubber met the road, she caved again.

San Francisco — and the country as a whole — deserves better.

Shahid is an immigrant, muslim, non-profit advocate, community organizer, constitutional scholar, poet, musician, columnist, and policy geek.
- from

Except for the Stanford Law part, it’s not the standard background for a Congressional candidate. When you think about it more though … a heck of a lot of people in SF and around the country can relate to this; why don’t we have any representation in Congress? Looking at the combination of music and community organizing, for example, the issues that activists in groups like Save the Rave focus on are important in their own right, and tie into broader questions about creating a more just and equitable society.

It’s not an easy path to victory for Shahid — Pelosi got 80% of the vote in 2016, and has a lot of support from the Democratic establishment both nationally and locally. Then again, he’s also got some major advantages:

  • Policy issues he’s highlighting will certainly strike a chord with progressives in SF — and on some issues, like cannabis legalization and calling out the corruption of the DC establishment, appeal across party lines as well.
  • “New resistance” groups like Indivisible, looking to hold Democrats accountable as well as put pressure on the Trump Administration, surely remember the way people started taking the Tea Party more seriously after they defeated former house Majority Leader Eric Cantor. There’s a lot of frustration with Pelosi and the Democratic establishment; it’s easy to imagine Indivisible groups from around the country getting involved.
  • Especially with the EFF connection, there’s a great chance to reach out to socially responsible and politically engaged techies in the Bay Area. Groups like Tech Solidarity are natural allies here, and could help set up win/win connections with supporters of other “outsider” candidates around the country.
  • A mix of hard-core legal and policy analysis with guerrilla poetry and dope beats (and a willingness to call it like it is using language like “prison-industrial-slavery complex”) is a great match for the new generation of youth activists like the kids you read about in textbooks.
  • Diverse teams outperform, and because his varied interests and long history of working with intersectional grassroots campaigns, Shahid’s got a remarkably diverse (and extremely talented!) group of early supporters.

So don’t underestimate Shahid’s chances. With California’s “jungle primary” system, the top two candidates in the June primary go on to November. There are a couple of other progressive challengers as well, law student Ryan Khojasteh and employment lawyer Stephen Jaffe, but it seems to me that Shahid’s got a good chance to make a run at it.

To find out more, you can follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for updates on Shahid For Change. And if you’re looking to create change, please consider donating and volunteering!

You deserve a representative in Washington who embodies our city’s values unapologetically, someone for whom resistance is more than just a hashtag.
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