Activist Shahid Buttar has decided to tackle Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on the campaign trail in 2020, should she bypass a bid for president in the next election cycle and seek re-election for the 12th Congressional District seat in California, believing he would be the better option.
Shahid Buttar, a Pakistani American originally from London and current Haight-Ashbury neighborhood resident in San Francisco, has put his name into the list of candidates for the district.
The 44-year-old director of grassroots advocacy for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Buttar says he is campaigning for the seat because Pelosi refuses to take action on the issues most important to the world facing this generation, and in the community she represents.
“Working families around the country are in crisis. Our barbaric for-profit healthcare system would be a national embarrassment were it not so outrageous,” Buttar told India-West in a recent interview.
“Our justice system is a reflection of pervasive racial bias. Our foreign policy reflects a commitment to resource extraction before human rights,” he said. “And the looming threat of climate change is putting our very species at risk. Through their legislative priorities and just plain inaction, Democratic leaders have been complicit in all of these crises.”
A Stanford Law School and Loyola University at Chicago graduate, Buttar previously attempted to unseat Pelosi in 2018 and finished third out of six candidates in the primary election (see earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2PEg9dL).
In taking on Pelosi – whose fame has skyrocketed since the Democratic Party took control of the House following the 2018 election – Buttar is not disillusioned about the challenge ahead of him.
“I have no illusions about the enormity of the task before us,” he stressed to India-West. “But this is a moment in our history when we must all step forward and do whatever necessary to protect our vulnerable neighbors, working families and future generations.”
Since graduating from Stanford, Buttar has gone on to file a marriage equality case in New York; join the American Constitution Society (2005); launched a new program for Muslim advocates (2008); led a Bill of Rights defense committee (2010); and launched a program for the foundation he currently works for (2015).
The hard-working congressional candidate says that Pelosi, on the flipside, has seen everything come easy.
“Pelosi was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, a daughter of a political family who went on to amass immense wealth and build a political dynasty on the backs of the working San Franciscans whose interests she has abandoned during her career inside the beltway,” he said of the incumbent, who has held office since 1987.
“In contrast, I was born to immigrants in the U.K., became an immigrant myself to the U.S., and struggled through our family losing our home and not having money to pay for college, long before offering to represent my neighbors in Washington,” he added.
Buttar noted how he worked for 10 years in Washington, D.C., without a seat in Congress to advance precisely the progressive values that he says Pelosi has refused to champion.
While Buttar has bounced around throughout his life, calling London, St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; and Washington, D.C., home at one point, he says he adores his current home, as well as the people within it.
“San Francisco is a unique place. We are a Mecca for LGBTQ communities, a home of the peace and justice movement, the original site of Burning Man, and a national hub of the movement for climate justice,” he pointed out to India-West. “We are also the home of a substantial and diverse immigrant population, drawn from Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. I’m proud to stand in solidarity with each of these communities, and each of those countercultures.”
With regard to his candidacy, Buttar said he and his team support the green new deal and want to empower the committee selected to investigate the facts and develop an aggressive policy to reduce fossil fuel emissions, increase energy efficiency, put a generation of Americans to work, and demonstrate real global leadership on climate justice.
Additionally, he said they support Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s, D-Wash., Medicare-for-All bill, which establishes healthcare as a human right. “Our current for-profit healthcare system is a barbaric failure, costing more, and achieving worse outcomes, than any other system in the industrialized world,” Buttar asserted to India-West.
The candidate said his team has also developed a wide ranging and rigorous reform proposal for criminal justice, recognizing that mass incarceration has destroyed the lives of individuals, families and entire communities.
If elected, Buttar believes his voice could add value – citing U.S. Representatives Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar as individuals whose views he says are similar to his.
“Even without a legislative majority, insightful voices in Congress can achieve an outsize impact by leveraging the oversight process to challenge executive wrongdoing, expose facts to the public, and force answers to questions that otherwise go unasked,” Buttar said.
Buttar believes the 12th Congressional District race is “more winnable than many casual observers have presumed.”
He cites the new freshman class of U.S. representatives which includes a number of young minority – as well as female – members representing districts throughout the country.
“As the generational change sweeping our political system takes further root, we plan to surf the wave of generational change to give voice to the young people rightfully outraged at the bipartisan establishment’s assault on their shared future,” he said.
The primary election for California’s congressional seats is set for March 3, 2020.