Shahid Buttar (Above first from right), the Democrat, is the only candidate of South Asian extraction to have challenged veteran Congresswoman and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has dominated California’s 12th Congressional District for decades.
After two failed attempts in 2018 and 2020, Buttar, 48, will be running against Speaker Pelosi for the third time this year.
Pelosi, 81, who has seen seven presidents during her time on Capitol Hill and is planning to seek reelection for her 19th term, will face Buttar and seven other challengers in the June 7 primary.
The general election is scheduled for November 8, 2022.
Buttar, born in London to parents of Pakistani origin, is undaunted by the challenge, or by the rough campaign in elections past when he won more votes against the San Franciscan than any other candidate had ever managed in spite of what he called racist lies orchestrated by her network.
Buttar told indica he remains eager to see whether San Francisco might make “better choices” once informed of the facts.
He said the city’s greatest challenges today are housing, displacement and homelessness, to fix which a new generation of social housing needs to be created and housing (like health care) deserves to be treated as a human right rather than as a commodity.
After his undergraduate education at the University of Chicago, Harold Washington Community College, Northwestern University and Loyola University Chicago, Buttar earned a JD from Stanford Law School in 2003. His career experience includes working as a legal advocate and as director of grassroots advocacy for the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Buttar’s father was born in Lahore and mother near Kapurthala, both towns in Punjab, before Partition. They met in London in the 1960s and eventually emigrated, first to England, and then to the U.S., particularly to escape the growing anti-Ahmadiyya bias, discrimination and state-sponsored violence in Pakistan.
In the years since they left, the violence against the Ahmadiyya community escalated dramatically under successive military dictatorships supported by the Pentagon, Buttar said, offering another lens on his candidacy as an immigrant intergenerationally inspired to impose international accountability on Washington & Langley.
Following are excerpts from an exclusive interview.
What motivates you to go up against Speaker Pelosi again?
I’m running in 2022 for the same reasons that I ran in 2020, got arrested in the U.S. Senate in 2015 for an act of journalism, led a national nonprofit in 2010, and represented the national antiwar movement on Fox News in 2005: because the future isn’t here to defend itself from our predatory past.
Washington’s bipartisan deference to Wall Street has paved the path to global catastrophe, and we need voices willing to articulate an alternative to corporate rule.
Other candidates like me, who ran for Congress without previously holding office and without party support, have built support over multiple cycles to win in their third race. This pattern is how Ro Khanna (D-CA 17th district) and Cori Bush (D-MO 1st District) got to Congress, and also how Joe Biden won the White House.
You had a rough primary in 2020, facing accusations of sexual harassment and mistreatment of women on your staff. Do you think the accusations were motivated by your belonging to a minority group or was it all political?
The character assassination that I confronted was based on politically motivated fabrications that relied on, leveraged and reinforced racial and religious stereotypes. They also shifted repeatedly, lacked any evidence or even specificity, and were exposed by multiple female whistleblowers who were recruited to join the plot to mislead voters, including one wielding documentary evidence, all of whom were silenced by journalists who suppressed conflicts of interest among their self-serving sources.
Two women recruited by my critics to join their scheme spoke out to challenge their lies, but they were suppressed by news outlets. One, an Afro-Latina elected party official, spoke out publicly before facing retaliation, including threats, hacking and smears, herself.
She documented her experience in July 2021 in the San Francisco Bayview, whose editors described the Democratic Party’s disinformation attacks on the 2020 election as “a civic lynching” orchestrated to protect the most powerful Democrat in Congress from the strongest challenge she has ever faced.
It is worth noting that two of the people who falsely accused me (of not only misogyny in the workplace but also sexual misconduct) are Indian-American, suggesting the likely possibility of religious bias given my identity as a Pakistani and a Muslim. That possibility was dismissed outright by American journalists, who presumptively reduce all people of color to a single demographic, as if South Asia were not torn by religious and political conflict for the 70 years since Partition.
One of my particular Indian-American critics, Raya Steier (nee Sarkar), has a long history of publicly accusing Muslim men in India. The similarities between what happened there and what they did here are eerily striking — even almost word for word. I would encourage you to explore it, as this facet of the story remains unreported as it relates to my character assassination, although it was the subject of previous reporting in India.
Finally, while the orchestrated lies influencing the 2020 election were indeed personally traumatizing, our campaign proved phenomenally successful in spite of them. We won over 81,000 votes — more by far than any previous challenger to Pelosi — and forced her to concede policies on six major issues from civil rights and worker rights to executive accountability and congressional war powers. No one had ever done that before, which might explain why the character assassination suddenly emerged four months before the election.
Having won more votes against Pelosi than any other candidate ever in spite of racist lies orchestrated by her party network, I’m eager to see whether San Francisco might make better choices once informed with the actual facts.
You are up against a veteran Congresswoman. What are your thoughts about Pelosi?
Nancy Pelosi is an embodiment of intergenerational privilege, dynastic power and the corporate corruption of Congress. She has spent 34 years in office filling her pockets at the expense of the public while ducking debates, enabled by sycophants in the press who decline to critically observe her policy record while smearing her opponents.
She has politically constructed an image of a liberal lion, despite the policy record of a consistent conservative deferring to every war-for-profit in the past generation, every proposed surveillance scheme, and every targeted tax break favoring the wealthy.
Democrats like to position themselves as an alternative to the Republican Party, but it has been under Pelosi’s tenure that the Democrats sold their souls to Wall Street and put capital before our communities and their constituents.
Why, in your view, is San Francisco in a mess? Do we need more police or do police officers need better training to deal with growing crime in the city?
The illusion of growing crime is itself a projection based on propaganda favoring the state over civil rights and human rights.
Police threaten public safety more than they protect it. What police ultimately protect is private property. Relying on them to protect public safety is ultimately foolish, both because crime prevention lies outside the law-enforcement mandate and also because the only way to prevent crime is to address social needs that police are not empowered to satisfy. Put simply, no number of police can guarantee public safety.
San Francisco’s greatest challenges are housing, displacement and homelessness. Illusions of a crime wave are driven by those upstream problems, which in turn reflect the longstanding and predictably continuing failure of housing markets to meet the needs of communities, not only here in San Francisco, but also in every city and town across the country.
By treating housing (like health care) as a commodity instead of a human right, public policy ensures its insufficiency. That’s why nowhere in this country can a minimum-wage worker working full-time afford a two-bedroom apartment.
To fix San Francisco’s problems, we need to create a new generation of social housing, invest in non-armed alternatives to paramilitary police, and address the environmental racism apparent in the Navy’s radiation poisoning of our city’s last remaining Black community at Bayview Hunters Point.