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I heart San Francisco

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010



Late yesterday, I was contacted by a reporter for The Bay Citizen, an online news outlet based in San Francisco. She’s preparing a story about how some of the politicians in midterm races are mocking San Francisco, equating it with lefty decadence – good grief, that tired stereotype is back again? – and she wanted to know what I thought of Pennsylvania senatorial candidate Pat Toomey’s mockery of San Francisco.

Well, I hadn’t seen such an ad, so I went to Toomey’s website…and there it was, a fresh bashing of America’s most beautiful city, a resurrection of a Republican trope that has persisted since the party coined the pejorative term “San Francisco Democrats” at its national convention in 1984.

The Toomey ad – actually, an extended video – opens by framing Democrat Joe Sestak’s face inside a “Fishermans Wharf of San Francisco” logo, as if it was a millstone around his neck. (Silly me. I had always assumed that Fisherman’s Wharf – with the correct apostrophe – was just a middlebrow tourist attraction; I didn’t know we were supposed to Be Very Afraid.) Subsequent images feature Nancy Pelosi beneath a logo of the baseball park, Pelosi looming large over the Golden Gate Bridge, Pelosi framed within a San Francisco trolley car, and Pelosi trapped within that Fisherman’s Wharf logo, capped by a message about how San Francisco’s political values are too “extreme” for a place like Pennsylvania.

I have no idea whether this attempt to marginalize San Francisco as insufficiently American might actually aid Toomey in his race against Sestak. The ad is online only, and, meanwhile, the polls are gyrating wildly (Toomey leads Sestak by seven points in a new Franklin and Marshall survey; Toomey and Sestak are deadlocked at 46 percent each in a new Reuters/Ipsos Public Affairs survey). And I have no idea whether Tim Burns, a Republican congressional hopeful, can score a victory in his southwest Pennsylvania race with the help of his current TV ad depicting Pelosi and the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’m not here today to speculate on potential cause and effect. My sole purpose is to stick up for the city that tonight will host Game One of the World Series.

Viewers of the Toomey video don’t need to see images of Castro Street to catch his drift. As a term, “San Francisco” is a conservative dog whistle; it conjures scary images of party-hearty homo stoners chomping on crunchy granola while engaging in trisexual orgies. Which really doesn’t seem quite fair, actually. Having been to San Francisco dozens of times, mostly for work, I can attest that one can visit all kinds of neighborhoods – Pacific Heights, Bernal Heights, Nob Hill, Chinatown, the Presidio, the Embarcadero – without once being tempted to hum that silly ’67 pop song about having flowers in your hair. In fact, if you go over to the Haight neighborhood in search of a hippie scene, you’re likely to wind up inside The Gap, or flashing your plastic at some other chain store or upscale boutique. The Haight hippie scene peaked around 1968.

All told, if you were to score this city to music, you’d easily pick Tony Bennett over the Jefferson Airplane.

But stereotypes never die. Two years ago, Missouri Republican congressman Sam Graves aired a TV ad that assailed his Democratic opponent for raising some money in San Francisco; in doing so, he featured imagery of a sexually ambiguous multiracial trio dancing spontaneously in front of a bar, with disco as a backbeat, as a narrator intoned about “San Francisco values” – thus implying (no doubt falsely) that the trio was actually dancing at the Democratic fundraiser. Heck, that trio could have been dancing anywhere; shocking as it may seem, there are vibrant gay communities deep in red territory as well, which means that perhaps this should be folded into the mix of “Dallas values.”

We do need to acknowledge that some Democrats bash San Francisco, too. Georgia congressman Jim Marshall is currently trying to convince his conservative constituents that he’s a real American, and naturally that requires this TV ad message: “Georgia is a long way from San Francisco.” And while the narrator speaks, the viewer hears a few chords of faux sitar music – and sees three central-casting headband hippies clad in the kinds of blouses that haven’t been worn since the LBJ era.

But these stereotypes are perpetuated because there’s an audience for them. No doubt Marshall’s ad would play well with those Phillies fans who hoisted signs denouncing San Francisco star pitcher Tim Lincecum as a “Hippy Trash” guy who might “Wanna Smoke.”

I wonder how those fans might feel if politicians spent decades railing against “Philadelphia Values,” with ads undoubtedly showing corrupt pols taking bribes on the Rocky steps, their jowls stuffed with cheesesteak, as police choppers dropped satchel bombs on an inner-city neighborhood. Yeesh. If that was the typical viewer’s image of Philadelphia, he might think more kindly about San Francisco.


50 Comments

  • mw56 says:

    Since 1988 during Pres. elections the people of San Francisco (a beautiful city/county) have never gone over 20% for the Republican candidate. So with all the facts we have trying to argue that it’s not a bathhouse of liberalism would be kind of silly. In fact you may notice that Logathis never really address that issue. He/she saved all the vitriol for people’s spelling, calling SF area liberal instead of progressive, calling the local government a city council, or not calling it a beautiful region.

  • Kathy in Blue Bell says:

    I know I am a bleeping hippie type, but I will take a clean safe well lit city like San Francisco any day over a city like Colorado Springs where trash pick up, police protection and lighting are seen as big government boondoggles. People who live in Colorado Springs seem to be fine without those things since their guns will solve all their problems and that works for them, but it isn’t a place I would ever visit or want to live in.
    Btw, I was a gun crime victim (armed robbery). The gun used was stollen from a “responsible” owner who left it laying on their kitchen counter. I wasn’t carrying a gun to defend myself because I was watching two toddlers, I wish my right to keep a gun away from them was as important as the gun owner’s right to be careless with a deadly weapon.

    • NigeltheMastiff says:

      Wow, Kathy. That must have been so incredibly traumatic. It probably still is. I’m sorry it happened to you.

      • Kathy in Blue Bell says:

        Thanks for the kind words Nigel. It happened a long time ago (my daughter and the other toddler I was watching are now in college) but it does still haunt me and makes me incredibly angry at gun nuts who say that everyone needs a gun to protect themselves. In a perfect world where everyone would get training and store their weapons responsibly it might work, but this isn’t a perfect world. There are situations where it isn’t safe to have a gun and gun nuts shrug at people in those situations and say “sucks to be you, I don’t want the government telling me I need to use my gun in a safe and responsible manner.”

        • portly says:

          That is SO SHRILL, Kathy! I’m sure you’ll have most of our wingnut’s heads exploding over that comment (keep it up…)

    • trx says:

      YOu havent been to SF for a long time if you think it’s clean and safe.

  • swedesboromike says:

    Logathis- you said ” And I suppose the vitriol hadn’t yet spewed. It was a premature pronouncement. But lo and behold, later in the forum my words proved prophetic!”…………………….. There is no vitriol here! Just a disagreement on wether San Francisco ( a beautiful city, btw) has a bad rap as a liberal mecca. Judging by the policies of Nanacy Pelosi, the make up of the city govt, and the fact that the San Franciso board of supervisors advanced legislation to ban guns and military recruiters I would say the liberal lable of the San Francisco area is quite accurate. Just embrace it. It’s who you are. But don’t pose as some beacon of moderation while advocating far left issues.

  • Still Independent says:

    swedesboromike: I thought that Berkeley was located in …. um … Berkeley

    • swedesboromike says:

      yup too far away to be associated with San Fran. Wake me when you become ” independent”

      • JimR says:

        What exactly defines ‘independent’? – not allied with a party, being a non allied crank? Can one be an independent Republican? Just curious.

        • swedesboromike says:

          I think the word “Independent” is too often elevated to a lofty status. Democrats will rubber stamp a leftist agenda. No matter what they say at election time. so there is nothing at all independent about that. Or electing Nancy Pelosi to speaker of the house.

      • Still Independent says:

        Great. Now I need to add “geography” to “basic math” and “factual accuracy” to the list of liberal traits as identified by Swedesboromike… Can’t you take a lighthearted comment dude? I was simply pointing out that talking about hippies in Berkeley didn’t really have a place in a conversation about San Francisco. … I am not a Pelosi fan, although I can grudgingly admire her house leadership, the same way I did that of DeLay. That fact that I disagreed with both of their agendas has nothing to do with it.

        • swedesboromike says:

          Well Still, UC Berkely is 15.4 miles from San Fran( a beautiful city, btw) and is in Pelosi’s district. Not sure if the hippies/nutbags still live up in the trees outside the gymnasium. Back in 2006 there was a news report on the tree people. Sounds really wackly and liberal to me. Oh, well

      • Still Independent says:

        swedesboromike: and not that you asked, but I will be voting for Dale Glading in the 1st District against Rob Andrews. As I did in 2008 when the same two ran. It’s a wasted vote (the R’s didn’t even bother to field a candidate on ’06), but unlike some, I vote on principle. But that’s right, my votes for R’s don’t count. I think 2000 is the last time I voted for a D in a federal race. But apparently being independent means running lock step with you? And only caring about fiscal issues. I’m quite sure that if we compared voting records, mine would be faaaaaar more independent than yours.

  • JimR says:

    Wow, Nancy Pelosi is on the ballot in PA. Who knew?

    • swedesboromike says:

      Jim- When you vote for a Democrat you are voting for Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco ( it is a beautiful city, btw) values as they elected her speaker of the house. They chose the farthest left of their party to lead. Blue Dogs can vote no only if Nancy says they can- if she has enough votes to pass legislation she’ll let a few moderates vote a certain way to make it look like they are the ” conservatives ” they posed as in order to get elected. It’s all theatre of the bamboozled.

      • yobill626 says:

        SMike: If you were a big fan of the hardball, backroom tactics of Tom DeLay, then you have to at least respect the job (although maybe not the agenda) of Nancy Pelosi. Bottom line is, she gets stuff done.

        • swedesboromike says:

          yobill626- Yes, I said that a few days ago. She gets her agenda passed. No doubt about that. I just wish she would act so surpised when she says ” the ayes have it “. Because she knew the vote count otherwise it wouldn’t have been put to a vote. The theatrics of house vote count is so fake.

      • JimR says:

        So if all Dems bear responsibility for Pelosi then all Rebubs bear responsibility for any of the scandals of their members in congress.

      • JimR says:

        On an individual basis, I agree with the idea that SF values are off the scale (apologies to my family members who live there) The values are not what put Pelosi in the driver’s seat – it put her in and returns her to office. She’s way too far to the left and the system that allows her to pull the levers is the same for both parties and ought to go. She’s nuts and represents everything that’s wrong in congress.

  • swedesboromike says:

    Polman writes ” She’s preparing a story about how some of the politicians in midterm races are mocking San Francisco, equating it with lefty decadence – good grief, that tired stereotype is back again? “…………………………… Well when things like banning and discouraging military recruiters is proposes and passed I would say the lable fits.

    • NigeltheMastiff says:

      Mike, I happen to know that here in GA, recruiters have gone into high schools promising young people things they will never attain. They are under a lot of pressure to meet recruiting quotas, so they tell students they can become whatever they want — when in fact, some of them have joined and been told that the promise was ridiculous. By then, of course, it’s too late. One of the parents, I believe, came to our college counselors asking what could be done to get her child out of it. I used to know the specifics of that story, but since I have an old brain I can’t remember them anymore. As for the gun ban, SF sounds like my kind of town — and I don’t even think they have a very big Quaker population.

      • swedesboromike says:

        Nigel- If you work hard one can attain a lot with a military career. I think you need to be a bit more specific. As for guns I don’t own a gun and I don’t like hunting because I don’t feel like destroying a wild animal. But I live in the cushy suburbs of south Jersey and things are very safe. I would feel a lot different if I lived in other areas. South Texas or Arizona for example. When you ban guns you take them away from law abiding citizens trying to protect themselves and their families. The bad guys will still have their guns- most of them don’t have then legally registered in the first place.

        • NigeltheMastiff says:

          Hey, my son-in-law is in the Marines (though he’s anxious to get out at the end of January). Not my cup of tea, but on the other hand, I do realize that people can do well there and some flourish. What I object to is lying to young people. I have a more difficult time with guns. I just don’t think anyone needs a pistol. They are only used to kill people. I do live in the South, and many people hunt down here. Again, not my cup of tea, but I’m not so much of a hyppocrit (OK, I have brain freeze and can’t remember how to spell that) that I condemn it. After all, I eat meat.

        • yobill626 says:

          Nigel: I’m OK with any guns that can reasonably be linked to self defense. I have a problem with the “attack” guns — AK-47’s & up. I think its reasonable for an individual to have a pistol in his abode for protection. They are easy to secure.

      • swedesboromike says:

        Also banning guns is about as popular as a root canal with the American people. Which is why politicians running for statewide or national elections have long ago abandoned a gun control stance. One Democrat running for the Senate in WV is shown holding a rifle touting that the cap n trade legisilation is in between the cross hairs.

        • yobill626 says:

          Its not so much that so many Americans are against banning guns (most are in favor of some reasonable restrictions), but going against the powerful & very focused Gun Lobby is not for the faint of heart politician.

  • swedesboromike says:

    Facts get in the way of Polman’s diatribe……………..”.Voters approved ballot measures to ban handguns in San Francisco and urge the city’s public high schools and college campuses to keep out military recruiters.

    The gun ban prohibits the manufacture and sale of all firearms and ammunition in the city, and makes it illegal for residents to keep handguns in their homes or businesses.” The military recruitment initiative won with 60 percent in favor and 40 percent against.

    The measure, dubbed “College Not Combat,” opposes the presence of military recruiters at public high schools and colleges. However, it would not ban the armed forces from seeking enlistees at city campuses, since that would put schools at risk of losing federal funding.

    It encourages city officials and university administrators to exclude recruiters and create scholarships and training programs that would reduce the military’s appeal to young adults.”……………………………………. MMMM? And you wonder why we talk of liberal San Francisco values? ………………….http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/11/9/80901.shtml

  • mw56 says:

    SF Board of Supervisors: Eric Mar (D), Michela Alioto-Pier (D), David Chiu (D), Carmen Chu (D), Ross Mirkarimi (D & co-founder of CA Green Party), Chris Daly (D), Sean Elsbernd (D), Bevan Dufty (D), David Campos(D), Sophie Maxwell (D), John Avalos
    (D).

    • swedesboromike says:

      Good thing you said ” Board of Supervisors ” or Logathis will accuse you of vitriol. I made the mistake of saying ” city council”. San Fran gets the lable of flaming liberal because the area is largely composed of flaming liberals. Sounds fair to me.

      • Logathis says:

        Don’t call them ‘liberals’ Mike. That’s sooo 20th century. They’re progressives now.

        • yobill626 says:

          Way to go there, Logathis! Telling SMike not to do something assures you of getting hit over the head with it for quite some time.

  • Logathis says:

    I could go on for pages about the beauty of San Francisco. Being a native and current resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, I can firmly declare it is the most beautiful region in the United States. Having been to 46 states, I can state that with confidence. Go there, and you’ll find some of the friendliest and intelligent people you’ve ever met. I’ve also lived near Philly, and the difference in attitude is striking. Conservatives may never stop beating up on Frisco. But that’s ok, it’s been beat up before. Several earthquakes and a raging inferno have knocked it down before, but it always gets back up.

    • NigeltheMastiff says:

      Logathis, I’ve only been there once, but I found it absolutely wonderful. I was on business, but I had a couple of days to explore the city. One night I went to the top of some iconic building (is it a financial one?) for a drink. And I stayed at the old St. Francis. Then one night I had dinner at some norther Italian place that was fabulous. I also found the people to be quite nice. But I think for the most part — with politics put aside — people are the same everywhere. And most are nice.

    • F. Inahoy says:

      Did anyone claim that San Francisco isn’t beautiful? And while I believe liberals often promote policies that are unwise, I don’t call them stupid, unfriendly, racists or bigots unless they truly demonstrate such behavior as an individual.

  • swedesboromike says:

    I’m sorry did I miss something. Are there any Republicans on the city council of San Francisco? Did Nancy switch to Republican? Are there not hippies living in the trees on the campus of Cal Berkely?

  • NE Philly says:

    And don’t think money has anything to do with the dems problems in the election! ***So far, the latest figures show that the Democratic Party machinery has outraised its Republican counterpart in this campaign cycle by almost $270 million. And even when outside spending on television advertising and direct mail is added to the mix, Republicans still haven’t closed the gap. The money race totals come to $856 million for the Democratic committees and their aligned outside groups, compared to $677 for their Republican adversaries, based on figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/44216.html#ixzz13a1eLRSu

  • Nalaka says:

    I’m not surprised that the image of San Francisco as a liberal hotbed (no pun intended) persists. Many conservative voters are older, and perhaps their image of a liberal was formed at the time that San Francisco was in the headlines. I recently saw the movie Milk, which was well done and provided a great perspective on the times and the role that San Francisco played.

    • F. Inahoy says:

      The “image” persists because it is the reality. Speaker Pelosi is one of the most far-left and liberal politicians in the House and she is routinely reelected by San Francisco’s voters by huge margins.

  • jmc says:

    I think it’s unfair to portray San Franciscians(?) as a bunch of crazy liberals. However I also think it’s unfair to portray murderers as people who kill other people, so don’t go by me.

  • NE Philly says:

    Pelosi is a far left San Francisco liberal. Just look at her positions on any subject. If the ads weren’t effective GOP house campaigns across the country wouldn’t be using them. If she and the president had led from the middle she wouldn’t be a hot button issue. Even dem candidates are running from her as fast as they can. Also, whenever I see a commercial that shows no party affiliation I know it is a democrat ashamed of how his/her party has acted over the last 2 years in power!

    • Chris Landee says:

      A commercial with not party affilication? You should visit New Hampshire where Kelly Ayotte’s publicity for her Senate run nowhere identify her as a Republican.

  • F. Inahoy says:

    How hard is this to figure out? Nancy Pelosi is as far left as one can get, and the city of San Francisco routinely reelects her with huge margins. We don’t need to see the flowers in their hair to know where the city and the hearts of its residents live.

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