Defending San Francisco values

How courageous will city officials be in confronting Trumpism -- and the legacy of corporate Democrats, including those at home?


You have to go back to 1972, and the landslide victory of Richard Nixon, to find a moment where so many people were so upset and scared as they are today. And this time around, we didn’t have George McGovern running, who might have changed the nation for the better – we had Hillary Clinton, and all we hoped for was that she wouldn’t make things a whole lot worse.

As Hunter Thompson wrote that fall:

There was something… total… something very undermining about the McGovern defeat… There was a very unexplained kind of… ominous quality to it… weeping chaos. People you’d never expect to break down… stumbled off the plane in tears…

I feel that way every time I walk around the city. Everyone I talk to is not just angry, not just shocked – but really, truly afraid.

Going from fear to resistance: SF needs to lead the way
Going from fear to resistance: SF needs to lead the way

Among other things, we need to come to terms, right now, with the terrifying reality that the Trump election empowers the worst of his supporters, who will try to make racism and homophobia and misogyny an acceptable part of the political discourse. And all of us, all of us, need to be ready to challenge that on every level.

Trumpism will creep up on us. Universities will be attacked for “political correctness.” Workplace harassment policies will come under assault. Little bits of bigotry, disguised as more Locker Room Talk, will appear in public discourse.

It won’t necessarily be overt, although some of it will. It’s going to be a slow, painful drip of horror in the way we treat each other – and we are going to have to be eternally vigilant. We have to love and support each other – and not give a micron over to the worst instincts of the worst supporters of the new president


And we live in San Francisco, and it was thrilling to see that about 3,000 high school students walked out of classes Thursday and took to the streets, in a series of spontaneous, largely unorganized demonstrations. There were plenty of signs and chants about “not our president” – but also a lot of signs that said “No Hate.” This is the next generation, and our best hope.

And BTW, according to the exit polls, Clinton won the under-30 vote, pretty much across the board.

So if we can survive this, aurvive this,” let me channel Cleve Jones, who posted on Facebook tll is not lost. (BTW, for those who say “we survived Reagan, we should remember that many of us did NOT survive. Half a million people in the US, and millions more around the world, died of AIDS after Reagan ignored the epidemic and did nothing to help.)

How we survive the Trump years here, in San Francisco and in California, is going to depend on the people in local office – and on the rest of us to put pressure on them. Because there are going to be very tough decisions coming up very soon.

San Francisco gets $478 million directly from the federal government, according to the Chron. Trump has promised to cut off all of that money since San Francisco is a sanctuary city. Even if he doesn’t follow through with that, he will almost certainly end much of the federal grant money that cities get.

Remember, that’s what Reagan did in his first budget. By the time he was done cutting, most of the federal money for urban housing was gone, and homelessness started to become a part of life in major cities.

So we’re looking at a huge hit, if not this spring then a few months later when the first Trump budget is approved.

And by the way, the need for local services is going to increase.

There’s no way we can keep going as a city without making dramatic painful cuts – or raising a lot of new revenue. We can resist Trump and backfill what he cuts, or we can accept a smaller public sector, which is what Trump and his allies want.

Are we going to move toward austerity, or do something about it?


It appears for the moment that Mayor Ed Lee will be leading this city when the shit first hits the fan, since he clearly won’t be part of the Trump Administration. The Department of elections has counted about 9,000 of the election-day absentee and provisional ballots, and more have come in, so there are still 115,000 left. If they’re evenly divided among the supe districts, that would be 10,400 per district. In some of the close races, fewer than 2,000 votes separate the top two candidates.

The remaining votes would have to break fairly significantly in favor of the second-place candidate for any results to change. For example, Kimberly Alvarenga is 1135 votes behind Ahsha Safai. The remaining votes would have to be about 58-44 in favor of Alvaranga for that lead to change.

The Election Day votes have generally gone in favor of the progressives. It’s possible, and there may be some districts with more votes than others. And the ranked-choice voting algorithm could add another element. So in the close races, nobody has conceded and nobody has claimed victory. We will have to wait.

And I have to say: The race in D5 was far, far closer than anyone in the mainstream of even progressive political thought expected. I heard all kinds of people who might have been helping Preston say they saw no reason to piss off the current board president when her challenger had no chance of winning.

But when you look at the results, if all the folks in leadership positions who so often say that we need a progressive majority on the board had gone out and pushed for Preston, he would have won. Same in D11, where labor was split and progressive unions like the hotel workers gave Safai a pass.

If nothing changes, the new board will consist of five solid progressives – Sandra Lee Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Jane Kim (who would again need an unusual break in the remaining votes to top Scott Wiener for state Senate) Norman Yee, and Hillary Ronen.

There will be five people who have in the past mostly been on the Mayor’s more moderate team: Mark Farrell, Katy Tang, London Breed, the replacement for Wiener (appointed by Lee), and Malia Cohen. The add Safai.

Tim Paulson, director of the Labor Council, called me this week to say that I am too harsh on Ahsha Safai, that the Labor Council candidates won nearly every race (true) and that Safai and Sup. London Breed were going to be solid progressives over the next four years.

That would be nice. I am not so optimisitic.

Will Safai stand up to the real-estate and tech people whose money put him in office? Certainly, the friends of the mayor think Safai is on their side; that’s why they spent much money to support him.

Will Breed’s shift to the left continue now that she’s won, or will she move back to where she was before?


We will find out soon, because the response to Trump is going to require some serious backbone and the willingness to take some risks. For starters, we’re going to need money. That means looking at new sources of revenue – and the only way we’re going to make that happen is if everyone, starting with the mayor, makes a serious effort. The mayor lost his sales-tax measure because he was too busy fighting some modest reforms (was it really worth losing $150 million just to control who is on the Muni board?)

It also means we have to be willing to stand up to Trump in some ways that might seem alarming in normal times. It will probably start with Sanctuary City.

Sup. David Campos told me that when he was general counsel to the School District, he was informed that ICE wanted to come into the schools and question students whose parents might not have documentation.

“We made it very clear that we would not allow that,” he said. “And we were prepared to call the SF police to enforce our policy.

Does that mean we have a standoff between the federal agents and the SFPD? Are the mayor and the supes and the Police Commission members willing to get behind that, unanimously?

Mayor Lee has called all of the members of the board, and the newly elected supes, to come to City Hall Monday for a “unity meeting.” That could be the start of a strong anti-Trump agenda – or a sign that some of the city leaders aren’t really ready for this.


Then there’s the Democratic Party – and the lessons we’ve learned from the failure of Hillary Clinton.

“We’ve seen the problems with the corporate Democrats,” Campos said – and there are plenty of them in San Francisco. In fact, until June the local Democratic Party was run by them.

We also know that San Francisco will be a target for Trump and his supporters. “The priority has to be fighting back, upholding San Francisco values,” Campos said. “This city can’t be bullied into giving up who we are.

And how about all of those tech leaders who consider themselves forward-thinking and who don’t like Trump? Is Ron Conway willing to bring Big Tech together to support new taxes on tech companies to replace the money we lose when we refuse to give up on our Sanctuary City policies?

If he won’t, will that be the end of his friendship with the mayor?

The battle lines are going to be drawn pretty quickly – and a lot of weak liberals who fear offended the wealthy are going to have to decide which side they are on.