I wrote this last July after coming back from my (now) yearly trip out to San Francisco. I figured I’d post again since it’s Sunday and I’m fresh off the DC to Cali express.
San Francisco is an extremely liberal city but it’s a different kind of liberal from the East Coast cities. It’s a weirder version of “liberal” which is more fun.
Though the city did produce both Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein, two people who don’t stirke me (or anyone else I think) as very much fun.
I recently had the pleasure of spending a week in northern California for a business trip. About half of my time was spent in San Francisco and the other half was spent in the wilds (and I do mean wilds) of the St. Helena mountains near Napa. While those back home baked in the heat and humidity of our nation’s capital I got to enjoy the cool ocean breezes off of the Pacific and the deep shade of the Redwoods. Northern California is a good time and I learned a little about decentralized government too.
San Francisco is a liberal city, perhaps the most liberal in the US. It is very gay, and everyone drives a Prius. There are lots of rainbow flags on display (though surprisingly few Obama bumper stickers), and cannabis dispensaries are in almost every neighborhood. If you are a pot smoking transvestite who is interested in alternative energy San Francisco is the place for you. In all seriousness, such a person will find no city in the world more welcoming.
This is a very good thing. One of the elements that define the city by the bay is all the people who headed west and found they just couldn’t go any further and so settled in San Francisco. The beat poets stopped at Ocean Beach, about as far from the Village in New York as they could get and still be in the United States. Before them many other enterprising easterners, some flush from gold discoveries, others who were not as lucky settled the sand dunes to the west of the Embarcadero.
Settlers came from Asia too. San Francisco became home to many people of Japanese and Chinese descent in the late 1800s who were also looking for a better life.
The result is a cauldron of culture and quirkiness which I find fascinating.
San Francisco is in many ways a vastly different place from Washington, DC, where I spend most of my time these days. Though both cities vote 90% of the time for Democrats, they do so for very different reasons.
In DC people vote for the Dems because they are government workers or are generally just in love with the state.
In San Francisco people vote Dem because the GOP is perceived as hostile toward the weird. San Francisco is a “weird” place, in mostly the best sense. Your grandfather is right, weirdos vote for Democrats, unless they are really weird, in which case they vote for the Libertarians. Ahem.
San Francisco is the city which spawned the psychedelic movement, which many believe helped spark the Silicon Valley personal computing explosion of the 1970s. Which in turn sparked the only real growth in the American economy over the last 10 years. Make iPads not war.
It is a city which is full of life and innovation. It lets it all hang out (sometimes literally). Though liberal, San Francisco is not a statist city.
Again this stands in contrast with DC, which one would expect, it being the capital of the empire. But it also stands in contrast with New York, a city which in many ways resembles San Francisco historically, but has a harder, heavier edge.
Maybe it’s just the east versus the west thing. But the differences exhibit to me the absolute ridiculousness of an all powerful central government. How can Washington, DC effectively govern a metropolis such as San Francisco which dances on the opposite edge of the continent from the capital?
The answer is that it can’t.
California increasingly is giving Washington, DC the finger. It has essentially nullified cannabis laws, been a pioneer in gay marriage (though interestingly not state-wide,) and has generally asserted its independence in nearly everything.
The only thing (aside from billions of aerospace dollars) keeping Cali from becoming its own mini-country is the fact that it has given into the nasty side of modern American modern liberalism, the tendency to spend with abandon. Because its books are an absolute disaster it must extend its hand out to Washington, DC.
Too bad. Had California been smart about the growth of government over the last 30 years (that is fought to keep it as small as possible) it could be a vicious world competitor right now instead of the somewhat hobbled giant it appears to be. With access to Asia and the culture of innovation which runs deep in California, it could be leading the country and maybe even the world out of the current recession/depression/God only knows what. But it wasn’t wise over the last 30 years and now, for all its natural vitality and independence, it is a client of Washington, DC.
This is how one keeps an empire in line. This is how mighty San Francisco is controlled by those who don’t even know what an In and Out Burger is. Make the provinces dependent on the central node.
So weird California, I really enjoyed visiting you. And like many of those who are inclined toward eccentricity your over spending has undermined what you want to achieve. Get your fiscal house in order and you will again be the envy of the world. Mix a little bit old fashioned Victorian values with the Victorian mansions on Haight Street, and you will again set the pace.