The Stench of Elitism Hung Heavy in the Air
Barack Obama returned triumphant to San Francisco on Tuesday and was welcomed by throngs of cheering supporters.
You'd think he'd receive a hero's homecoming, considering that San Francisco is the most liberal big city in the nation and its residents voted for him in overwhelming numbers. But in stark reality, here's the full extent of the cheering section that awaited him:
A grand total of two people.
Incredible as it may seem, these were the only two identifiably pro-Obama demonstrators I saw all day. On the other hand, there were hundreds upon hundreds of fiercely anti-Obama protesters, attacking him from...
..the left, and...
How did we get here? Let's go back to the beginning of the day and tell the story chronologically.
Boxer fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel
Obama was in town for one primary reason: To raise money for Barbara Boxer's struggling Senate re-election campaign. He was to attend two events: The first one a gala reception at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill, and the second a fundraising dinner at the Getty mansion in Pacific Heights.
Yet things didn't go exactly as you might have imagined.
While wealthy people who had paid as much as $2,000 each lined up to enter the Fairmont, across the street...
...was a large and raucous protest against Obama and Boxer.
And it wasn't just one group, or even one half of the political spectrum. Obama was whipsawed, pummelled from all sides simultaneously. Left-wingers, right-wingers, pacifists, libertarians, communists, conservatives, people angry about the BP oil spill, people angry that Obama's healthcare reform bill didn't go far enough, others angry that it went too far, extremists, moderates, and everyone in between on both sides of the aisle.
In short, it was the people who came out to express their displeasure with Obama and Boxer. Regular folks, San Francisco-style -- which means plenty of leftist ideologues, but also now a substantial contingent of heretofore unseen conservatives who had for decades stayed mute until Obama's agenda touched such a raw nerve that they could remain mute no more.
So, while the commoners (such as this contingent of Tea Partiers) jostled for space to make their voices heard on the sidewalk across the street from the hotel...
...the wealthy aristocrats one by one were ushered into the hotel's inner sanctum after showing the police guards their $2,000 admission tickets. So my statement at the beginning of this essay wasn't entirely accurate. True, there were only two street protesters in favor of Obama, but he was welcomed by several hundred people. It's just that those hundreds of welcomers were all rich donors who bought access to the president's presence. And we shall soon see that this Fairmont reception was actually for the riffraff among the aristocrats; later in the day, the real plutocrats shelled out $35,200 per couple to see the Pres at the Getty mansion on Billionaires' Row.
This whole sorry state of affairs might not be particularly noteworthy with most politicians, since most politicians are blatant money-grubbers. But Obama campaigned and positioned himself as a left-wing populist, "a man of the people," someone whose run for office was supposedly fueled by $5 donations from the average shmoe, a representative of the common man who would kick out the lobbyists and put an end to the system of big money buying influence and access.
Instead, we got this: Millionaire liberals in tailored suits replacing the country-club Republicans in the inner circles of power. While the average American, as always, was left out in the rain.
Today in San Francisco, the stench of elitism hung heavy in the air.
Back in the cage, commoners!
Many of the news reports about the president's visit focused on the diverse nature of the protesters arrayed against him. This video made early in the protest by an independent media company called Shaky Hand Productions walks the viewer down the block and identifies many -- but nowhere near all -- of the protest groups:
Despite the videographer's amazement that left-wingers and right-wingers and everyone in between could be unified in their loathing of Obama, this is not actually anything new: Ever since Obama's election a year and a half ago, Bay Area protests have frequently had left-wingers and conservatives simultaneously criticizing Obama from opposite camps. (Actually, I documented Republicans protesting alongside the extreme left-wing as far back as October, 2007 -- but that's a different story altogether.)
Here's what I saw outside the Fairmont while Obama was being heckled inside. (Later in this essay, we'll travel to Obama's next stop at the Getty mansion.)
The top of Nob Hill -- San Francisco's poshest neighborhood -- is not a comfortable place for a protest. The demonstrators were all corralled onto the sidewalk facing the Fairmont Hotel, and so necessarily arrayed themselves into a long line. Although there were no formal "camps" for each ideology, the protest naturally manifested as a political spectrum, with the left-wingers and socialists at the south end of the block and the conservatives and libertarians tending toward the north end. So when I first arrived from Union Square to the south, I initially encountered CodePink, who had encamped at the corner of Mason and California. Here, the Pinkers are protesting against Obama's and the Democratic congress' (including Senator Boxer) continued funding of the war in Afghanistan and operations in Iraq.
CodePink's other pet project these days is denouncing Obama's use of drones to attack terror targets in Pakistan.
Never content to focus on one issue, like a hyperactive puppy, CodePink also produced a ridiculously oversized banner which was supposed to read "IS CLIMATE CHANGE THE ONLY CHANGE WE GET? -- a rather comical sentiment considering the chilly downpour soaking this rally in late May -- but it was so huge that all they could do was lay it sideways and try to prop it up from behind, rendering it indecipherable to all but the most dedicated sign-readers (such as yours truly).
Nearby was one of Boxer's opponents in the Senatorial race, Marsha Feinland of the Peace & Freedom Party. Marsha was holding her own low-end fundraiser in protest against the $2,000-a-plate Boxer fundraiser across the street: $1 for a cup of juice and some cubes of cheese (notice the sign at the lower left). I've encountered Feinland repeatedly at protests over the years, and while I confess that I oppose most of the untenable utopian political positions she espouses, I can genuinely say that she seems like a nice enough person; she's very down-to-earth and has a sense of humor, quite unlike her opponent Madame Highness Her Majesty Senatorissima Boxer.
Nearby were some universal healthcare advocates.
Despite a seeming overlap with Feinland's healthcare position, the "Medicare for all" people turned out to be Democrat-voting union members who were among the very few people on the scene professing to support Boxer, and I overheard some harsh words and bickering between the Feinland and Boxer camps.
Frost-Paw the Polar Bear showed up to protest against oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic.
He nonchalantly took his place in the protest line.
Some of the Millionaires for Boxer across the street saw Frost-Paw and were like WTF??
Next up were the GLOBAMA cultists. One has the feeling that their entire movement started with someone coming up with the word GLOBAMA and then they subsequently concocted a cause to match the word.
The cause ended up being "Solar on the White House" -- a drive to have solar panels installed on the White House roof. One wonders whether they're serious or not. I mean, considering that Obama's other stop in the Bay Area was at the Solyndra company in Fremont to which he just gave $535 million in taxpayer money to publicly fund the construction of a privately-owned solar panel factory (now it's my turn: WTF??), what's the point of a purely symbolic gesture like putting a couple solar panels on the White House roof? If the guy is already doling out billions in government handouts to solar companies, the need for symbolic gestures is long past. Methinks they just like the word "GLOBAMA" and they haven't put much thought into it beyond that.
The "Seize BP" contingent was fairly large. Their goal is first to have the government seize and take control of BP (as punishment for the Deepwater Horizon spill), and eventually to nationalize, Chavez-style, the entire oil industry. They're frustrated with Obama for his slow pace in dismantling the capitalist system. Patience, people, patience! He's still got over two years left at least -- anything is possible.
Various socialist and communist groups manned the barricades, while Truthers wandered about. Par for the course in San Francisco.
The videographer who listed the various groups in the video embedded above missed out on the full extent of the "diversity," to phrase it gently. Among the harder-to-notice groups were...
...the one-world government advocates (don't laugh -- they've already set up a Provisional World Parliament to rule over you from afar)...
...the anti-Israel activists...
...the Free Leonard Peltier monomaniacs...
...The Maoists at World Can't Wait...
...and the Revolutionary Communist Party.
An indentation in the barricades served as sort of a de facto no-man's-land separating the "progressive" anti-Obama/anti-Boxer protesters from the "conservative" anti-Obama/anti-Boxer protesters. Let's cross over.
Oh my! Those Tea Partiers! They are so EXTREME!!!!
Many on the "right" side of the protest were focused on taxes (i.e. lowering them) and economic issues.
There was a palpable anticipation of an anti-Obama blowback in the upcoming November elections.
I had never realized until today just how intensely disliked Barbara Boxer is among certain sectors of the population.
This guy had the harshest anti-Boxer message on one side of his placard...
And a slightly more lighthearted one on the other side.
The Carly Fiorina for Senate campaign (Boxer's presumptive Republican opponent in the upcoming general election) engaged in a bit of semi-astroturfing by sending "protesters" outside Boxer's Fairmont fundraiser. These Fiorina fans were "boxing against Boxer" (a pretty lame campaign metaphor, frankly). The presence of "Republican protesters" astounded some liberal pundits, for some reason; you can see one of them " target="_blank">here mockingly interviewing the Fiorina boxers.
The Fiorina people also had the most eye-catching protest gimmick of the day, a giant blimp with the words "Stop the Hot Air," part of Fiorina's "failedsenator.com" anti-Boxer campaign which portrays Boxer as a gigantic menacing blimp -- one of several completely bizarre Fiorina ads.
One wonders what the bloggers over at HotAir think of their namesake blimp.