Things quickly turned sour for President Obama on Monday in San Francisco at what was supposed to be a stopover in friendly territory. Instead, he was greeted by angry protesters from both wings of the political spectrum. Even independent libertarians expressed their disappointment in a president that seems to be hemorrhaging support with each passing day.
Protesters swirled around the entrance to the Bill Graham Auditorium, tormenting the ticket-holders waiting in line to see Obama and radical socialist musician Michael Franti. What made this particular protest unique was that its participants spanned the entire spectrum of American politics, from conservatives to leftists, from marijuana advocates to the NRA, from the Tea Party to Code Pink, from Occupy San Francisco to “Porn Stars for Romney” to PETA, and everyone in between. Who can unite them all? Only Obama!
This Romney fan (who caucused with the Tea Party protesters) pretty much summed up the mood of the day.
Just steps away, this anti-drone activist (who caucused with World Can’t Wait) was even more harsh with his criticism of Obama.
The “states’ rights”-minded libertarian marijuana advocates were unhappy with Obama for clamping down on pot clinics, even in states with medical marijuana laws.
They even deployed their most potent weapon, the dreaded Giant Puppet.
Didn’t matter where each protest group fell on the political spectrum — they all were unhappy with Obama.
Who else showed up to protest the president?
Occupy Wall Street? Check.
The NRA? Check.
Code Pink? As always.
PETA went the Full Pachyderm with an angry elephant.
Single-payer health care advocates were miffed about the muddled half-measures known as Obamacare.
“Porn Stars for Romney” entertained the crowds with his roller-skate antics and hilarious “I Built It” costume, but most people could not even figure out whose side he was on. Any protester riffing on “You didn’t build that” is presumed to be anti-Obama, but Mr. Porn Star later seemed to reveal that his Romney advocacy was sarcastic, bewildering onlookers as to what he was protesting for, if anything.
Most likely he was an ideological counterpart to this guy, who hated everyone equally.
After a quick stop in Los Angeles for some high-toned fundraisers on Sunday, Obama started Monday morning with a short visit to the outskirts of Bakersfield where he unveiled a monument to Cesar Chavez. Then he arrived in San Francisco for a hush-hush fundraiser with unknown individuals at the InterContinental Hotel (seen here surrounded by a security cordon of police vehicles) — an event not only closed to the press, but the existence of which was kept entirely under wraps.
Absolutely no one knew about this event — the tiny handful of people on hand were accidental passersby.
The next stop on his itinerary was the Bill Graham Auditorium in San Francisco’s Civic Center, where Alice Waters and all the trendiest chefs in the Bay Area prepared supper for Obama and any other 1%er millionaires willing to fork over $20,000 per person for the privilege of presidential access (full menu from the event visible here).
Then they all moved into the adjacent auditorium, joined by the hoi polloi (seen above waiting in line) who paid $100 each for tickets to see Obama and a concert by socialist performer Michael Franti, who presumably entertained Obama and the cadres and revolutionary vanguard with some of his trademark lyrics like:
I met a black man who became a police officer
officer, officer, officer, officer, officer, overseer
he tried to tell me it was the only job available
either rob or join the mob ’cause I’m not salable
one night he went out on an undercover sting-ing
bought some smack tried to break the heroin ring-ring
Two cops white cops saw juggling goin’ down
they spilled his brain like homey the fuckin’ clown
Mama Mama Mama Mama I couldn’t say no
got sick and tired of seein’ people bein’ treated ill
picked up my nines, walked up from behind
tapped two of them on the neck so I could meet their eyes direct
I didn’t do it for tha payroll
(Also on the bill was someone named “John Legend.”)
The Obama voters had to run a gauntlet of protest groups on the way into the auditorium.
Various northern California Tea Party groups made up the largest protest contingent by far.
Larry of the Fund47 blog has an extensive slideshow of Tea Partiers at the event.
Many of the Obama fans in line were wearing large buttons that said “I’m Entitled…”, along with some smaller writing that was hard to make out.
I finally got a close-up view of them, only to discover that they read “I’m Entitled…to know how I can get an $87 million IRA in less than 14,500 years. Bay Area for Obama 10/8/2012.” This was apparently an attempt to make some kind of political hay about Romney being wealthy and about his comments on the corrosive entitlement mentality, but the buttons were just a disaster. First of all, it was difficult for random onlookers to read the small text, so it just seemed like all the Obama voters were walking around announcing proudly that they feel “entitled.” But even if you squinted and were able to read to rest of the message, it still was some kind of Democratic in-joke that made little sense to the average person. As for Romney’s sin of being wealthy — what about S.F.’s representatives in Washington, Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein, being among the richest members of Congress with fortunes that rival or surpass Romney’s? Ooops. Meme FAIL.
While we’re on the subject of buttons: Who says that there are no new jobs under Obama? Like this guy, we can all find work…selling Obama buttons! Full employment at last.
This young button entrepreneur found an avid customer in the line. Which one did she choose?
“Once you vote black, you never go back.”
The radicals of World Can’t Wait had what I consider the best sign of the day, a 12-Step program for Obama voters:
1. Admit you are in a self-destructive relationship with the Democratic Party.
2. Remove conflicting bumper stickers from your collection. “Shut Down Guantanamo” and “Obama 2012” are mutually exclusive.
3. Understand that kill lists and more unjust war is the wrong kind of change to believe in.
4. Stop lying to yourself. The President is not sucking up to the most powerful interests in the world because he loves you.
5. Cut off all contact with Obama, Holder, Clinton and Pelosi. No more phone calls or writing letters. They are aware of what they are doing and they just don’t care what you think.
6. Realize Obama is standing up and fighting. Unfortunately, he’s fighting Afghans, Pakistanis, Yeminis, Somalis…in your name.
7. No more excuses. The Republicans are not making Democrats increase domestic spying or deport record numbers of Latinos.
8. Get over your romantic feelings for Democrats and their supposed commitment to poor people. This election cycle, poverty is not on the agenda.
9. Make a list of all war crimes committed under Bush. Cross out “Bush” and write in Obama. Add support for indefinite detention without charge, expanded drone wars, and invasions of two more countries. It’s healthy to gag at it.
10. Come to grips with this: The only thing scarier than the Republican Party (a party full of climate-change deniers, fundamentalist woman-haters and gay-bashers, election stealers and racists) is a party who continually moves to the right to accommodate them and gets Americans to go along in that direction.
11. Forgive yourself for being taken in by promises that were not delivered, and for ignoring troubling signs, because you wanted to believe in change. But remember, insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.
12. As a result of these steps, you can now carry the message to those who still suffer from an addiction to the Democratic Party. Nothing is as liberating as resisting an evil when you know it’s wrong.
Damn that’s effective on a San Francisco audience. While the Tea Party was swinging from the right, and the pot activists from below, the radicals were attacking relentlessly from the left. There was no intellectual room remaining for the beleaguered Obama voters in line. Some of the them became visibly annoyed at being politically outflanked on all sides.
In fact, this one Obama fan became belligerent and for several minutes was shouting at the Tea Partiers. His main zinger was that “Romney’s granddaddy had four wives!!”, conveniently overlooking that Obama’s own father had at least four wives that we know about (Kezia Obama, Stanley Ann Dunham, Ruth Nidesand, Jael Otieno), some if not all of them simultaneously. (Furthermore, it was Romney’s great grandfather, not his grandfather.) But accuracy was not his goal, which was instead to drive the Tea Partiers away. He was briefly successful, when the police suggested the Tea Partiers move away for their own safety, but they quickly returned and the guy eventually gave up.
The Tea Party had plenty of zingers of their own.
The crowd trapped in line had no choice but to endure the show put on for them by the protesters.
This photo, taken from the other side of the street, shows the long-suffering Obama voters running the gauntlet of anti-Obama messages. The fact that the messages came at them from all political sides left them no intellectual “safety zone.”
At least the politically confused Mr. Porn Star elicited some giggles.
As the day progressed, a certain reluctant camaraderie grew amongst the various anti-Obama groups, who under normal circumstances would be opponents. But Obama the Unifier magically sparked connections where none had been before. Thus, we saw…
…a Tea Partier carrying an anti-drone sign…
…Code Pink hanging out with the pot heads…
…PETA doing the funky Elephant Walk dance with the marijuana activists…
…World Can’t Wait chilling with Code Pink…
…and the Tea Party making common ground with the pot heads and the NRA.
Most confusingly of all, a member of OccupySF, who was holding up an anti-Obama sign, was at the same time wearing a shirt which proudly bragged of Obama’s accomplishments. Sarcasm, or cognitive dissonance?
The crowd waiting to get into the auditorium was mostly in a dour mood — except when a TV camera hove into sight, at which point they would wave and cheer and act happy for a few seconds.
The destination. Needless to say, Obama himself never came outside, so the protesters never got a glimpse of him.
The Tea Party occupied the prime spot at the head of the line, making sure each ticket holder got a good dose of economic realism as they entered the venue.
Here are some more messages from each of the main protest contingents.
The Tea Party:
World Can’t Wait:
Occupy San Francisco:
Not sure who this guy was with, but his sign seemed to induce a lot of seething among the ticket-holders.
A pair of entrepreneurs were trying to unload the last of their Obama Heads before they become obsolete on November 6.
And, as a digestif, a display of typically hypocritical Bay Area political buttons.
Also see the report at The City Square blog, which noted that after the event was over, the Obama fans had left garbage strewn along the street, which was picked up by — the Tea Party! A perfect metaphor for the American economy.