Politics as Usual

San Francisco in the age of Trump

San Francisco Women's March participants stream into the crowded protest. photo: EARL ADKINS

During the inauguration of Donald Trump as the country’s 45th president, District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell took to Facebook to comment, “I have the biggest knot in my stomach watching the events in DC. … part of me still thinks it’s not real, it’s really not happening.” In the days before Jan. 20, Mayor Ed Lee attended a national conference of mayors and noted that he and his fellow mayors were planning to resist federal efforts to dramatically change immigration policy or to introduce registries of certain minorities. State Senator Scott Wiener tweeted “Kicking off Trump inauguration week w a message: you’re not gonna throw tens of millions of Americans off healthcare w/o a hell of a fight.”

Welcome to ground zero of what some are calling the Resistance.

Determined opposition to the person and the policies of the president is nothing new in this country. Not every president is met with fierce resistance, but opponents of President Trump are at least as energized and organized as conservative opponents of President Obama; if the latter could evolve into the Tea Party movement and largely set the congressional agenda for much of Obama’s time in office, the blue states of the country are looking to do something similar under Trump. And San Francisco looks to play an outsized role in that resistance.

San Francisco — and the larger Bay Area, for that matter — is overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic voting, but it is not 100 percent so. Thousands of people in San Francisco voted for Donald Trump, though their votes were vastly outnumbered by their neighbors’ votes. Proudly contrarian San Franciscans are found all across the political spectrum, and they include #NeverTrump Republicans, Peter Thiel-style conservatives, and many others. Whatever their political stance, as San Franciscans they will have a front-row seat for all of the fireworks that are sure to happen during the Trump administration.


The deep antagonism felt by the left toward the new president is rooted in worries about Trump’s stated plans to target undocumented immigrants, his controversial business dealings, his possible entanglement with Russia’s authoritarian government, his treatment of women, and his demonizing of racial and ethnic minorities during the campaign, including the undefined suggestion that he would institute a registry for Muslims.

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who now makes her home in the Bay Area and is a senior CNN political analyst, said her daughter works at a bilingual school, and some students and parents are very afraid they are “going to be ripped out of their home, it’s so horrible.”

When the day came for the new president to take his oath of office, downtown San Francisco was the site of protests, with a handful of arrests. They targeted the former Bank of America headquarters (Trump is a part owner of the building). They also blocked Market Street in front of Uber headquarters (Uber’s CEO is a Trump advisor); some of them chained themselves to Uber’s front doors, which at least served to annoy Uber employees, rather than the vast majority of Market Street drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who were not remotely involved in giving Trump advice. In short, typical San Francisco.

But other critics of Trump took a different approach, one based on their need to understand what happened in the election, when several reliably blue states voted for Trump. Valerie, a local filmmaker who has had one of her movies screened at the Cannes festival, decided to travel to the East Coast with her camera and make a documentary about LGBT supporters of the new president.

Another woman, an independent media producer, began putting together a plan to travel across the country and engage Trump voters in civil conversation. She was inspired, she said, by her realization that she didn’t understand their motivations, and instead of just sharing Facebook memes or calling them names, she wanted to talk to them in-person, human-to-human.

Others have expressed a frustration with a lack of options for how they can express their opposition, but they have found outlets by participating in the women’s marches in late January, donating money to Planned Parenthood or the Southern Poverty Law Center, or other liberal causes.


California’s money and power lie in its big blue regions of the Bay Area and the Los Angeles metro area. Though there are many counties that qualify as red voting zones, Democrats hold a lopsided share of the power in Sacramento. Gov. Jerry Brown signaled long before the new president took office that he was fired up and ready to lead the resistance to Trump’s environmental agenda, which includes opposition to international agreements on climate change action.

Speaking to the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco in mid-December, the governor responded to worries Trump would defund the satellites that collect climate data by promising to do an end-run around the incoming president. “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight. We’re ready to defend,” Brown said in a fiery speech. “And if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite. We’re going to collect that data.”

New Hampshire-based writer Bernie Quigley wrote in The Hill California was at the vanguard of using states’ rights against a federal agenda they opposed: “Gov. Jerry Brown and California open the gate: New England and other sympathetic regions should follow their initiative.”

On the private-citizen side, a group called TechSolidarity has been holding meetings in the Bay Area and in cities across the country for tech employees who do not want to play any role in helping the government create registries of Muslims. A petition has made the rounds of the “technorati,” with signatories pledging not to take part in any such effort.

Quite a few politicians and nonpoliticians alike will be watching to see if President Trump and some of his congressional allies carry through with threats to cut funding to liberal bastions such as San Francisco (see News Briefs, page 3). Those big cities are overwhelmingly Democratic, so it poses no political risk to representatives from a red district to push such a plan, and none to Trump to sign it into law. But the Bay Area has a tremendous amount of economic and political firepower, including the Democratic leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and it remains to be seen how much Congress wants to tangle with the rich urban areas that provide much of the funding for the government and its services.

Whatever happens, San Franciscans will be in the front row, watching or actively involved in the effort.

“We will persevere,” Governor Brown told those geophysicists in December. “Have no doubt about that.”

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John Zipperer is the author/publisher of the free Zippererstrasse digital political magazine (available at E-mail: [email protected]