This newsletter could easily have been written in a way to show that Democrats are taking action against their own pols that have gone too far. It could have been written in a positive voice that acknowledged Democratic leaders and voters are taking concrete steps to fix our perception problem. That they are taking the advice the Bulwark has been giving them for months now.

Instead the focus is "Boy, are these people crazy or what?" With the implication being that the people voted out and making out there comments on twitter represent the Democratic party. The new mayor of San Francisco is only mentioned once, and that by her last name without acknowledgment that she's the mayor, in a pulled quote from the NY Post,

This is illustrative of the "communication problem" people complain that the Democrats have. Even a site that says it wants them to succeed, The Bulwark, when it has a chance to tell a story about how Democrats are turning it around on culture war issues instead focuses on "look how crazy these people are" by finding the most far out there people and saying the represent the Democratic party.

I totally get JVL's nihilism and am on board with it.

Expand full comment

Charlie, I'm going to challenge you on three things.

1. What exactly does the term 'woke' mean in the context that you're using it? Being 'too woke' doesn't make any sense, because being 'woke' is a descriptor. It's like trying to say a car is too 'metal.' You can't make it more metal. Either you are or you are not. And in the context you're using it, it sounds like you just mean 'everything that I don't like is woke.' Which I believe the newsletter from Tom Nichols you linked a few days ago would have something to say about.

2. On the matter of the mural, have you SEEN it? It depicts pretty stereotypical interactions between white settlers and native americans, you know, the ones those settlers then genocided. As soon as I saw it, I went 'oh, now I see why they wanted that removed.' That said, my opinion is the same as it was on those people who removed the statue of Jefferson; a free people can decide what they want around. I don't really care one way or another if they keep or remove it. And I'm not sure it's morally good or bad to keep or remove it either.

3. The main thing I want to point out is this: if they're being slagged for 'not keeping schools open' you might as well close down the bulwark and retire. Why? Because as far as I can find, the last time schools in San Francisco were closed was in August, meaning six months ago. If people are voting NOW about things that happened THEN, then nothing you or anyone else says has any actual importance anymore. I don't mean that in a hostile way. I mean that we have reached a point now where people's attitudes are set, and new information does not settle in. They're mad NOW about things that are so far in the past, that they are no longer happening.

It also means that no advice you or anyone else can give has any importance or merit, because it means that people are already set in stone about where they are. Again, if people are mad that schools were closed six months ago and haven't been closed since, but are mad about 'lockdowns' then we have reached a point where people are no longer reachable in any rational way. We have reached a point where everyone is mad about covid restrictions, but there really aren't any restrictions anymore anywhere.

As an aside, noticed you didn't say anything about your friend Youngkin passing a law in Virginia banning masks in schools. Guess when Democrats overreach, it's a catastrophe, but when the GOP uses the power of the state to stop localities from doing what they think is best, you're very quiet. But then, that's the paradox isn't it?

If things like the Bulwark and others have power to change minds, then they're spending their time supporting the GOP by being anti-anti-GOP. If they don't, then nothing they write matters, so they can write whatever they want.

But I can't help but think you would be better off if you tried to cut this Gordian knot, because again, if people are voting about how people acted months or years ago into the pandemic, then we might as well stop covering politics, because people no longer actually care about what's going on now, and are instead living perpetually in a fantasy world of their own making.

Expand full comment

I think the lesson is for you, Charlie. We are the ones who should be issuing the "I told you so" here. Democrats are a lot more normal than you give us credit for. Even in the most progressive jurisdictions, there will be a backlash against extreme policies and disfunction. There's nothing like this happening in the GOP, which is a spiraling sh*tshow of insanity. You have chosen the right team - embrace it, celebrate it.

Expand full comment
Feb 17, 2022·edited Feb 17, 2022

I have a hundred of these stories, this is nothing new. Yes, ridiculous performative progressive politics has always been SF’s mainstay. I’ll never forget starting city college when Newsome first ran for Mayor, and people were writing “Gavin is a Nazi” on the bathroom walls. He went on to win the election and to marry gay couples against Federal law. Some Nazi.

Today’s newsletter is performative as well though, and a little annoying to someone who has lived in that city. Sure, focus the menace of “wokeism” while ignoring the real menace. SF’s school system is a wreck and is highly segregated. I volunteered only one day and shamefully left not being able to handle it because it was so depressing. Most people send their kids to private school, which costs $25k plus a year per kid. They can afford to do so. SF has more billionaires per capita than any other US city.

The truth is thing most Bulwark commentators love “school choice” but it’s often a way for white parents to avoid sending their kids to schools with minority students. Racism is pervasive in SF, just as it is in most parts of the country. Parents would rather spend $25k a year than send their kids to school with minority students. My daughter currently goes to school in Las Vegas that is 90% black and is doing great. Our realtor didn’t want to show us this house because it was a “bad neighborhood.” It’s not a bad neighborhood at all, it’s a black neighborhood. I frequently leave my door unlocked, and I know my neighbors. Still doesn’t stop white plumbers from freaking out when they visit me, “You don’t have a security system??? No cameras!?!”

So sure, highlight the woke monster. Or perhaps you know a family that moved to a minority neighborhood to buy a fixer upper and then sent their kids to private or charter school outside the neighborhood. You know a “good” school. It certainly happened in the Mission of San Francisco.

Expand full comment

Charlie, I have to join the “resistance” here. Both in this piece and in your most recent podcasts, you seem to be just over-the-moon delighted about this SF thing and seem to be incredibly anxious to make it into a marker of how utterly crazy “the left” has become. This is passive aggressive both-sides-ism, plain and simple. It’s almost as if you are (unconsciously?) grasping for something extreme on the left that can balance out your anomie and angst around how thoroughly crazy and rotten is pretty much the entire Republican Party. The whole party has shifted to the right-hand tail of the ideological and delusional bell curve. But see, there’s this group of crazy woke lefties in SF, so phew!

I think perhaps it’s gut check time. Is this a sign that you are getting exhausted by the complete mayhem of the Republican Party and its pacts with the devils in our societies and globally? Are you setting this up so that, if the Dems lose in the midterms, you can blame another —ism (Woke-ism), even if it has become increasingly clear from modern poli-sci research that the average voter doesn’t pay much attention to “issues” and that they most often vote primarily on the sense of how their life is going and related economic conditions (like whether their disposable income is rising or not), especially in midterms, where there is no national executive race on the ballot?

I am very curious about this in part because I am very concerned about where the “allyship” of Never-Trumppers is headed in the upcoming elections. What’s the strategy? If it is headed towards the defeat Trumpism by “helpfully” pointing out to the Dem Party that it is too far left and not sufficiently reining in their “woke” fringe, then no thanks. This is disingenuous and a pure distraction — and only helps muddy the political waters for voters.

If the center-right really wants to be helpful in support of what is clearly a moderate Democratic administration trying to do the right things in the face of unprecedented opposition from a Party that has adopted “Dear-Leader” Authoritarianism as it creed and entire platform; and if it believes that there are many good American-democracy-loving democrats running all across the country that need our support against this now dangerous and rogue party, then that should lead towards more constructive and meaningful focusing on issues and initiatives that will help Democrats get (re)elected. Period. That doesn’t mean no constructive criticism. But it does mean being clear about what your strategy is for helping pro-democracy forces win.

I am hoping to hear more, at the upcoming Principles conference, about what constructive approaches the center-right, with all of its great experience and perspective, will be bringing to bear in support of pro-democracy forces and candidates in the upcoming elections. If the Republican Party takes back one or both houses of Congress, they will create mayhem in so many ways that will further undermine the average person’s belief or faith in democracy.

Constructive support from the center-right cohort and perspective could make all the difference to whether we can stay on the path of re-animating a robust democratic republic this year, or whether we will devolve into Trumpian thuggery and mayhem for the foreseeable future.

Expand full comment

A couple of observations from a San Francisco resident and native who voted for the school board recall: first, SF is among the most diverse counties in the nation. It's also a city of transients in an economy centered on rent-seeking services - finance, property and tourism - that contribute to serious wealth inequality and breed deep resentments. The electorate is divided principally among voters who live here but have little other investment in the city and a political class of activists, civil servants and hacks who rise to elective office with little exposure to the outside world.

The recent election should be a wake-up call to everyone. As voters we don't pay enough attention to down-ballot local elections or understand the implications when dumb, evil people fill the public spaces vacated by the rest of us because we're too busy or we assume "they're all crooks.".

Full disclosure: I don't tend to vote progressive, and I read the ballot statements closely before elections, but I honestly can't remember who I voted for in the last school board election. I say this for the benefit of voters in book-banning localities. Curb your schadenfreude about the left coast and pay attention in your own communities. Our problems are the same.

Expand full comment

What happened in SanFran? What happens in most places. Activists took over political institutions while most folks were worrying about work, health, and family. Eventually, the most engaged of the activists got elected, the folks farthest from the center. The same thing has happened on the right in other cities. And once the most-zealous of the activists went too far, everyone else started paying attention and did something about it. It's a longstanding cycle, caused by civic avoidance by the majority of the population. No obvious fix for that. And I don't see the point in repeating how far from the mainstream these wackos are, something that we already knew.

Expand full comment

The woke (or Elect as John McWhorter says) in the chattering classes are inciting a backlash that will leave their heads spinning. I subscribed to the NYT for more than three decades and once donated regularly to NPR. Now, I can't read/listen to either due to their insistence on promoting a specific ideology instead of actually trying to do good journalism on a consistent basis.

I used to consider myself a democrat but I now consider myself a left leaning independent. I despise both the woke and their noxious mirror image on the far right. A pox on both their despicable houses!

Expand full comment

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

No one has blamed Antifa yet.

Expand full comment

Why is a local school board recall the lede? I mean we're almost at war with Russia and the GOP is lurching toward despotism

Expand full comment

Show-me strong Made in China mugs.

Expand full comment

I see Charlie has fired up the more progressive leaning readers today. Here's my perspective:

I live in the state of Nebraska. Not that many years ago, we sent Bob Kerrey to the US Senate, and since then a more conservative Democrat Ben Nelson (remember the Cornhusker Kickback that delivered the final vote for Obamacare?) To our East, Iowa had Tom Harkin. To our North, South Dakota sent Tom Daschle and North Dakota Kent Conrad. As it now stands, it is almost unimaginable that a Democrat could win a statewide race in any of these states. Charlie, yesterday asserted that a Mandela Barnes nomination will mean six more years of Ron Johnson. Is he wrong? Couldn't a Democrat in the mold of Amy Klobuchar win in Wisconsin?

When I read Charlie's piece today, it's like I'm reading something entirely different than a lot of today's commenters. The question in my mind is what do the S.F. events mean for the Democratic Party brand in the minds of voters that need to won over to make the party competitive in many more states.

Expand full comment

The rationalizations for this San Francisco catastrophe coming from progressives sound just like the sort of stuff you might hear from the right when they claim an election was stolen. When you start talking about outside funders coming in and hoodwinking voters through large infusions of cash, it's exactly the same as the stuff you hear from the right about George Soros, and just as credible. And by that, I mean not at all credible. And I have to wonder how many nonwhite voters voted for "white supremacy" in San Francisco in order to achieve margins like that.

Lesson learned? What lesson?

Expand full comment

The far left social justice warriors are so immune to reality. The fact that voters in major cities kept voting for them in the last decade is creating a real drag for President Biden and mainstream Democrats in swing districts.

Expand full comment

I had a good friend who survived the "twelve bad years" in Germany. I remember talking to him about the years before 1933 and the politics of the time. He said that for anyone who understood the situation, it was crazy-making to watch the Nazis continue to be more public about how awful they were and what they would do if they ever took power, and then to see the alternative keep "tripping over their shoelaces" as he put it. In the end, too many of their supporters were too dispirited by them (and the antics of the KPD - the communists) to put the SPD candidate to the top, so Hitler - whose party had only gotten the most votes, not a majority of the votes - was called to the presidential palace.

As Twain said, history doesn't repeat, but it often rhymes. Here I sit, watching the ignorance of the Left in SF (as bad as the ignorance of the Trumpers - worse! - they're not supposed to be morons!) And the Democratic Socialists of America, whose forebears knew a Stalinist when they saw one and opposed them firmly, come out supporting Putin on the Ukraine crisis.

I know when I stop banging my head against this brick wall, it's going to feel so good.

Expand full comment

As a liberal and a former public school district board member I applaud the SF recall results. But it’s not over, Yale's sponsoring a seminar about how MLK Jr. cared about environmental justice. I don’t recall that.

Expand full comment