The Corner

San Francisco Democrats

As I think I mentioned here in the Corner a few days ago, I spent some time poking around the California Senate race: Barbara Boxer, the Democratic incumbent, of course, versus Carly Fiorina, the newcomer and upstart from the business world. There is another race like that — in Wisconsin. Ron Johnson, a businessman and political rookie, is challenging Sen. Russ Feingold, a career politician of the Left.

Anyway, I have written a piece about Boxer-Fiorina for the new NR. (I wrote about the Wisconsin race a few issues ago.) But I wanted to scribble something additional here — something of historical interest, maybe. Barbara Boxer is a San Francisco Democrat. Nancy Pelosi is a San Francisco Democrat. Both women moved from the East — Boxer is from Brooklyn, Pelosi from Baltimore — and launched their political careers in San Francisco (America’s most beautiful big city, by the way, as I see it).

Boxer’s partner in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein, is also a San Francisco Democrat — though she is a native.

These three women — Boxer, Feinstein, and Pelosi — are San Francisco Democrats in more than a literal way. You remember that Jeane Kirkpatrick used the phrase “San Francisco Democrats” during her keynote address at the 1984 Republican convention. Why’d she do that? Well, she herself was a Democrat, lifelong, not yet crossed over to the Republicans. That would happen the next year. The Democrats had just held their convention in San Francisco, nominating Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro. Kirkpatrick couldn’t very well blast “the Democrats,” being one: She classified those regnant in her party as “the San Francisco Democrats,” the new progressives, to be distinguished from Trumanesque Dems like herself.

Linda Chavez was a Democrat in the Kirkpatrick mold, or in the Truman mold — or in the JFK mold. And, like Jeane, she changed parties in 1985 (having voted Republican for the first time in her life in 1980). In 1986, she ran for the Senate from Maryland, as the Republican nominee. And, in this very Democratic state, she referred to her opponent, Rep. Barbara Mikulski, as a “San Francisco Democrat.” Chavez wanted to make a distinction between traditional Dems and this lefter strain of Dem. Mikulski partisans thought, or claimed to think, that Chavez was calling her a lesbian. No: She was just calling her a left-winger — which, of course, Senator Mikulski is.

Anyway, thought you might enjoy just a minor historical excursion . . .

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