San Francisco GOP Raises an Empty Glass
By Peter Jamison
Jones Roadhouse is a clean and cozy tavern in the heart of the Marina on Lombard Street. The walls of its back room are adorned with six big-screen televisions, and on the night of Nov. 4, 2008, every one was tuned to FOX News. From 7 p.m. on, some 60 well-heeled men and women milled about, drinks in hand, doing their best to ignore the results streaming across the screens above them.
Meet the Republicans of San Francisco.
GOP organizations including the San Francisco Republican Party and San Francisco Young Republicans – Yes, there are some! – put on an election night bash at Jones, though the scene evinced little of the euphoria that fueled Democratic Party festivities across the nation. Even grim resignation eluded city Republicans; their resignation was of the sort that reigns among expatriates discussing homeland politics in a subtropical opium den.
“We know we can’t be Cinderella every year,” said Catherine Carr, a 26-year-old, born and raised in San Francisco, who acts as volunteer coordinator for the Young Republicans. She said the group has about 600 names on its email list; about 40 or 50 people show up at the organization’s monthly happy hours. A Democratic sweep of the branches of the federal government was becoming more evident by the minute, but Carr sounded a sanguine note. “I think that the backlash will happen and our party will be reinvigorated.”
Some interlopers were present. Three Obama supporters – Scott Baughman, Minna Baughman and Nicole Swenson – had commandeered a booth at one corner of the room. They explained that they were looking for a bar with decent TV views, but found themselves interested, as well, in the conservative menagerie surrounding them. “The fact that they’re not reacting to anything is weird,” Scott Baughman, 32, said. “It’s like they’re numb to the TV.” The 34-year-old Minna added, “They’ve just been drinking a lot and watching.”
“It’s a tough one,” acknowledged Dana Walsh, the Republican Congressional candidate who had just cheerfully lost a mostly unnoticed election against incumbent Democrat and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Walsh, who said she had been called a “fascist bitch” in San Francisco for her party affiliation, was hopeful to the last that Arizona Sen. John McCain might pull out a victory, despite polls showing the GOP candidate trailing Barack Obama in key battleground states. “I was very suspicious of a lot of the polls,” she said. “I just thought they were saying what they wanted to hear, sort of.”
When asked about his view of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who was quickly emerging as America’s president-elect, Ty Bilbrey, 27, slipped into a meditative mood. “He’s definitely got some admirable qualities,” Bilbrey said. Sipping from a full mug of beer, Bilbrey said he had voted for McCain, but without gusto. “I think (Obama) could be a good president or he could be a horrible president. You don’t know what you’re going to get with him. I think with McCain you’re pretty sure you’re going to get a mediocre president.”
As he spoke, FOX called the election for Obama. Someone shouted, “We want a recount!” The barroom briefly quieted. Then the din of talk and cocktails resumed, and the Republicans of San Francisco partied on.