Now Playing

Can You Hear Them Now?

Bay Area conservatives on the deafness 
of liberal ears. 


Editor’s note: Read more post-election reactions here.

The thing that you
, San Francisco Liberal, need to understand is that this is exactly how they felt last time. Except, points out Steve Kemp, an Oakland native and proud member of the San Francisco Tea Party, after Obama won reelection four years ago, his fellow conservatives weren’t out smashing windows and setting fires in the streets. “People are just freaking out,” he says, almost in wonder.

For the roughly one in five Bay Area voters who chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, this election confirmed a couple of essential truths: For one, we on the Left Coast remain hopelessly out of touch with the rest of the country; and two, despite conservatives’ relative loneliness here by the bay, there’s an army of millions of them out there across the heartland beating the same drum. “In the Bay Area, people don’t relate at all to the real world,” says Republican East Bay former congressman Bill Baker. “We can’t understand it because we have well-paying jobs and our manufacturing plants weren’t exported. We’re mostly all in high-tech service industries. We haven’t had that kind of unemployment and job losses.”

Lisa Cohen, an appraiser from Menlo Park who is both Jewish and Latina—“not the stereotype” of a Trump supporter, she points out—started the primary season as a Ted Cruz backer. But it was Trump who ultimately tapped into her most urgent feeling: that the country was heading in the wrong direction. “I think the majority of Americans do not like what President Obama has implemented,” she says. “They don’t like the division of the past eight years.”

Kemp envisions President Trump cutting through the bureaucracies and regulations that progressives have used to hamstring growth. “Look at the Bay Bridge: How long did it take to build that damn bridge?” he says. “They build the original Bay Bridge in like three and a half years, and that’s before they had all these machines and equipment and all that. We’re tired of holding these things up because they found some kind of little snail down under there, and now it’s gonna cost another $20 billion to deal with it.”

Harmeet Dhillon, the RNC Committeewoman from California, points out that Trump “is not your usual Republican politician of yore—he has embraced gay rights, including putting Peter Thiel on his transition team; he has proposed some government programs designed to help working women, such as paid parental leave and childcare tax credits, over the objections of many Republicans; and he is taking a fresh look at international trade policy with a view toward protecting American jobs and industries,” she says, “which should benefit all Americans, regardless of whether one voted for him or not.”

As for the more unsettling aspects of Trump the man—the sexual assault stuff, the casual racism, the toddler temper? Does that not give them pause? Not really. “Do I advocate for racist comments? No,” says Peter Verbica, president of the South Peninsula Area Republican Coalition. “But I do think political correctness is a form of fascism, cloaked in good intentions.” Argues Sally Zelikovsky, founder of the group Bay Area Patriots Tea Party, “Donald is less about the man and more about the message. That’s why all the attacks brought up by the left, they just bounced off him like he’s Superman—made of steel.”

In any case, say Bay Area right-wingers, it’s their turn to run the country now, whether you like it or not. And they are loving every minute of it. Kemp, who describes himself as a minuteman, ticks off a litany of leftist causes—antipolice protests, gender-neutral bathrooms, environmental obstructionism—that have long been shoved down his throat. So why does he not relocate, you might ask, to a more hospitable political climate? “I love Oakland,” he says. “I’ve been here all my life—surrounded by this lunacy.”


Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco

Have feedback? Email us at
Email Ian A. Stewart at
Follow us on Twitter @sanfranmag
Follow Ian A. Stewart on Twitter @IanAStewart