Thursday, January 24, 2008

Obama opens SF office: Craig Newmark blesses it, midwest hating hipsters suddenly support crossover appeal

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2008 at 12:57 AM

click to enlarge 448px_ObamaSouthCarolina.jpg

By Benjamin Wachs

“The Oakland office” of the Barack Obama campaign, “is not Oakland,” one of the campaign field managers told me. “But the San Francisco office, it’s San Francisco.”

Part of what he meant is that the Oakland Office, the first campaign office Obama set up in California, covers most of the East Bay and points north – and has volunteers to match. While the San Francisco office, which officially opened with a small party Wednesday night, is entirely made up of San Francisco volunteers.

But beyond that, yeah, the analogy holds.

Visit the Oakland office and you’ll meet the people Obama campaigners are always talking about: the young people who felt disenfranchised or disgusted with the political process until this guy form the 2004 Democratic Convention gave them a wake-up call. You know who they are because, when they’re not working the phones or learning how to canvass, they talk about something besides politics. Family, friends, neighborhoods, sports, television (besides The Wire) … there’s a whole range of human experience out there, and the truth is they don’t have that much to say about politics. They like Obama, they think the movement is cool and all and they’re going to vote for him, but … how much can you really say about that?

But that’s Oakland. San Francisco is … well … it’s San Francisco.

As I walked down Market towards the Obama headquarters on the corner of Laguna, I caught up with a hipster talking on his cell phone. “Did you HEAR what the Clinton’s said about Reagan in the debate?” he asked his Bluetooth. “It was OUTRAGEOUS! But … no! He’s not less substantive! The Washington Post jus did a comparison of all the candidates’ stimulus plans, and Obama got the highest grade! He needs to push that!”

I figured we were going to the same place. As we walked, another hipster on a cell phone caught up with us. “No, he’s a unifier,” said the hipster to my left. “Obama is so much less divisive than Clinton. If he goes up against John McCain, he can win this for the Democrats!”

“Canvassing in Nevada was just amazing,” said the Hipster to my right. “My very first day I was out in the middle of nowhere at, like, trailer parks filled with these desperate people and there I was talking to them about Obama. It was beautiful.”

This went on all night: at the San Francisco office you’re surrounded by volunteers who think they’re analysts and activists who think they’re strategists. These are the people who applaud Obama for motivating people who are not involved in politics – even though they don’t know anyone not involved in politics personally, and would yell at them if they did for being a part of the problem.

During the speeches, Obama’s campaign staff and San Francisco D.A. Kamala Harris gave standard political rah-rah wrapped around standard San Francisco ego stroking: this is SO the movement, and you are SO part of it! Someday soon all of America will wake up and realize just how right you are!

But, interestingly, the longest and loudest applause were reserved for someone who is a genuine political neophyte: Craig Newmark, of Craig’s List, may have been there to introduce Harris, but the wild cheers that greeted his appearance drowned out everyone else. Maybe because, especially for San Franciscans who have done this song and dance so many times before, Newmark was a genuine novelty.

“I’ve said nice things about candidates before, but I’ve never ‘come out’ for one before,” Newark admitted after the event.

Tellingly, the appeal of Obama for Newmark is “the intangibles” … exactly the way it is for people in the Oakland office who have also never come out for politics before. “It’s things I find hard to articulate,” he told the crowd after they calmed down. “About unifying the country, and making it a better place.”

But when pressed, he was unapologetic about valuing those intangibles. “The intangibles mean a great deal. There are a lot of people in this country who have a good moral compass and aren’t too far apart. But you have to motivate people to get things done.”

Kamala Harris then tried to leach off of Newmark’s popularity by telling the crowd that “Craig epitomizes all that’s great about San Francisco, and all that’s great about this campaign,” but she’s only half right – and it’s because the latter cancels the former out.

Obama is, let’s face it, not the candidate that San Franciscans would vote for if they were voting their passions. San Franciscans who habitually bash the Midwest are excited about a Chicago politician; San Franciscans who think that “red states” are savage backwaters are voting for a candidate who demands that red states be treated with dignity and respect; San Franciscans who demand a strong universal health care system are voting for the candidate who offers the weakest universal health care plan of the leading Democrats. That’s why they get quiet any time Denis Kucinich is mentioned, or defensive about how John-Edwards-can’t-win-so-why-bother-bringing-him-up?

Politically jaded San Franciscans are coming out for Obama because he can do something they can’t: reach guys like Newmark … appeal to red state voters … come up with cross-over platforms. The excitement at the opening of the San Francisco office was so intense because people know that, for the first time in 30 years, San Francisco might be involved in a movement the rest of the country gives a damn about.

And yes, it’s the intangibles, stupid.

  • Pin It

About The Author

Benjamin Wachs

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook

Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.