It is perhaps a sign of our nonsensical political times that the silliest of theatrics can reveal the most serious of truths.
Just look at San Francisco.
As my Times colleague Julia Wick reported this week, conservatives — long convinced that the city by the Bay is a progressive hellhole of homelessness, unchecked crime and drug addiction — are holding their collective noses to cheer for the 49ers in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Anything to avoid pulling for the Kansas City Chiefs and Travis Kelce and his girlfriend, the ubiquitous Taylor Swift.
This is, of course, the natural culmination of the many inescapable MAGA conspiracy theories floating around social media, most of which insist Swift, Kelce and maybe the NFL are scheming with Democrats to defeat Donald Trump and send Joe Biden back to the White House in November.
“I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl,” trolled Vivek Ramaswamy, the obnoxious former Republican presidential candidate and vice presidential hopeful. “And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall.”
Not to be outdone, whoever runs the massively popular and aptly named far-right X account End Wokeness posted: “What’s happening with Taylor Swift is not organic and natural. It’s an op. We all feel it. We all know it.”
And so now we have influencers like Rogan O’Handley (a.k.a. DC Draino) offering a two-week truce with San Francisco to encourage more Americans to root for the 49ers.
“Mr. Pfizer and his girlfriend are going to tour the country as ‘world champions’ helping elect Joe Biden,” he posted. “WW3 will likely follow in a 2nd Biden term and millions will die. The fate of the free world rests upon your shoulders.”
In response to such bewildering backhanded compliments, Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) told my Times’ colleague Wick that it was “a little strange to see people who usually hate San Francisco now cheering for San Francisco.”
In response to his response, I say it’s clear these people haven’t been paying attention. Because if they had, they wouldn’t hate San Francisco. Because they’d know that a lot of the policies being floated in the city lately are more in line with the politics of a far-right conservative than an uber-left progressive.
While those of us in Los Angeles have been busy electing an abolitionist to the City Council, San Francisco started by ousting its reform-minded district attorney and has moved on to ramping up the criminalization of homelessness and drug addiction.
Why this is happening — at least on the surface — has a lot to do with Mayor London Breed. She has never really been a progressive. But since the pandemic, she has moved even further to the wealthy and organized right, trying to assuage increasingly fed-up residents and, in the process, win an uphill battle for reelection.
To that end, when voters recalled Chesa Boudin as district attorney in 2022, Breed backed former prosecutor Brooke Jenkins. Since then, Jenkins has come under fire for all sorts of non-progressive things, including the time she said the quiet part out loud by supporting frequent sweeps of encampments because unhoused people “have to be made to be uncomfortable” to accept offers of shelter.
Meanwhile, Breed emerged as an early and vocal advocate of getting the U.S. Supreme Court to decide, once and for all, whether it’s unconstitutional for cities in the West to clear encampments from public property. And, in January, the high court announced that it would indeed review rulings from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has long maintained that it’s cruel and unusual punishment to deny unhoused people somewhere to sleep.
You wouldn’t know it from watching Fox News or following the social media posts of MAGA-types, but Breed has hardly been alone among Democrats in complaining about the tents on sidewalks and RVs under freeways, and how the courts have limited their ability to do much about it.
Rather, it has been progressives — the people who apparently no longer dominate politics in San Francisco — who are actually uneasy about the can of worms the conservative justices on the Supreme Court are about to open. Even L.A. Mayor Karen Bass said last month that she’s concerned about cities turning “in the direction where we then begin to criminalize people who are unhoused because we can.”
But I digress.
More reasons for the far right to reconsider leaving their heart in San Francisco:
The policy of having police arrest not just drug dealers, but drug users, holding them until they’re sober and then trying to force them into treatment — you know, because that worked so well during the war on drugs. All in an effort to eradicate the very real problem of open-air drug markets, which conservative commentators love to mock.
There’s also the upcoming ballot measure that would require adults receiving welfare to undergo substance abuse screenings and, if they are found to be addicts, would have to enroll in treatment to keep getting financial benefits.
“No more ‘anything goes’ without accountability,” Breed told the San Francisco Chronicle, in words straight out of the Reagan era. “No more handouts without accountability.”
Clapping back on those accusations of lawlessness, there’s also a plan to ask voters to ease both the limits on police vehicle pursuits and the reporting requirements on officers’ use of force.
And just a few days ago, Breed announced that she’s backing a ballot measure that would gut parts of Proposition 47 — the 2014 law that’s often criticized by tough-on-crime Republicans because it turned simple drug possession and property crimes worth less than $950 into misdemeanors.
The new measure would make it easier to throw the proverbial book at people, especially those who sell fentanyl.
“We are making progress on property crimes,” Breed said, according to my Times colleague Anabel Sosa. “But the challenges we are facing related to fentanyl and organized retail theft require real change to our state laws.”
I could be wrong, but that certainly doesn’t sound like something someone who’s mayor of a progressive hellhole would say.
So fear not, trolls of far-right social media and believers of MAGA conspiracy theories. On Sunday, secure in these serious political truths, you can root for the 49ers guilt-free — and maybe even for San Francisco the other 364 days of the year.
Travis and Taylor already have enough fans.