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Thursday, October 17, 2002

San Francisco Democrats-I hate to go against Jay Nordinger, whose percentages of getting things right approaches that of Saddam's vote count. However, I'm going to have to disagree with him on this one
Caught Chris Matthews the other night, talking with Christopher Hitchens, and would like to make a correction. Both of them said — Matthews started it, and Hitchens agreed — that Jeane Kirkpatrick’s invocation of “San Francisco Democrats” was an anti-gay slur. Nothing of the sort. Remember: Kirkpatrick was a Democrat, serving in the Reagan administration, as ambassador to the U.N. She had fought long and hard to save the Democratic party from the New Left, particularly in foreign and defense policy. She was speaking at a Republican convention, in the summer of 1984. That must have been rather a hard thing for a lifelong, committed Democrat to do. She didn’t want to knock “the Democrats,” tout court, because she was one, and she loved that party (or what was left of it, from her point of view). The Democrats had had their convention — in San Francisco. This convention, which nominated Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, was dominated by exactly the kind of Democrats she lamented and despised. So, at the Republican convention, she spoke against “the San Francisco Democrats” — those who had nominated Reagan’s opposition, weeks earlier. It had nothing to do with gays. It’s not her fault that the Democrats held their convention in San Francisco. If they’d had it in Dubuque, they would have been “the Dubuque Democrats” — and you’d’ve gotten a nice alliteration out of it.
Sorry, Jay, it had a serious anti-gay undertone to it; at least that how I read it at the time. The convention was in SF, but the added allusion of the town of Harvey Milk and Sister Boom-Boom gave the phrase a double meaning. The libertine nature of San Francisco was built into the mix, meant to sway morally conservative voters to the GOP and to give something to hoot over to the conventioneers. I don't know what was going through Kirkpatrick's mind when she crafted her speech, but I'd be surprised if the she didn't have a double meaning in mind. "Anti-gay slur" is a bit over the top, but she was likely playing to heterosexist sentiments when she gave that speech.

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