SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The summer of love has given way to the autumn of fear in San Francisco, a liberal stronghold where residents bitterly disappointed by the Bush victory are in no mood to reach out and mend divisions.
Rather, they are waving “United States of Canada” maps, redrawn to show Canada extending down to include California, New England and the other so-called “blue states” that voted decisively for Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry in the U.S. presidential race.
Some are cancelling plans to travel to neighbouring “red states,” where Bush drew most of his support. They are asking serious questions about the future of American democracy. And the usual post-election bravado about moving out of the country when a favoured candidate loses is sounding different this year. It sounds a lot more serious.
“I’m going in on Monday and getting a new passport,” said an electronics technician and volunteer at the Green Festival environmental conference who requested anonymity.
“I’m not leaving yet, but I’m getting prepared,” he said. “I can imagine that this country is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”
Representative Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat who competed with Kerry for his party’s presidential nomination before backing the senator, urged the crowd at the festival to remain hopeful and connect with the other concerned citizens.
But the questions Kucinich fielded were anything but hopeful.
“Why should we believe we will ever have another fair election in this country?” asked one woman.
After the well-publicsed electoral chaos in Florida in 2000, the United States invited international observers to monitor the November 2 election. Despite widespread allegations of electoral fraud before last week’s vote, they were unable to substantiate the claims.
The woman’s frustration was echoed throughout San Francisco, arguably the most liberal city in one of the most Democratic states in the country. On Tuesday, 83.3 percent of voters in San Francisco County cast their ballots for Kerry, compared with 62.8 percent in Los Angeles County and 54.7 percent statewide.
STAYING OUT OF RED STATES
Peace and tolerance have long been the words to live by in San Francisco, known for its large gay community, broad ethnic mix and frequent anti-war protests. But days after the election, many residents said they were so worried about an erosion of civil rights, environmental standards and the escalating violence in the Middle East, that they did not know how they could tolerate the Bush administration, or Americans who voted to re-elect him.
“I have family in Idaho, but I told my wife we’re not going to visit them now. It’s all Republicans there,” said Ron Schmidt, a public relations executive. “We have family in Indiana and I don’t want to go there either.”
It was not the reaction George W. Bush must have been hoping for when he made his acceptance speech on Wednesday and told Kerry supporters: “I will need your support and I will work to earn it.”
Schmidt said: “The ideologies of the two parties are too different. I don’t see how healing can take place. I feel like the disenfranchised minority now, and that’s a funny thing for a tall, good-looking white guy like me to say.”
Schmidt’s friend, magazine editor Joseph Connelly, said one of his columnists who had moved temporarily to Paris six months ago decided Wednesday she would settle there permanently.
“She was hoping she would want to come back,” Connelly said, “but after she saw the election results she just didn’t.”