I thought San Franciscans didn't like Michele Bachmann. But it didn't seem that way when she spoke last week at the Commonwealth Club, where she received mostly positive encouragement from the audience. Maybe it was the fact that she generally avoided social issues; or because she laid on thick the Steve Jobs references and all the "innovation"-type buzz words San Franciscans love to use to describe their city. "[Steve Jobs] was more than just a co-founder of this marvelous company known as Apple. He was an icon who represented the greatest of competitiveness," Bachmann said. "And that Steve Jobs spirit still exists in young entrepreneurs."
On immigration policy, she generalized undocumented immigrants from Central and South America as "people who break America's laws" and also "coming from nations that are state sponsors of terror." Yet sanctuary city advocates didn't seem to notice she was even in town. Her point that the federal EPA should be essentially dissolved should have elicited more of a reaction from an environmentalist hub.
After demanding less government spending and criticizing high labor costs, Bachmann turned to the topic of education. "We must demand strong schools so that young Americans enter the work force with the math, science, and problem skills that they need," she said. Her solution to our lagging education system was to abolish the Federal Department of Education -- a promise that received resounding applause from the crowd. Yet she didn't mention anything about the crisis of low teacher compensation that forces over half of teachers in the US. to take additional jobs to support themselves and perpetuates high turnover rates. If teachers aren't able to stay in the school system, how can we expect students to stick with it? (For more on this topic, see the excellent new documentary, made in San Francisco, American Teacher.)
After her speech, a question came from the audience about why politicians "bicker" so much in the public arena -- a voter merely asking for some non-politico speak. I was disappointed, but not surprised I guess, when Bachmann didn't take the opportunity to say something honest instead of just regurgitating a version of what every single one of her opponents would have said: "People are rightly concerned that we're not focused on solutions. That's what we need to talk about are the solutions... Because you're the country. It's not the bureaucracy in Washington DC. It should be about you and your lives." And then she directed us to MicheleBachmann.com.
Most people who showed up for the talk seemed to be there either out of fascination at her far-right views, or because they were members of the obscure but strong clan of Bay Area Tea Partiers. Where was everyone else? Oh yeah, Occupying Oakland and San Francisco, demanding economic justice and trying to get the country moving in the right direction again.