Home>Articles>Dueling Nationwide Narratives on the San Francisco School Board Recall

The Golden Gate Bridge in the Summertime, San Francisco, CA. (Photo: Jessica.kirsh/Shutterstock)

Dueling Nationwide Narratives on the San Francisco School Board Recall

It is wishful folly to dismiss the undercurrent of parental dissatisfaction

By Martin Marks, February 21, 2022 7:44 am

The overwhelming results are in from the February 15 special election that saw three San Francisco School Board members removed from office by an angry and frustrated electorate. Alison Collins, Gabriela Lopez, and Faauuga Moliga, saw YES votes to recall by decisive 78%, 74%, and 71% of votes cast respectively. There was legitimate speculation that the entire San Francisco School Board membership would also have been sent packing, but it was ruled that remaining members had not been in office long enough to stand for a recall election by California state law.

The Globe has covered the special recall election extensively since the process began in earnest last year. In the immediate aftermath of the election, many speculated on the reasons for the lopsided results and what it said about the San Francisco School Board and the voters of San Francisco in particular. While the troubling issues for the Board snowballed over many months, it was apparent that the underlying anger came from parents of school-aged children who saw the Board prioritizing relatively trivial issues while student learning suffered in the shadow of the COVID pandemic. Almost predictably, those on the far Left, most particularly Collins and Lopez, fell back on the old reliable refrain of sexism and racism to explain their ouster. All things considered, this has got to be one of the more tone deaf rationalizations for a lost election considering the crushing landslide nature of the recall and the fact that San Francisco is arguably one of the most Woke metropolises in the land. To his credit, Moliga immediately tendered his resignation from the Board to help facilitate a smoother transition to new Board members soon to be appointed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

Within hours of the definitive conclusion to the recall election, not only was there speculation on the forward-looking implications for the San Francisco school system, but political pundits, editorial staffs, and social media keyboard warriors began to extrapolate a seismic impact for national mid-term elections in November and for political discourse beyond.  The spin is on!

Former Vice President Mike Pence was the speaker at Stanford University two days after the recall election and proclaimed, “This week in San Francisco, parents recalled three woke school board members who cared more about renaming schools than reopening. Those results, I gotta tell ya — those results are sending shock waves across the country. Democrats who supported cancel culture and school closures are starting to wake up. The truth is, many on the woke left have been spending years trying to agitate for a culture war. It looks like they might just get one. And they’re gonna lose.”

Neoconservative Bill Kristol, long-time media political commentator and operative in two presidential administrations, tweeted, “I don’t expect Democrats necessarily to listen to ex-Republicans. (And I’m not complaining or criticizing; we’ve gotten things wrong, and our advice today, though offered in good faith, may not be right.) But. Dear Democrats: Please, please, please: Listen to San Francisco.”

But, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Joe Garofil was quick to opine on the conservative assessment that the underlying sentiments driving San Francisco voters to the polls had kinship and sympathies beyond the San Francisco school district’s jurisdiction.  Tuesday’s overwhelming recall of three school members isn’t a sign that San Francisco is marching in lockstep with the conservative trend of parents taking back their schools. The recall wasn’t about San Francisco following anyone or about a repudiation of progressivism.”

The Chronicle’s editorial board quickly followed up with, “Despite the best efforts of Twitter pundits and the national media to shoehorn a meta narrative onto San Francisco’s school board recall, Tuesday’s vote was not, in fact, a broader referendum on progressive politics or mask mandates or the ills of a hyper abundance of wokeness.”

Writing for CNN, Nicole Hemmer, an associate research scholar at Columbia University with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project, warns of “backlash politics” and likens the attempt to garner political groundswell from the San Francisco school board recall to those of parental pushback for desegregation of schools in the 1950’s and 60’s  and the opposition to accepting Ebonics in the 1990’s.

Certainly no one is prognosticating that San Francisco voters are imminently likely to elect Republicans to any elected office.  Yet it is wishful folly to dismiss the undercurrent of parental dissatisfaction seen in Loudoun County, VA that arguably catapulted Republican Glenn Youngkin to win the 2021 Gubernatorial election.  It is that same parental anger that raged to be heard in the San Francisco recall election.  Make no mistake; that same angry parental sentiment is pervasive across the land in hundreds of jurisdictions and the party most likely to bear the brunt of that electoral anger is best identified with a capital D.

An angry voter is a motivated voter. With a floundering Biden administration mired in steadily sinking approval ratings, Democrats are already apt to see significant losses in the 2022 mid-term elections.  Add some seething mommies and daddies to that mix and the prospect of a red tidal wave in 2022 and beyond is starkly real.

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