AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
San Francisco has long had a reputation as a bastion of progressivism and a cradle of left-wing social movements. But this week, residents of The Golden City delivered two powerful rebukes to the left-wing extremism that has run rampant within the Democratic Party and many of the country’s most important institutions in recent years.
In the first case, San Francisco parents overwhelmingly ousted three school board members in a recall effort started in response to school closures and the woke political agenda of the board.
At the same time, Jennifer Sey, a San Francisco mom of four public school students and a now-former top executive at Levi’s, decided she had finally had enough of the bullying and intimidation tactics that she had been subject to at Levi’s as a result of her public statements that school closures were harming children. Instead of taking a $1 million severance package from Levi’s for her silence, she quit and is now telling the world her story.
San Francisco’s public schools first became the subject of controversy in the fall of 2020 as the school board announced that the city’s schools would not reopen for in-person learning. At the same time as the board was stubbornly refusing to put kids back in classrooms, however, they embarked on a crusade to purge more than one-third of the city’s school names, including schools named to honor George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key, Paul Revere, and even devout liberal and incumbent California Senator Dianne Feinstein. Echoing progressive-led efforts elsewhere in the country, the board also voted in the fall of 2020 to start using a race-based lottery system, rather than test scores and grades, to determine admission decisions to Lowell High School, the most prestigious public high school in the city.
Parents were quick to take issue with both decisions and launched a recall effort in January of 2021. On Tuesday, three members of San Francisco’s school board, Alison Collins, Faauuga Moliga, and Gabriela López (the board president), were removed from their posts, with more than 70 percent of voters supporting the recall effort. All seven of the board’s members are Democrats, but only these three were eligible to be recalled.
Notably, the parent coalition that ousted the members was made up largely of self-described Democrats working to restore some semblance of sanity to what they viewed as wokeism gone wild in their schools. Siva Raj and Autumn Looijen, the two parents who launched the recall effort and frequent Democratic voters in the past, appeared on conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s radio show to discuss the recall, making clear that they were committed to working with conservatives to remove the school board members.
Asian American voters, who makeup 34% of the city’s population but typically only about 18% of the electorate, also turned out in unusually large numbers, many of them upset over the change in admissions policies to Lowell, which is predominantly made up of Asian American students. Ms. Collins, the board’s former vice president who voted in favor of the change, had also previously tweeted a number of statements that suggested a clear bias against Asian Americans, including accusing Asian American students of using “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.’”
Even San Francisco Mayor London Breed, a self-avowed progressive, endorsed the recall campaign, accusing the school board of becoming “distracted” by “political agendas.” Breed will be in charge of appointing replacements for the school board members who were recalled.
One parent who had been particularly active in opposing the school shutdowns was Jennifer Sey, the former Levi’s executive. Sey was an avid supporter of Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign, but despite her progressive politics and support for left-wing social movements, Sey committed the cardinal sin of opposing school shutdowns from the beginning of the pandemic. She became one of the most vocal critics on the left of shutdowns, going on TV and publishing op-eds highlighting how the threat from school closures for children was far greater than the threat from the virus.
As Sey describes in a recent Substack post, she was subject to relentless attacks from her coworkers and superiors for her views, and told to quiet down about school closures. Eventually, she was fired from Levi’s and offered that $1 million to not talk about why she was pushed out – but she refused.
Sey is someone who would typically be considered the epitome of a West Coast liberal. In this case, however, she was branded as a racist, anti-science, and a Donald Trump supporter simply for voicing her opinion that schools should remain open.
Sey would not be silenced, however, and neither would the other parents who rose up and demanded change. Now, the message they sent with their recall effort will no doubt reverberate not just around San Francisco, but the rest of the country as well. It was a similar message that voters sent in Virginia last year, when they elected Glenn Youngkin largely based on his promise to lift pandemic restrictions, restore parents’ rights in schools, and protect traditional American values in the face of relentless attacks from radical progressive ideologies.
If they can seize the opportunity, Republicans and conservative candidates now appear to have an opening to become the party of parents, committed to restoring public education to its original purpose. Most schools are now back to in-person learning (although many still require students to wear masks despite ample scientific evidence pointing to the ineffectiveness of the practice). But many parents likely will not forget or forgive the generational harm wrought on their children by politicians who were more concerned with politics than “the science.”
So as Democrats throughout the country slowly begin to distance themselves from the school closures, lockdown policies, and radical social agenda they once embraced, they may soon find themselves running up against an uncomfortable reality: If parents have had enough of it in San Francisco, it’s a safe bet they’ve had enough of it everywhere else, too.
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