05 September 2020

Why Conservatives Hate San Francisco's Nancy Pelosi (it has nothing to do with communism and everything to do with the disruption of markets)

Republicans really hate Nancy Pelosi. Last week, in the midst of a pandemic taking 1,000 lives a day and a reminder that we still have 11 million newly unemployed people, the most popular story on Facebook was about Nancy Pelosi's haircut. On a related note, I've seen a number of Trump fans holler about how a vote for Biden will be a vote for socialism or communism, some of it explicitly tying this charge back to Pelosi who - in their eyes - apparently is a socialist or represents a socialist part of the country.

Nancy Pelosi -Democrat - is the Speaker of the House. Mitch McConnell - Republican - is the Senate Majority Leader. There are 535 members of Congress but these two easily have the most influence on legislation. By comparing the regions that elected them as representatives, you can learn a lot about who Republicans and Democrats are.

Kentucky is the 2nd most dependent state in the union, taking in far more money than it pays in taxes. California is 41st on that list.

Kentucky had 39 startups attract $743 million in venture capital in 2018. San Francisco had 1,127 startups attract $24 billion in venture capital, 30X the number of startups and venture capital in spite of the fact that San Francisco's population is only 20% that of Kentucky's. No Republican has explained why venture capitalists are so enamored of the communists in San Francisco but so avoidant of the capitalists in Kentucky.

Average income in San Francisco and % of folks with a BA are both 2.4X higher than in Kentucky. In Pelosi's San Francisco, households make nearly $100,000 more than those in Kentucky. In January, the unemployment rate in Kentucky was twice as high as it was in San Francisco.

The Republican - Democratic divide along with income is not limited to Kentucky and San Francisco. Of the 8 states with the highest per capita income, Biden is strongly favored to win all 8 (per fivethirtyeight's forecast 6 Sep). Of the 8 states with the lowest per capita income, Biden is favored to win only one. This November, the other 34 states will be deciding whether to follow the lead of the communities that host Silicon Valley, Wall Street and Harvard and MIT or to follow the lead of rural Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky.

How do politicians like Mitch McConnell manage to convince so many folks that the socialists are in San Francisco and the true capitalists are in Kentucky, a state that manages to attract lots of government subsidies but very little venture capital? In other words, a region highly dependent on the government but not capital markets?

Maybe it is because markets are disruptive and the real issue for Republicans is a preference for tradition over the disruption of change. The whaling industry was made obsolete by oil wells. Oil wells are being made obsolete by solar panels. Progress has little respect for tradition and for conservatives, tradition is more important than markets.

William F. Buckley was the right's favorite intellectual for decades. His most telling quote was, "A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling 'Stop!'"

The Bay Area is not communist. It does, however, represent a threat to tradition. It continually tries new things with less regard for tradition than perhaps any other region of the world. Now California governor Gavin Newsom was the first elected official in the country to grant same-sex wedding licenses when mayor of San Francisco. Dee Hock - former founding CEO of VISA - helped to invent the modern credit card in San Francisco. Genentech was founded there, the first company to dare turn genetic code into intellectual property, starting the biotech industry which threatens to change humanity at a its most basic level: our DNA. For many conservatives, this sort of entrepreneurship, innovation and social invention is more threatening than any socialists. And yet it is the natural culmination of market economies, the very opposite of communism.

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