Getlin, Josh: Polarized politics in the election of 1975


Josh Getlin


Getlin: My feeling about that is that, I think there was no question, there was a polarization in San Francisco. I've always thought though that it was never as extreme as it was represented at the ballot box in that 1975 race. I thought that was driven by some unusually extreme factors, political events that genuinely had people freaked out. I think you just can't underestimate what it must have been like to have been a middle class homeowner in San Francisco, let's say living west of Twin Peaks, and suddenly the police department goes on strike and the fire department goes on strike. And in that kind of climate, again, against the backdrop of the fact that ‘gee, the big city seemed to be going bankrupt and labor is probably a reason for that.’ In that particular moment in time, a lot of people are going to be scared. They're going to say the, “What's going on? We've lost control.” I don't know if that presupposes a permanent shift to the right for people who prior to that were in the middle. I think the unique circumstances of that election made it far closer than a lot of people thought it was going to be. I think you see proof of that, because several years later when the recall initiative was launched by Barbagelata and his allies, and basically George Moscone had to campaign and go into the into the homes in the neighborhoods of people who perhaps didn't support him two years before and had made the race unusually close and said, “Look in terms of the stability of the city, the future integrity of the city, our financial health, and what's fair and common sense you can't keep voting for everything this guy puts on the ballot and make the city, you know, this polarized laughing stock.” And, you know, I forget the exact figure, but he won a smashing victory in beating that back and that was a vote of more than just the left in San Francisco. I think that was an example of George recapturing a portion of the center two years later that was not apparent in ’75. But my personal feeling is that it's because of the unique confluence of events in that particular election year. I think people a lot of people were scared and concerned and I think that's where the race was as close as it was.


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The Moscone oral history interviews are part of the George Moscone Collection, MSS 328.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections and Archives, University of the Pacific Library

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