"With the help of the San Francisco media," he said, "the Republican Party has been successfully demonized here as a bunch of right-wing nuts. People here are left with the impression that you have to leave San Francisco's borders to find the ignorant: those who still believe in family and religion. They've cast the Republican Party as everything they hold in contempt."
But the cliches about the city being radically out of step with the rest of America may not ring as true as they did when Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, coined the sneering "San Francisco Democrat" phrase at the 1984 Republican convention. It was an epithet that many saw as a thinly veiled slur against the city's large gay population.
"My sense is that San Francisco doesn't have the same stigma it used to have," said Binder.
Carnegie Mellon scholar Richard Florida in his book, "The Rise of the Creative Class," rates San Francisco as the most dynamic stronghold of a new economy dominated by ideas, not production.
"Diversity is a powerful force in the value systems and choices of the new work force, whose members want to work for companies and live in communities that reflect their openness and tolerance," Florida concluded
Working with Washington, D.C., Urban Institute demographer Gary Gates, Florida even developed a correlation between vibrant gay populations and the high-tech industry.
It's not that the creative people in that industry are disproportionately gay, Florida said.
"It simply represents a leading indicator that a place is open and tolerant," he said. The communities with the lowest gay tolerance rating were those with traditional working-class, industrial economies.
Other cities have taken San Francisco's cue on domestic partner legislation, needle exchanges and methadone maintenance programs.
"We are a city that prides itself in taking risks that would initially seem inappropriate in other cities," said San Francisco Supervisor Gavin Newsom, who is running for mayor next year. "This leads to a lot of press coverage and eye rolling. But many of the things that seemed extreme at the time are becoming the norm over time."
Newsom also pointed to what he called San Francisco's "staid and pragmatic" side. He cited the recent defeat of a local public power initiative favored by progressives and the overwhelming support for his own initiative cutting cash payments to the city's homeless.
Rated 100% by ADA
San Francisco does tend to vote on the liberal Democratic side on most issues. Pelosi, for example, has a 100% rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. Recently she spearheaded unsuccessful efforts in Congress to restrict President Bush's powers in waging war against Iraq.
Yet, as liberal as she is, Pelosi has won elections in San Francisco without help from the city's most left-wing elements, notably the Bay Guardian, the city's most prominent progressive newspaper. It has refused to endorse Pelosi, saying she sold out the city to developers in her plan to turn the former Presidio Army post into a national park with some private development to help defray the cost.
Pelosi has been bucking the Bay Guardian and like-minded voters for most of her 15-year career in Congress.
She has won -- taking almost 80% of the vote in recent elections -- through her tireless efforts as a party fund-raiser and her loyalty to the city's Democratic machine, created by the late Rep. Phil Burton, whose widow Pelosi succeeded in Congress.
Pelosi became a champion of AIDS funding and gained a solid base in the large Chinese American community with her public leadership on behalf of human rights in China, joining with conservative Republicans in the attempt to deny China most-favored nation trade status.
"San Francisco breeds a kind of political leader who has to survive in a diverse, highly volatile environment," said San Francisco State political scientist Richard DeLeon. "It develops skills of adaptation and leadership that you can't find in a homogeneous white suburb. It can be an incubator not only for gay politics but for women in politics."
Many of those who initially opposed Pelosi have come around to her camp.
School counselor Roberto Rodriguez, 61, and his partner, Bob Van Horn, 54, recalled voting for gay activist Harry Britt when he ran against Pelosi in her first congressional race in 1987.
"But I've been happy with Pelosi," Rodriguez said. "She's been pretty liberal without going overboard. I'm certainly supporting her now."
Even Republicans are known to voice occasional praise.
"She seems to have her ego very much under control," Bruzzone said.
"She's hard-working, and she's smart. Before long, I think that San Francisco label will probably just dislodge itself."