How much do you notice the politics of your fellow city dwellers?

In a few months I will be moving to California for my first job as an Occupational Therapist (Edit: This never happened. – Ron – December, 2012). During my job search a key factor I considered was the political leanings of cities. As a politically oriented progressive atheist I applied to positions in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, LA, Anaheim, San Diego (yes, I know that SD is relatively conservative, but still California), Hawaii, Halifax, Toronto, and various other locations in Ontario, Canada. By contrast, I did not apply to any postings in Texas, Alabama, Florida, or Utah, and only applied to a couple in Alberta. Liberal bias much? Much too much. And I’d do it again.

Here’s what’s interesting. I currently live in London, Ontario, a city which I’ve heard referred to as “ultra conservative” (at least by Ontario standards) on several occasions. I’ve never really felt like I live in a conservative city. There was one time when I went to an Ann Coulter speaking event in London and was pretty stunned by how many far-right conservatives came out. But by the same token, I’m sure that if Michael Moore had come to town, I’d have been surrounded by Lefties. The Coulter event was the only time that I’ve ever felt like I was in a conservative space.

On the other hand, I have been living in London as a graduate student. Liberalism tends to run high in universities. Furthermore, the occupational therapy field can be argued to be left-of-centre at its core. These have no doubt been key factors in affecting the degree to which I perceive myself to be living in a conservative city.

Another factor that has significantly affected my experience is that being a strong atheist progressive, the people I hang out with have tended to be secular and left-of-centre. I have progressive religious friends, but I don’t know that I have any conservative friends. Unless a person lives in an incredibly polarized place, they will probably have a disproportionate number of friends of similar moral/political opinions (including relative indifference) to themselves. What is more, when I have interacted with people of significantly differing social/political/religious opinions, these differences often do not come up in conversation. A few days ago I spoke with a Christian Conservative. The subjects of our conversation: Charlie Sheen, winning, hot sauce and restaurants. It was delightful. All of this has got me thinking:

How much do the political views of a populace leak into day-to-day life?
If you live in a liberal city or town, to what degree does it feel liberal? The same for conservative cities and towns.

8 thoughts on “How much do you notice the politics of your fellow city dwellers?

  1. I am suprised and impressed that both Ron Brown and Ron Brown like this post.

    Yep, I live in Victoria and I definitely feel that it’s a liberal city. Granted, I do work for a small environmental consulting company, which may have something to do with it.

    I used to work on commercial fishing boats as an At-Sea Observer. I went to sea with fishermen of all generations, from the west and east coasts of Canada. The west coast guys came in all stripes but were definitely more liberal. I remember, one time, the skipper of the boat I was on got on the radio as we were coming back into port and called up one of the east coast skippers who was already docked there: “Marty! I haven’t seen you in awhile. I can’t wait to come give you a big kiss!”. Marty, genuinely embarrassed, stammered out a reply “noo… we can’t do that, Jim.” Jim turned to me with a smile, “Haha! Some of these east coast guys, I tell ya. They’re old school.”


  2. The Ron Browns are like-minded fellas.

    Hahah, good boat story.

    Not only do I not feel the conservativism of London. By my day-to-day experience, I feel like I live in a liberal place. But there are several reasons for that, as mentioned in the post.

  3. I never found generalization to be a worthy coping mechanism — it oversimplifies things which I suppose fills the bill for those unwilling to get beyond stereotypes or think very hard or even be as open-minded as they pretend they are.

    There are pockets of conservatism throughout any state or nation. San Diego (or Bakersfield or any of the smaller towns where you’d probably have to look hard to find people you agree with) simply because it’s in California but ignoring cities like Austin (where I live) or Dallas or Houston (the mayor is a lesbian) simply because they’re in Texas or Miami because it’s in Florida? Geez, even El Paso is embattled with the Religious Right at the moment because their city council approved domestic partner benefits for city employees.

    Whatever floats your boat…

  4. Very good points, Chuck. I was recently reading about Bakersfield and how it’s one of the most conservative cities in the country. On the other hand, I’ve also heard about Austin, Houston and Dayton being quite liberal. In some ways, an ardent progressive atheist like me could possibly like places like Dayton more than places like Toronto. In Canada, the general culture is quite liberal and its just sort of the background assumed culture. I bet in places like Dayton people are not only progressive, but I bet they more often overtly value progressivism. It’s not nearly as taken-for-granted and assumed in their state as it is in my province and country.

  5. Ron,

    I am glad to read that you will be relocating to the “rednecklandia,” the U.S. could certainly use another voice of reason, for there seems to be quite a shortage.

    As a California resident, it appears to me that the rational progressives reside in the central to northern areas; however, with the exception of the S.F. Bay area, this seems to hold true so long as one does not wonder more than, say, twenty miles inland. All else seems to be typical contemporary American “rednecklandia.”

    I reside in the Monterey Bay area. What city are you accepting the Occupational Therapist position?

    In Reason,

  6. Madison. Awesome that you live in California!

    My job is in Oxnard… Apparently I’ll have to be somewhat selective in terms of the neighbourhood I’ll live in.

    Some of the things I’m pumped about:
    1. Perfect weather for me – never too hot nor too cold, and constantly sunny.
    2. Palm trees and nearby mountains.
    3. Looks like I’ll get to meet The Young Turks! I talk to some of them on Facebook and have been a strong supporter of them for a while. I’ve made tentative plans to meet up with one of them and also visit the studio. Cenk is one of my greatest heroes!

  7. Chuck, I will accept the troll bit of your comment and defend generalization:

    Generalization is not just a coping mechanism, it is a vital part of human communication. It is what allowed you to share your thoughts with us on this message board. Go generalization!

  8. Hey, I’ve been in London, Ontario now for nearly 2 years. Its a really nice place – people are generally friendly and considerate of others. The pace is much slower than Toronto – its easier to get from one place to another with minimal stress. At the same time within the boomers generation and up there are a large number of people here who have an old money mentality, or have adopted a conservative attitude toward culture and change. It seems to me that, within the caucasian population of that age range, there seems to be more classism and racism. At one point London was the capital of Ontario – Londoners were the leaders of the province, but that was taken from them. No one talks about this, but its seems to me that it has had a ripple effect and has embedded itself in the culture – many people here want to be regarded as noble. From my perspective, that is why London has been refered to as conservative.

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