Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Seattle's liberal reputation

From a 2005 P-I article:

Shocking news: granola-munching, monorail-worshiping, gay-rights-preaching, church-shunning, flannel-wearing, book-devouring, vegan-dining, obsessively recycling, salmon-protecting, pinot noir-sniffing, latte-sipping, war-protesting, bluer-than-blue-voting Seattle is not America's brightest beacon of liberalism.

While I don't think many people around here worship the monorail (isn't it a civic embarassment that we don't have reliable public transportation beyond the bus lines?), this sentence sets up the author's intriguing discovery from a 2005 study of voting patterns: Seattle is only no. 16 on the list of liberal cities.

Of course, this study only counts who you vote for, which may or may not be a good indicator of liberalism. As I can attest from growing up where the llamas are many and the minorities are few, many Democrats outside the metro corridor are decidedly more conservative than the big-city, big-money Republicans of Bellevue. The same thing goes for the rest of the country. While it'd be a lot harder to measure, I think it'd be more helpful to know what sort of laws are on the books in these cities—is anyone more PC or more prone to a crippling bureaucracy (see the Viaduct)? I tend to find first person narratives of exploratory journalists (i.e., anecdotal evidence) far more convincing than these rankings. Then I read this:

Jason Alderman, a director of the Center for Voting Research, said even he was surprised by the rankings of Seattle and some other liberal cities.

Before the research began, he said, "I sort of guessed that Seattle and Berkeley and Cambridge (Mass., ranked eighth) and Madison would be at the very top of our list. It's the Birkenstock crowd, what you think of when you think of liberals.

"But what became very clear to us is that that is not the driver (of liberal voting). The list is dominated by cities that have strong and proud and long-standing African American populations," which vote overwhelmingly for liberal candidates.

"Certainly the liberal population in Seattle is very prominent; they dominate local politics," Alderman said. "But there is this smaller, much less vocal, conservative community, but they keep (their politics) to themselves. They don't march in the streets."

Damn right we don't. We wouldn't want to get our cowboy boots wet walking around for nothing when we have actual means of effecting political change... like blogging.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

"So tell me about your politics." She knew that I had a degree in political science, and that was about it.

"Well, what do you want to know? My politics — like what I believe and how I vote? Or why I got a degree in political science?"

"All of it, I guess, sure." She was being polite, making small talk and trying to get to know me, which I appreciated.

"Um, well, I'm a Republican."

Shock and dismay registered on her face. "YOU'RE a REPUBLICAN?!?"

"Yes, I'm a Republican." (Why doesn't anyone believe me?) "Will you still be my friend?" I asked it with a bit of a wink, assuming that she would take the hint that this isn't something that should seriously endanger my social standing.

Smiling, she responded, "Of course I'll still be your friend," the answer I expected, but then she added something which gave me a bit of a shock, "I'll still be your friend — because I knew you before."

That dangling modifier leaves me with so many questions. Before what? What was she implying? Before I was a Republican? Before I "came out" to her and she knew any better?

Because the first option is ridiculous (you would have had to have known me in utero), she must mean the second, and that's incredibly disheartening. Does she choose not to make her acquaintance with people of different political backgrounds than her own? Was our friendship opening her mind to what Republicans really look like (as I hope), or was she merely thinking that I must be an anomaly and that she's generally better able to spot a Republican than the one she let slip through the cracks?

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Stranger

A mutual friend was talking with my sister, who told him that I had seen Dan Savage in Victrola.

"She reads The Stranger? Don't they hate where she works?" - friend
"I don't know. I think she reads it sometimes." - sister
"Well, isn't it against everything she stands for morally?" - friend
"If it is, shouldn't you be against it, too?" - sister

I find it interesting that some of my friends, like the one quoted above, imbibe that Stranger mindset uncritically, never questioning a culture that eschews respect and thoughtfulness (and, dare I say it, morality) in favor of snarky cynicism.

Ah, The Stranger. It's so very vehement, so entertainingly strident sometimes. Truthfully, I don't read it for entertainment (it hasn't been as funny as usual lately, and the sort of things they laugh at make me sad more than anything) as much as having a general awareness of who my neighbors are and what's going on in our neighborhood. It's a completely different mindset, one that's good to understand and appreciate in order to combat and, perhaps, in more reasonable moments, persuade. Somehow, I doubt most of the people writing in the Stranger take this same approach with anything I've written... but maybe that's for the better.