Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! First, from the far left, in the category of heavyweight politics and hailing from the Bay Area, we have the new reigning champion and titleholder of “the most liberal city” in the state … Berkeley, California! Business Insider recently created a map that depicts the most liberal and most conservative city in each state. The classification “liberal,” as used by Business Insider, is determined by one’s affinity for the Democratic Party, tolerance for abortion, secular habits, locational preferences for residence, as well as beliefs on climate change, gun policy and government involvement in regard to taxes. By these standards, our city of Berkeley was recently named the most liberal city in California, and we here at the Clog wanted to get your opinion.
We started off by asking people of Berkeley why they think their city was given this title. Urban areas and college students are both two aspects that are often categorized as liberal leaning. The city of Berkeley just happens to be made up of both of these attributes. Berkeley’s innovative and liberal accomplishments are well known among its residents, including Siddharth Iyer, an international student. “I think that Berkeley, at the very least, stands as a symbol of liberalism,” he said.
As a pioneer of many progressive feats such as the first planned wheelchair-accessible route, the city has introduced many significant changes to cities as we know them to be that were the first of their kind. Needless to say, the news didn’t come as a shock to most of the residents in Berkeley, but people had different reasons as to why it happened. “It’s mostly due to the general surrounding Bay Area,” said Jake Yanez, a local resident. He feels Berkeley’s location seems to be a part of a larger clustering of people with liberal values in the larger Bay Area. Perhaps Berkeley is the city that best encapsulates the Bay Area attitude. UC Berkeley student Fred Kim believes “it’s a domino effect.” He believes the city’s reputation has attracted likeminded people from all around and has contributed to a clustering effect of liberal people. Because of Berkeley’s established reputation, the town is known to be quirky and filled with radical protesters.
Many of those we talked to, however, suspect Berkeley was deemed as “most liberal” mainly because of UC Berkeley, rather than the city itself. It is home to many student-organized rallies, protests and sit-in’s. “I think (the liberal title) is justified, as I have never seen so many social movements happening in a single place,” Iyer said.
Cal seems to attract “students with forward-thinking” ideology, according to another UC Berkeley student, Rosemary Nurse.
Even incoming freshmen commented on their perception of Berkeley’s college life. “We’re just here for CalSO, so we haven’t been here long enough to know. Berkeley has a reputation, though. Even just as applicants, we knew,” said Annie Liu.
Even so, it may not only be the urbanized setting and college population that gives the city its liberal reputation. History also plays an important role. The rich past of the university and student activism has left a resounding legacy that is still remembered and celebrated today. “I think Berkeley was voted most liberal because of its reputation for the ’60s, rather than because it has the most liberal attitudes or policies today,” said Abbi Landers, UC Berkeley student.
Second-year student Kai-Sern Lim agreed with this point of view. “Berkeley has a long and impactful history of being liberal, especially in the ’60s with student activism for the Free Speech Movement,” he said. “Even individuals who aren’t up to date with how Berkeley currently is will have some sense of the activism in Berkeley because of its roots.”
If Berkeley is considered to be the top dog in liberal views on society and politics, does that mean all of Berkeley is filled with these liberals? Most of the people we asked gave us an answer much like Brandon Williams, a local Berkeley resident, did. “I do consider myself a liberal,” he said, as many others did that day.
“I come from a super liberal town in SoCal,” said a prospective student, Dana Lewis. She feels Berkeley’s liberal vibe will make her feel at home. Just this year, events such as Drag Bingo at Clark Kerr and a number of anti-fracking rallies have occurred on campus. Events like these — where the student body can join in the celebration for LGBT pride at the dorms or walk past the activists on Sproul chanting for an environmental movement — surely don’t happen on every campus. Then again, everyone has different perceptions of what it means to be liberal to begin with.
Some have never given the “liberal” or “conservative” labels much thought or identified in the gray in-between zone. “I do consider myself open-minded, if that’s what liberal is to mean,” Iyer said. The definitions are still unclear.
But there are also students like Lim, who state, “I do not consider myself to be a liberal at all.”
Despite Berkeley’s strong progressive reputation, the school is not completely overrun with liberal students. “Berkeley is such a diverse community that is has to be more accepting all around,” said the incoming freshman Rachel Garner. One of the greatest things about Berkeley is its diversity and open-mindedness. Perhaps it is those aspects that make the city so liberal.
Berkeley is a city that attracts people of all kinds. Still, there’s no denying that the city attracts countless free-thinkers and inspired people who seek to challenge the status quo and instill change. In the end, it is all of you who make up the most liberal city in California.
Contact Lucy Tate at [email protected].