By Soojeong Kim and Eva Weisenfeld
The Bay Area has mild-tempered weather and farm-to-table, organic foods. It also houses three of the top tech companies of the world. Where minorities, same-sex marriages and transgender people are accepted and embraced. People in the Bay are totally open-minded: where else can you order a grande soy vanilla latte, two pumps, no foam, 140°F and no one flinches? The Bay Area is a melting pot of different people and ideologies… or is it?
The political divide between conservatives and liberals has existed since the foundation of the American two-party political system. The stride between the two ideologies has increasingly grown more hostile, especially in light of the current presidential administration.
According to a study titled “The Perception Gap” by More in Common, “Americans have a deeply distorted understanding of each other … Democrats and Republicans imagine almost twice as many of their political opponents as reality hold views they consider ‘extreme’.”
This misconception has led to rising political polarization throughout the United States of America, which causes tension between people on both sides of the political spectrum. However, if we were to take the time to acknowledge differing political views, we might find that we are not as divided as one may think.
Not only is there widespread misunderstanding throughout the country, but there is also a lot of discrimination based on partisan affiliation. According to The Atlantic, “Most of us now discriminate against members of the other political side explicitly and implicitly—in hiring, dating, and marriage, as well as judgments of patriotism, compassion, and even physical attractiveness…”
According to an employee at one of the top three tech companies in Silicon Valley, who has requested to be referred to as Cedric, most people at his company use CNN as their primary news source. “I’ve actually been privy to, it wasn’t me, but I’ve been privy to a situation where someone had a non-CNN on, and all of a sudden you hear people talking behind their back,” Cedric said.
The Bay Area, a region in the already blue state of California, is considered a liberal bubble. The lack of differing views has led to misunderstanding and polarization. Since people are not exposed to the ideology of the other side of the political spectrum, the Bay Area has become one of the most politically skewed regions in California.
“Oh, they’re totally being open-minded and they’re totally inclusive [in the Bay Area], as long as you believe what they believe,” Cedric said.
Cedric requested to remain anonymous because he believed if his political opinions were to be made public, his work-life could be negatively impacted.
Cedric’s workplace presents itself as open-minded. However, the current political climate has caused many people, including Cedric, to feel as though their opinions can not be shared. This has come up as a common theme among conservatives who live in the Bay Area.
“We have different viewpoints, but at the end of the day we can agree to disagree,” Catherine Lasala, a 59-year-old woman living in the Bay Area, said. Ms. Lasala expressed that as long as people can agree to disagree having different political opinions is not an issue.
Ms. Lasala believes that sharing political opinions while still being courteous to other people and their opinions is essential to developing a relationship of respect. Currently, this is not the case in the Bay Area. Though Cedric’s workplace boasts acceptance, he feels afraid to express his political beliefs.
Additionally, after the 2016 election, tensions between the two major political parties only grew. “People weren’t really my friends at that point if they’re going to lose me over an election,” Cedric said.
In fact, the majority of the people interviewed mentioned that they had been negatively judged by others solely based on their political perspective. Mason Chiu, a freshman at Piedmont High School in Piedmont, California, explained that he had lost friendships over political differences. He said that it was “a shame,” to lose friends over partisan affiliation “because everybody has their beliefs and the right to express it.”
Due to the current political climate within the Bay Area, as well as the continuous housing crisis, Chiu plans to move out of the Bay Area. “I don’t intend on staying in the Bay Area not only because of political differences but the housing crisis,” Chiu said.
Tanner Bartyczak, a senior at Summit Denali High School in Sunnyvale, California, who identifies as conservative, shared similar reasons behind possibly moving out of the Bay Area. Tanner said, “It’s not really that I’m threatened by the large amount of liberals and think that I’m going to get hurt or anything. Just, I don’t know how much longer I can deal with the silliness.”
Despite being considered accepting, the Bay Area tends to exclude people who are not like-minded. As George Kirkpatrick, a sophomore at Summit Denali, puts it, “You can’t share too many ideas.” The fact that the Bay Area is so skewed that people who do not agree with the majority feel as if they need to move out reflects how closed-mindedness can affect people, especially those in their youth.
Kirkpatrick believes sharing opposing political views is “a step towards making people come together.”
Recent studies prove Kirkpatrick right: according to More in Common, people “whose friends are similar to them politically have a significantly wider Perception Gap than those with more political diversity in their friendship groups.”
Ms. Lasala explained that not only should those who hold liberal ideologies respect the people who believe in conservative ideologies, but the same should go the other way around. This way, we can develop a sense of understanding.
Featured Image (at top of page): People rally at a women’s march in support of women’s rights. PHOTO CREDIT: Pixabay