October 14, 2003


Vaguely apropos of Open-mindia, here's a pretty interesting article on Bay Area political exceptionalism. Why is the Bay Area the only sub-polity in the state that still wanted Gray Davis to be the governor? The article tries to answer in historical and socio-geographical terms.

Andrew Sullivan is riled up about the quote from the UC Berkeley journalism dean who says that educated people tend to be "more liberal." What, there aren't any educated people in L.A.? Even if it's true (on which I have no data), as an explanation for the Bay Area Status Quo Preservation Society, and as a reflection of the best reasoning the journalistic profession has to offer, that analysis seems a little weak. But as a Bay Area native, I feel pretty certain that most people around here firmly believe it to be true (i.e., that our quirky brand of "liberalism" or "progressivism" is a mark of superior intelligence, education, virtue and sophistication which truly sets us apart from the knuckle-dragging rabble over yonder); and that they believe it with that depth of conviction that doesn't even allow the question to arise or to be comprehensible.

Right or wrong, we are an Area of snobs. I don't see how anyone who has ever been here, or who reads this article, can dispute that.

I'm sure there's something in all that stuff about the exceptional history of the Bay Area as a real and/or self-perceived contrarian island. At any rate, intentionally or not, the article really does get across one aspect of what it's like to live here: whatever your views on this or that, no matter whom you vote for (or more often, no matter whom you say you would have voted for if you had actually bothered to vote), everywhere you go you're always surrounded by a crowd of people who continually, ceaselessly, tirelessly, tediously, and loudly congratulate themselves on how intelligent, educated, independent, tolerant, tasteful, rebellious, superior and just all around wonderful they are. God love 'em. Er, us.

Posted by Dr. Frank at October 14, 2003 05:44 AM | TrackBack

The Bay Area snob is a snob among snobs. The first punk snobs I ever met were from Berkeley. That was weird. Snobs who ate out of dumpsters...

Posted by: Ben at October 14, 2003 02:23 PM

I wonder how the "more educated equals more liberal" thought works with the "blue collar equals more liberal" idea. (I don't think it's snobbish to suggest that blue collar workers on the whole have less formal education than white collar workers.)

I think the funny thing about Bay Area snobs is how few of them were actually born and/or raised in the Bay Area. It seems more that snobs are attracted there than that anything there creates them.

Posted by: Dave Bug at October 14, 2003 05:10 PM

When my dad dropped me off at Humboldt State as a young, smug, self-righteous, Communist Manifesto-toting jerk-off, his advice to me was that he's learned that the more he knows, the more he knows he doesn't know, so whenever I encounter self-congratulatory intellectuals who pat themselves on the back for being smart and knowledgeable ("professors"), chances are they're dumber than cotton.

Posted by: Emily at October 14, 2003 06:34 PM

I agree, Emily. Anyone who is pompous enough to think of themselve as so smart and above everyone else obviously isn't smart enough to know about modesty.

Posted by: Amy 80 at October 14, 2003 07:08 PM

On the one hand, I am completely familiar with and sympathetic to the "...everywhere you go you're always surrounded by..." feeling. On the other hand, I sometimes feel like you are like the kid who goes to the party just to complain how oppressive it is.

Posted by: spacetoast at October 15, 2003 05:15 AM

Spacetoast, you totally have me pegged in re: parties.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at October 15, 2003 10:40 AM

I moved from the Bay Area (having grown up in Berkeley) to the Philly area 4 1/2 years ago, and the difference is immense. A lot of it has to do with this issue. Is channel 5 news still doing that "The Best Place on Earth" segment? For non-locals, that's a recurring human/local interest piece on the SF CBS affiliate's evening news describing another aspect of...the best place on Earth, the Bay Area. And that title isn't ironic at all. It's accepted that the Bay Area really is that. If you tried to do that in Philly, people would laugh -- and then boo, or course ;).

I don't think this arrogance is always political. Lots of apolitical people come to the Bay Area because it represents what they feel they were missing where they grew up, whether that's openness to many lifestyles, a lively cultural scene, beautiful scenery, great weather, whatever. Often they don't find what they expected (especially the weather), but the feeling that the Bay Area is the BPOE remains.

I moved mainly b/c of the cost of living, and the craziness of the '90 dot com boom. I still miss the Bay Area, but I'm not sure that the Bay Area I grew up in and love is really still there at all.

Posted by: NIck at October 15, 2003 04:32 PM

i'd rather not think about what the bay area used to be like, as it would most likely make me depressed. when i moved to berkeley from sacramento, i couldn't have been rid of the valley fast enough. as the years go by, and i am forced to interact with these self-congratulatory "liberals" or "progressives" who seem to be trapped in a bubble, it makes me regret ever leaving sacramento. there are some decent people here, but for the most part, bay area citizens can't handle debate or discourse-- only regurtitation of the party line.

Posted by: kendra at October 15, 2003 04:48 PM

anyone who claims to know anything is suspect in my opinion. That's not to say they're wrong, but intelligence without modesty tends towards arrogance. I've never been to the bay area, but living in boulder, colorado, I think we tend to be subject to a lot of the same things. It's a liberal bubble in a republican state, centered on a university that lacks any diversity of thought OR race, and the #1 party school in the nation. But it doesn't bother me a whole lot since I don't talk to anyone.

Posted by: Santi at October 16, 2003 03:14 AM

Actually, until recently I had never imagined a Dr. Frank could even exist in the Bay Area, so maybe it's not as bad as it seems ;-)

The things you learn on the web.

Posted by: JB at October 16, 2003 04:41 AM