Arlington’s tolerance of conservatives


Ms. Christina Steury

The Young Democrats and Young Republicans clubs held a joint meeting earlier this school year to discuss their positions on various issues. The event was an exercise in political inclusivity in Arlington.

In the country’s polarized political climate, some members of the community feel that it is less acceptable to hold conservative views than liberal ones in Arlington. Northern Virginia’s liberalism, sometimes seen by others as a positive aspect of the area, may have created an unwelcoming environment for people with differing political ideas.

Arlington’s liberalism is public knowledge, and it is not hard to see the impact of politics on the community, especially due to the large number of Arlingtonians who work for or with the federal government. All of Arlington’s elected officials are Democrats except for the School Board, all of whom must run as Independents.

“All I see around election time is Democrat posters, and a couple of non-Democrat,” history teacher Mr. Les Albers said. “They control the local government and the School Board and everything else like that.”

While Arlington’s liberalism is not often seen by residents as a bad thing, some people feel that the community emphasizes liberalism to the point of being hostile to conservatism.

“Arlington shuns and disillusions conservatives,” junior Jackson Praed said. “It creates a harsh atmosphere and destroys a creative and learning environment in the schools and in the workplace.”

However, other members of the community think that the school is a politically tolerant environment that does not devalue certain ideas and viewpoints.

“As a whole, I have noticed that people respect each others’ political beliefs because they can see past disagreements and understand the human behind monikers like liberal or conservative,” senior and Young Democrats president Neeka Samimi said.

Some people in the school community have had positive experiences despite holding beliefs that vary from Arlington’s political tendencies.

“Everybody’s very nice,” Mr. Albers said. “The best part is when somebody comes up and says, ‘you’re too nice to be a conservative’.”

Students have the ability to be involved on a school-level in politics on both sides of the aisle. The school’s Young Democrats and Young Republicans clubs offer safe spaces for students to voice their opinions. These organizations are among those in Arlington that value and promote political diversity within the community. One way they have done so is by hosting a joint meeting earlier this school year where they discussed politics and their different opinions in a respectful manner.

“As a whole, I have noticed that people respect each others’ political beliefs because they can see past disagreements and understand the human behind monikers like liberal or conservative,” Samimi said.

Members of the school community find it very important to create an inclusive environment at the school. They are willing to work to make sure that students find themselves in a welcoming place where they are free to speak their minds.

“Communities are best when they have all types of beliefs and ideals,” Praed said. “Liberalism and conservatism [are] just two of the thousands. Accepting and tolerance [of] them all is important.”

Many students at the school see benefits to living in a tolerant community, such as the exchange of different ideas. “I think it’s always good to have healthy, friendly debate, which I’ve seen in Arlington,” Samimi said. “It allows us to make sure our own ideas are fully formed and rooted in facts As far as my experience goes, W-L’s environment is inclusive and open-minded. It’s key to maintain that civility in order for everyone to feel like their voice matters.”

The school community recognizes the importance of respecting others’ beliefs. “Intolerance is a serious problem in any form,” Samimi said. “All people whose opinions are informed are equally valid. If we don’t understand that, we risk losing sight of our compassion and respect for one another.”