The Information Age made it easier than ever to participate in political activism, but a number of US cities still appreciate the benefits of rare proximity to the action. For those willing to get their hands dirty developing the nation’s future, the most effective political capitals are naturally centered around seaports and areas prosperous in people and thus cultural variety. But the following cities in particular deserve to be recognized for their power America’s political arena.
San Francisco, CA
One of the strongest arms of the modern Liberal movement, San Francisco politics are dominated by Democratic ideals. A young population earning comfortable wages and equipped with a disproportionately high number of Bachelor’s degrees has developed into a smart, passionate actor on the national stage. San Franciscan politics often highlight civil rights, LGBT issues, healthcare reform, alternative energy programs and marriage equality, contentious topics that give young activists plenty to exercise their beliefs with.
Living within the city can be expensive. Median home prices range over $700k with some of the most expensive homes selling around $2M. Fortunately, surrounding San Francisco County affords places close to the heat without singeing your wallet. Expect to pay around $2000 a month if you choose to rent near the city’s heart, but once you’ve settled in expect no trouble finding friends with whom to politic. Search social networks for local meetups or just walk into a coffee shop and speak your opinion loudly; some fiery young soul will certainly be eager to debate you.
The “Jewel of the Pacific Northwest,” Seattle is practically identical to San Francisco in many ways: a young, educated population that’s politically active and pop-culturally minded; international ports; and a dominant focus on media and information technology. The population shares the same socially progressive agendas but with a touch more digital activism often concerning topics including media piracy, digital privacy and surveillance policy.
There are a lot of housing options around Seattle and encompassing King County. You can rent within biking distance of downtown for as little as $1500 or live within reasonable commuting distance outside the city for around $1000. It’s possible to buy under $300K, but expect to spend closer to 500 for a home. The Washington State Convention Center hosts numerous events every month making it a good place to start looking for meetups, or try the region’s favorite papers The Stranger and Seattle Weekly to find alternative grass-root campaign channels.
Naturally, the seat of the capital should appeal to anyone with aspirations for influence. It should also come as no surprise that living close to the power groundswell of one of the world’s greatest countries isn’t cheap. The closest neighborhood homes easily exceed $1M in many areas and renting anywhere near Capitol Hill easily costs between $1500 and $2000. Tolerating a busy commute can put you closer to $1000, however.
Over 10,000 lobbyists for corporations, unions and civil organizations spend endless hours pushing concerns at Congresspeople and State Departments in a bid to pass favorable legislation for their employers. Countless fundraisers mean frequent opportunities to mingle with the lawmakers and legislators constructing tomorrow’s future. Where other cities might demand executing ground-level political action, DC instead yields access to the core of American political strategy. Anyone who is active and effective in this city should often find themselves in positions of great political potential.
Texas is the pride of the Conservative fleet, with Houston often fording the armada’s way. Houston is recognized worldwide for its oil and gas industry, which has recently begun evolving into renewable resources as green technology matures. That coupled with expansive aeronautic and military industrial interests means regional politicians need to be some of the most active, constantly forging legislation to get ahead of ever-changing energy and manufacturing standards. Thanks to strong industrial employment, living in Houston is fairly cheap with homes starting under $200K and rent well below $1000 just about everywhere.
NASA’s Johnson Space Center, aka “Mission Control” of the historic Apollo missions, begs you to fulfill those childhood boasts of becoming an astronaut, or instead focus on the earthly concern of diminishing budgets in the name of future space exploration. Houston is also a great place for 2nd Amendment debates. Many Houstonians are borne of proud gun owners, yet the city is cut by surprisingly strong liberal affections. Thus, you may find passions pleasantly tempered by constant sparring about the matter.
New York City
Although the preceding cities have fallen in no particular order, one place towers far above and beyond the rest: New York City. Without question, the best city for political activism in America (if not the world) is New York City. Over 8 million people call NYC their home, making it one of the densest populations on Earth. The range of diversity is second to none with inhabitants firmly planted all along the socio-political spectrum. Prepare to pay for a bite of The Big Apple, though, as rents for notoriously small spaces start around $2500, while homes in any of the city’s legendary skyscrapers are often untouchable to all but those accustomed to the finest cripplingly overpriced cigars and cognacs. Instead, most New Yorker’s commute from surrounding areas to avoid the steep expense of New York City living.
New York City activism, however, is limited only by the imagination. The Occupy movement started here with first a small step onto Wall Street before traveling far and wide across the globe, escalating into one of the major civil actions of an era which remains smoldering even today. This is also home to the American Civil Liberties Union, a leading non-profit defender for civil rights, and the Federal Reserve Bank, which manages national monetary policy. With so much character, NYC even hosts a variety of unique headline-snatching legal debates surrounding topics like the controversial “Stop and Frisk” laws to the peculiar regulations developing around soda pop.
Notice that, regardless where you live, the best political opportunities often sprout from cosmopolitan neighborhoods and swells of social commerce. Immigration activists might also look into Miami or Phoenix while labor and union activists might care to invest in Chicago and its many suburbs. Whatever your cause may be, the critical factor when contributing change is finding your place in the greater political landscape and then working to make a difference.
To find activist groups in your area use one of these major social networks:
Facebook.com – Brimming with political activists
MeetUp.com – Great for finding group activities and like-minded individuals
CraigsList.com – Well-maintained and frequently updated community board
By MyNewPlace guest writer, Jacob Hopkins.