Arlington, TX – The Emergence of a Liberal Stronghold

Arlington, TX – The Emergence of a Liberal Stronghold

Texas’ 7th largest city, Arlington, is now blue and isn’t going back.

What makes a city liberal or progressive? This question came up after I asked Twitter to list liberal or progressive cities other than Austin. The consensus is that the larger cities lean left, while rural areas are a solid red. Austin gets all the attention in Texas as the liberal safe haven, but the other large cities are mostly left out of the conversation.

Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio are other Texas cities where you can primarily rely on your neighbors to share your same values.

More often left out of the conversation is Arlington, the 50th biggest city in America.

Arlington, Texas, is a blue city and a good place for people with left-leaning values to live and raise a family.

Of course, Arlington isn’t perfect, and there are pros and cons to living there. We’ll talk about what those are, too.

So, what makes a city liberal or progressive?

Political ideology is the biggest indicator.

Arlington’s election results in 2022:

  • Beto got 59,330 votes (53.45%)
  • Abbott got 49,837 votes (44.9%)

Arlington 2020 results election map.

Arlington’s election results in 2020:

  • Biden: 86,318 votes (55.63%)
  • Trump: 53,113 votes (34.23%)

During the presidential election, Democrats won Arlington by 21 points. And in the election, when they all stayed home (2022), they still won by 9 points.

There’s a bigger story here regarding voter turnout, but let’s start with our foundation.

Liberal, not progressive.

Arlington is in a position where it can move further left and become a progressive city if there are stronger political and community members willing to step up and lead those charges. We’ll get to that, but first, what’s the difference between liberal and progressive?

“Liberal” and “progressive” are often used interchangeably, but they can have different meanings.

In general, “liberal” refers to a political ideology that emphasizes individual freedom and equality and supports a limited role of government in people’s lives. “Progressive,” on the other hand, often refers to a more left-leaning ideology that seeks to use government to address social and economic issues, such as income inequality, environmental protection, and access to health care.

Some people view progressivism as a more modern form of liberalism that has adapted to changing times and challenges.

So, what makes a city liberal?

A high level of diversity and tolerance for diverse communities and lifestyles. Arlington was rated the 8th most diverse city in America in 2021. In most of Arlington, people live in well-balanced and vibrant communities.

The city of Arlington often prides itself on its diversity and inclusion. So do some of the larger employers in Arlington, like GM and Six Flags.

But, it’s Arlington ISD where diversity and inclusion are celebrated most of all. Arlington ISD’s student population includes 47% Hispanic, 26% African American, 18% White, and 9% other children.

Arlington ISD has implemented aggressive measures designed to support equitable student participation.

But what makes Arlington liberal?

What about human and civil rights? Arlington has been rated with an above-perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.

Arlington has a Unity Council. They provide services to LGBTQ+ youth and people experiencing houselessness. Arlington even provides services to transgender people and has expanded their city employee insurance programs to include domestic partnerships.

While there are more positive strides that the city of Arlington has made, there are still some areas they can improve (keep reading for those).

Is Arlington a liberal city?

What about social policies? Arlington is just the latest in cities to recently start offering full-day free Pre-K to all 4-year-olds. This is a big deal in Texas because while full-day free and open Pre-K is open to some four-year-olds, in many Texas cities, it’s not open to all four-year-olds.

The law in Texas says that a four-year-old is eligible for open and free full-day Pre-K if they meet one of seven requirements. This year, Arlington started offering it to all four-year-olds, regardless of income.

Early education is one of the main drivers to success in life, and parents understand how important this is. Arlington’s program has an emphasis on STEM education. Every Pre-k learner gets science, technology, engineering, and math exposure.

So, in Arlington, kids can start school in Pre-K and never leave city limits until they graduate from the University.

The University of Texas in Arlington.

Arlington (population 400,000) is home to UTA. The city of Arlington’s partnership with UTA has brought innovation to the city.

Walkable Arlington is a great example. A group of students, professors, staff, Arlington residents, and community leaders formed this grassroots advocacy group to help make the city more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly. 

Via is another great example of a program that started with UTA students and expanded to all Arlington residents.

For a long time, Arlington was known as the largest city in America without any public transportation. While we still don’t have any buses, in 2021, the Via Rideshare program started. These cars, which you can see all over town, will take you anywhere in Arlington for $3. You schedule a pickup on the app, like an Uber ride, and they pick you up. Via also gives free rides on election day to the polls and has self-driving vehicles to shuttle people around the downtown area.

Is Arlington perfect?

Far from it. After all, we’re still in Texas. Recently there has been a lot of drama over LGBTQ displays in the public library, which has led to religious zealots flocking to our city hall meetings and library board sessions. These zealots are mostly from out of town and are angry over LGBTQ inclusiveness in our public libraries. They’ve bullied and lobbied the Republicans on the city council to remove the chair of the library board.

From KERA: Arlington library board chair claims she was removed to please anti-LGBTQ display policy ‘bullies.’

Republicans on the city council? How could that be if Arlington is a liberal city?

  • The voter turnout for the city elections in 2021: 31,182 (12.66%)
  • The voter turnout for city elections in 2019: 18,132 (7.88%)

While the low voter turnout in the midterm elections still allows Democrats in Arlington to win the majority, it hurts us most of all in city elections.

What’s keeping Arlington from becoming a progressive city?

Civic engagement on the city level is minuscule. While the current mayor is a centrist and hasn’t taken any far-right positions, he’s also one of the few big city mayors in Texas who hasn’t signed the “Mayors for Guaranteed Income pledge.

While the State of Texas has blocked all towns from increasing the minimum wage locally, many cities have set a living wage for city employees. Arlington has failed to do this. They also haven’t made any affordable housing initiatives or pledged to work toward zero carbon emissions. So, there’s a lot of room to grow.

Even though Democratic voters are the majority in Arlington, they’ve been letting Republicans run rough-shot over the city because they aren’t voting in city elections. Arlington severely lacks community activist leaders and groups who engage voters on the issues and voting. If a few active leaders were to emerge and drive more local engagement and voter turnout, Arlington would turn left and become the type of progressive oasis in Texas.

Step one is getting the Republicans out of city hall.

City elections are coming up, and several are on the ballot.

  • Mayor Jim Ross is up for re-election.

While Jim Ross is not a Republican, but an “independent” who plays the “safe” middle road, Arlington won’t see much progress on social and environmental issues with him in office. As of now, no one filed to run against him.

  • District 3 Councilwoman Nikki Hunter is running for re-election.

Because city races are “non-partisan,” many voters don’t realize that the candidate is a Republican. Nikki Hunter was once involved with the local Young Republican’s Club and leaned right on almost all issues. Former Councilman Marvin Sutton is running against her. If he can drive voters to the polls, it’ll be an easy win for him.

  • District 4 Councilman Andrew Piel is also on the ticket.

District 4 is in the red areas seen in the precinct map above. It’s expected that Peil will win re-election.

  • District 5 Councilwoman Rebecca Boxall.

Boxall’s district encompassed Central Arlington, which has the lowest consistent voter turnout in Arlington. She won her last election with 1,700 votes, which is less than 4% of voters in her district.

Arlington and the emergence of a liberal stronghold.

The demographics and political ideology drive the forward movement in Arlington. Arlington is blue now, and it’s not going back. However, the lack of progressive, grassroots infrastructure hinders the city from local civic engagement and moving forward with more progressive policies. A problem that could easily be remedied if the right leaders stepped up.

There are many more cities in Texas in the same boat. However, as conservativism continues to flee urban areas, we’ll see these cities, like Arlington, move further left. Getting local residents involved and voting in every election is the key. Until then, Arlington still is a good place to live and raise a family for liberals.

The only Conservative stronghold left in Arlington is West Arlington, but they make up the least of the population. Eventually, they’ll probably flee to rural areas, too.

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