Local political climate muffles conservative voices
By Mead Gill, Copy & Online Editor
The social and political diversity of Vashon has only lessened over the years. Named “the most liberal place in America” in 2015 by the Seattle Times, many would argue that Vashon is in desperate need of more conservative voices.
However, it may not be lack of conservatives, but rather lack of social freedom that restrains Vashon’s community from rounding out its political climate.
“A lot of people who have progressive views… when I tell them my views, often that’s the last conversation we have.” islander Joe Yarkin said. Yarkin, along with his wife, heavily advocated for vaccines in the school district, which came as a surprise to many who associated Yarkin as conservative.
“I try to be very open-minded, because I’ve definitely been on both sides of most issues for a period of time,” he said. “I’ve been a Democrat for most of my voting life. But… I feel like I’ve been left behind by the Democrats.”
Jumping to conclusions over political beliefs is what many conservatives, and even leftist moderates, feel is unfair.
“People kind of push you to the very end of the spectrum and label you as a radical because they don’t listen or hear what your actual points are,” an anonymous VHS student said.
Vashon’s young population is arguably the most liberally saturated, as many VHS students identify as democrats and are very open with their opinions. Unfortunately, this political openness does not create the healthiest environment for young conservatives.
“I’ve lost a lot of friends based on the fact that I actually shared my opinions,” another anonymous student said. “I got unfollowed by like at least 30-plus people after I spoke my [beliefs]. I had someone that I used to be friends with for all the middle school… who commented… ‘I’m so disappointed I was ever friends with you, and I can’t believe that you’ve gone this low.’ ”
Unfortunately, the small act of unfollowing someone on social media has nor proven to be an effective way to create change.
“If you truly want to change someone’s opinion you have to talk to them. It takes time, and there’s always the risk they might convince you, but the point isn’t to prove your idea, it’s to find the best possible idea. It’s not a competition.” another anonymous student said.
Student’s voices have pushed the school district to make strides in promoting diversity, as well as an inclusive and equitable environment for everyone involved. But this push has raised frustration over the lack of progress towards an often overlooked aspect of diversity: diversity of thought.
Former school board member Steve Ellison found that, even as a prominent conservative voice within the district, his perspective was not seriously listened to with intent. To progress as a community, he advocates for more genuine political interactions.
“I remember a conversation I had with someone, and they told me something along the lines of ‘I disagree with just about everything you are saying, but I still really enjoy our discussions.’ I just wish there were more people like that.”
Ellison believes that engaging with a variety of political viewpoints can lead to community enrichment.
“It’s really important to understand the opposite opinion or perspective for a variety of reasons,” he said. “It helps validate and better understand whatever position or belief somebody has. It helps prepare people to engage more collaboratively and reach more inclusive solutions.”