Is Washington D.C. a Liberal City?

Washington D.C. is the capital city of the United States and also a fairly populous city in its own right.

Washington D.C. is a liberal stronghold, with ninety-five percent of voters voting for the democrat candidate every election. D.C. has voted Democrat for president every year since it gained the right to do so, and its city government would be overwhelmingly progressive if it were a normal city.

Let’s take a closer look at D.C. politics and why it isn’t a normal city.

The Basics of D.C. Government

The District of Columbia is created by the United States Constitution as a district that is directly under the control of Congress. Despite the fact that it is not a state, D.C.’s governing body already performsOpens in a new tab. many of the functions of a state government, including funding schools and public works.

While the city government manages its own business, Congress has the power to change laws in the district essentially at will. This can all be done without D.C.’s consent, as the district has very little representation in the House of Representatives and none in the Senate.

Because of this, while the city itself often institutes liberal or left-wing policies, congress occasionally intercedes to reverse them if they feel it necessary.

This makes D.C. politics fairly complicated. It’s tough to tell the city’s political leanings by its policies, as the city’s policies aren’t always made by citizens of Washington D.C. For instance, D.C. has infamously high taxes, but those taxes are actually federal taxes levied by Congress on the region, unlike many other cities with high tax rates instituted by city governments.

That being said, demographically Washington D.C. is undeniably democratic.

Political Demographics

The vast majority of voters in the capital district are liberal. In the most recent presidential election, 95% of votesOpens in a new tab. came in for the democratic candidate, and this is not unusual for the city. Why might this be?

While there are certainly a great number of reasons for this, one of the reasons that percentage might appear so high is that Washington D.C. is in an unusual place among American cities. Most cities have a county surrounding them with which they are counted during the election, and these counties are filled with suburbs.

Suburbs are almost always more conservative than the cities they are attached to. While they may not all be fully conservative towns, it’s extremely uncommon for them to be more liberal than their urban counterparts. In some areas, such as the Kansas City Metro Area, the populations in the suburbs are enough to overpower the cities in their counties during elections, resulting in counties with big cities in them turning red.

Washington D.C. is different though because it is politically isolated from its suburbs, which are all considered to be in Virginia or Maryland. Because of this, when we see DC’s election results, we’re getting pure, unadulterated metropolitan numbers with no filter.

While that 95% number is still high even for this, considering that the district is a majority-minority region (meaning that its largest group is less than 50% of the population) and that urbanites, in general, tend to be more supportive of Democrats than Republicans, it seems likely that this is close to a real reflection of the city’s political opinion.

That being said, it also seems likely that the percentage of conservatives in the city is actually much higher than five percent, and that most of them simply don’t feel motivated to vote in presidential elections considering the city’s political climate. That being said, the vast majority of people in the city do seem to be liberal in opinion.

Elected Officials

The city’s most important elected official is its mayor, Muriel BowserOpens in a new tab.. However, the position of Mayor within the District is really more like the position of governor in other states, as Bowser’s office must issue driver’s licenses and distribute Medicaid.

Throughout her time as mayor, Bowser has supported several liberal policies including body-cam policies for city police and increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While it is possible that these policies get lifted by a Republican-controlled Congress at some point in the future, it is undeniable that Bowser is strongly liberal.

One of her main campaign messages, as you might expect, is based around D.C. statehood. Statehood is a fairly popular prospect within the district since taxation without representation is something that classically drives Americans little nuts. This has become a political issue as well, with support for D.C. statehood being considered a liberal standpoint as well.

Even aside from Bowser, pretty much all of the elected leaders in the District are Democrats or otherwise liberal. This is more evidence of a population with a heavily liberal bias.


Washington D.C. has a history of environmental policies that outshines even the bluest states, has been working on cutting emissions since around 2006, and largely succeeding. Modern D.C. has the most LEED-certified buildingsOpens in a new tab. out of any city in the country, showing the city’s commitment to environmentalism.

The city also has strong rent control lawsOpens in a new tab., protecting tenants from their landlords by limiting the amount that rent can be increased in a given time. They are especially keen to protect the disadvantaged and the elderly, having a ban on increasing rent on various vulnerable groups by more than the Consumer Price Index of the property.

As for freedom of speech in the city, the police suppress protestors in D.C. just like they do in most cities in the country, which is certainly a black mark on the city in terms of liberalism. Recent lawsuitsOpens in a new tab. also show the police colluding to deny civil rights to some citizens, which is a decidedly un-liberal thing to do.

D.C. also allows adults within the city limits to own, grow, and smoke marijuanaOpens in a new tab., although the official restrictions on pot ownership and use are quite strict. For people living in the city, however, it is better than it is fully illegal. However, like with many other D.C. laws, this one could easily come under the scrutiny of Congress as long as the city rests in the Federal District.

Should Liberals Move To D.C.

D.C. is a city that is strongly politically liberal, and almost entirely so. It’s a city where liberal policies are frequently successful in being instituted, which makes it somewhat unique in the United States. In most cities, popular liberal policies tend to end up in the gridlock of local politics until they are forgotten. While this frequently happens in D.C. as well, the city’s political homogeny makes this much less common.

However, people looking for anything further left than the Democratic party will likely find Washington D.C. to be disappointing. Policies in the city tend to stay firmly in the center left zone, partially because at any time the city’s own laws could be changed by outside forces.

This is the primary downside to living in Washington D.C. While liberals in the District have control of the local government, the city is officially under the thumb of the mixed to conservative American federal government, meaning that actual representation for people in the city proper is essentially non-existent.

If you have work lined up in D.C. and are hoping that it is tolerant enough of a city for you to move there without risking your life, the answer is yes. If you’re worried about being compensated for your labor, this city is fairly good about that too right now. If you want to move to a liberal city to ensure that your voice is heard on the national level, then moving to Washington D.C. is the equivalent of putting a gag into your mouth.

Until the District of Columbia is granted statehood, it will remain a place where people do not have a basic stake in their own government, as city leaders have to skulk beneath the notice of the US Congress. If that’s not something you can handle, D.C. isn’t worth it.

If you’re ready for that fight, then you should be able to handle Washington D.C. just fine. D.C. should also be a fine city to live in for people who don’t care much about how their local or federal governments are run.

Should Conservatives Move to Washington D.C.?

Conservatives can move to Washington D.C., but they may find it hard when they get to the city. Not only would they have to search pretty hard to find like-minded peers without being judged, but they would also lack representation even if the District were granted statehood since the city’s demographics make it nearly impossible for conservatives to get elected.

Republicans that have their political party as a large part of their identity will likely find Washington D.C. a very difficult place to live in. People for whom conservatism is more of an incidental thing may be able to better handle the heavily blue environment in the area.

But really, most conservatives would likely be better off moving to the D.C. suburbs instead of moving into the city. While the suburbs are still pretty blue, it isn’t nearly as overwhelming as The District’s 95%.

Recent Posts