There’s more to Orange County

Why OC is no longer the white, Republican stereotype.

On+the+road+to+bipartisanship.

Eva Moschitto

On the road to bipartisanship.

Liz Macias, Staff Writer

Like many other Westmont students, I grew up a little over 100 miles south of Santa Barbara in the suburbs of Orange County. When talking to my fellow SoCal natives from Los Angeles, Ventura or San Diego counties, I often find myself apologizing immediately after admitting that I was born and raised in Orange County. Whether it be as a result of infamous TV shows like Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Orange County” or FOX’s “The O.C.,” of being the homebase of former Republican president Richard Nixon, or, well, the mere existence of Huntington Beach, it’s safe to say that the county has received its fair share of criticism.
The jokes, criticisms or eye-rolls are most commonly based on two long-existing stereotypes. The first is that Orange County is a haven for out-of-touch, racist white conservatives. The phrase “living behind the Orange Curtain” doesn’t come out of nowhere.
For a long time this stereotype was, indeed, true. Since 1936, Orange County had voted in favor of the Republican Party for 80 years until the 2016 presidential election, when Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton carried the county. Of course, this shift does not dictate that the county is suddenly a rival to ultra-liberal California cities like Berkeley or West Hollywood; however, it should at least be considered as some progress away from the political right wing.

This political shift is just one of several instances in recent OC history when there has been a push away from a conservative leaning. For example, for the first time in over a century, a seat in the Orange County Board of Supervisors flipped from Republican to Democrat in 2021.
Most shockingly, there are now more registered Democrats in the county than registered Republicans. Yes, there are still cities like Yorba Linda and Newport Beach that consistently vote conservative. However, longtime Democrat stronghold cities like Santa Ana, Anaheim and Laguna Beach have a major, oft-ignored impact that should be recognized. In terms of politics, Orange County has evolved counter to popular narrative.
Another common stereotype about Orange County is that it is highly — and even overwhelmingly — white. Just to preface, while I have solely Cuban and Mexican heritage, it’s important to acknowledge that I benefit from privilege due to my light skin. I know this has an effect I am likely not always aware of, meaning that my perception of racial tension in Orange County is unreliable, at best, and inappropriate, at worst.
That being said, the stereotype should go. For close to 20 years, the county has been a ‘minority-majority’ area, which means that the county has more people of color than white residents. As a side note, the high school I attended in north Orange County was 83% non-white: predominantly Asian and Latino/Hispanic.

So, with all of this, why does the conservative, backwards stigma continue to permeate? Is it the need to find and blame a scapegoat for the perceived “lack of progress” in Southern California? At the end of it all, we should reconsider and reframe our perception of Orange County. Conflating Orange County with exclusive whiteness and exclusive conservative values is incredibly harmful, and ultimately ignores the people’s rich history, context, and climate. Orange County is more diverse and progressive than we give it credit for.

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Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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