America’s top 20 most liberal-friendly counties

10. Washington, D.C.
Co-terminus with the District of Columbia

When Americans think of Washington, they essentially imagine the National Mall, a series of monuments and museums to visit on a field trip or with a family. While the city revolves around politics, this is a global city. There is a major racial/socioeconomic divide between mostly affluent whites in the Northwest part of the city and poor to working-class blacks (and increasingly Hispanics) in Southeast. D.C.’s near absolute gun ban prompted the landmark Supreme Court case District of Columbia v Heller. Washington is the most Democratic city in America. Obama, who was tailor-made for the D.C. electorate, got 92.5 percent here, his single best jurisdiction in America.

9. San Mateo County, Calif.
Largest city: Daly City

San Mateo County stretches from San Francisco to Silicon Valley. The northern part of the county is essentially an extension of San Francisco, and as urbanized as the big city. Most of the major venture capital firms that fund Silicon Valley are based on Sand Hill Road in the southern edge of the county. The county is also a cosmopolitan mosaic, as the county is about 20 percent Asian and 25 percent Hispanic.

8. Dane County, Wis.
Largest city: Madison

Madison is the birthplace of the Progressive Movement. The “Wisconsin Idea” laid out by professor Richard Ely, committed the University of Wisconsin to using university-approved experts to reform state government. Today, Madison is home to such institutions as The Progressive magazine and the Freedom From Religion foundation, which seeks to fight against religious influence in public life. Unlike many liberal areas, the Madison area has a strong economy and is experiencing growth. Its standard of living is very high.

7. Santa Clara County, Calif.
Largest city: San Jose

Silicon Valley was the greatest boom area of the 1990s. The takeoff of high-tech development is commonly attributed to the formation of Hewlett-Packard in the 1950s, and the technology with which you’re reading this article most likely originates here. San Jose is now the largest city in the Bay Area, with more economic diversity than the rest of Santa Clara County. Silicon Valley was a forerunner in Democratic inroads to the business community, as most tech executives and employees were strong Obama backers. The county is rich and very expensive to live in.

6. Middlesex County, Mass.
Largest city: Lowell

Any notion that all rich people vote Republican can be disproved by looking at Middlesex County. In this area lie the most of the important, high-income Boston suburbs. As Michael Barone noted in his analysis of Scott Brown’s victory, if the wealthy immediate Boston suburbs had decided January’s election, Martha Coakley would have won. Middlesex County narrowly went for Coakley. Cambridge is ultraliberal — 85 percent for Coakley — and suburbs like Newton, Arlington, Lexington and Concord also gave Coakley more than 60 percent.

5. New York County, N.Y.
Co-terminus with the Borough of Manhattan

Manhattan is the most famous, most written about, most exclusive 23 square miles in the United States. Manhattan Island contains many divergent experiences, from Harlem to Wall Street. But in the past two decades, the trend has been towards gentrification. Now, most of the island south of Harlem is a playground for the affluent, what Mayor Michael Bloomberg aptly described as a “luxury city.” Manhattan has the highest percentage of those employed in management/professional jobs outside of the Washington, D.C., area on this list. Obama won 85 percent here.

4. Boulder County, Colo.
Largest city: Boulder

It’s quite an honor to be the best university-based setting for liberals, and the City of Boulder and the University of Colorado take the prize. Boulder gets the award for being on the cutting edge of liberal innovations (it was the first place to pass an anti-discrimination statute based on homosexuality and one of the first places to ban smoking in bars). Boulder also ranks highest because unlike many college towns on this list, the state government isn’t based here, so the liberalism only comes from one, concentrated source. The county is the basis for Jared Polis’s congressional district, one of the few openly gay members of Congress. The county has one of the most comfortable standards of living.

3. Marin County, Calif.
Largest city: San Rafael

Another classic domain for rich liberals is Marin County. The county is to the north of San Francisco, on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It has the highest concentration of BMWs per capita in America. Environmentalism could be viewed as the county’s religion, as anti-development pressure has kept the county somewhat undeveloped considering its proximity to San Francisco. The elder George Bush once referred to American Taliban member John Walker Lindh (a native of the county) as “some misguided Marin County hot-tubber.”

2. Montgomery County, M.d.
Largest city: Rockville

Most likely, the bureaucrats conservatives despise live in Montgomery County, to the northwest of Washington. This is one of the richest and best-educated corners of America. Most of the development runs along the Wisconsin Avenue/Rockville Pike spine stretching from leafy Chevy Chase to ritzy Bethesda to edge city Rockville. This is a one-party county: Every single elected official in Montgomery County is a Democrat. There are places in the eastern part of the county that aren’t uniformly affluent, but the liberal tilt emanates from all corners.

1. City and County of San Francisco
Co-terminus with the City of San Francisco

Surprise, surprise. Maybe what’s more interesting is how San Francisco came to be what it is today. San Francisco has always been a center of progressive politics. It has a long-standing labor tradition due to its longshoreman heritage and was a wild town from the start. It was the Las Vegas of its day around the turn of the century (until a campaign by William Randolph Hearst shut down its brothels). Its easygoing tolerance made it ripe to become the center of the counterculture in the 1960s, based around the Haight-Ashbury district. Its status as the world’s most famous homosexual center got its impetus from the practice of the Navy during World War II to disembark those dishonorably discharged in San Francisco. What was once a city with large numbers of middle-class Irish and Italian families flipped in the 1960s and ’70s. The common assertion that there are more dogs than children in San Francisco is apocryphal, but it comes close to the truth.