Cal/Stanford is the only great rivalry that's fundamentally about ideology. And by ideology, we don't mean the traditional left-right distinction - Stanford's a good bit more conservative than Cal, but they're both squarely in God-hating commie territory.
No, the ideology at play here is authoritarianism. Cal teaches its own to question authority by imposing a faceless, soul-crushing bureaucracy upon its students. No classes? Tough shit. No housing? There's always co-ops. Want the personal touch? Try getting to know your 1200 classmates in Anthro 1. Four years at Berkeley feels like a Kafka novel - you come out with a perhaps too-healthy skepticism of professors, administrators, Presidents and the like.
Stanford is a school next to a mall and some golf courses that is populated by cheerful authority figures who want to like you. They serve as your counselor, and help you choose your classes. They arrange comfy dorm rooms, and social events with your fellow fascinating students drawn from all parts of the country. They want you to succeed, because you're one of them - the few, the proud, the elites. Isn't it grand?
You exit Stanford feeling really, really good about yourself. You exit Berkeley happy to have survived the experience. Berkeley is exhilirating; Stanford is pleasant. Both sets of alumni run the world, but only one group of alumni feels entitled to.
Leland Stanford didn't attend the university that bears his name. He simply founded it - with money stolen from the pockets of the good men and women of California, on the backs of Chinese immigrants that his railroad literally worked to death. Want to know why our State Capitol is in Sacramento? Because Leland Stanford's railroad was going to end there, and because he said so. The California built by Stanford and his fellow Robber Barons was, in essence, a kleptocracy benefiting the elites at the expense of the masses. After all - they deserved it.
The University of California, by contrast, was established by Governor Frederick Low in 1868 with the passage of the Organic Act. UC was designed on the University of Michigan model and sought to make higher education available to all residents of the state, regardless of their ability to pay.
Prominent Stanford alumni in the corporate world include Steve Ballmer, Phil Knight - uber-elites. Cal has Steve Wozniak, who did all the hard work at Apple and then retired to do philanthropy instead of press conferences, and the Haas family, noted for their pursuit of business ethics.
Cal has Alice Waters, Timothy Leary, Joan Didion - slightly kooky trailblazers in their respective fields. Stanford has Herbert Hoover, who couldn't be bothered with all that talk of a Great Depression, and Gray Davis, who never left his office to notice the State collapsing around him. Elites. Cal's Laura Tyson is famous for presiding over the great Clinton economic run of the 1990s as head of the CEA and NEC. Stanford's Condi Rice is famous for presiding over the collapse of the world.
Some may look on this as a false distinction between two privileged groups, but we disagree. The ideology that separates Cal and Stanford, Berkeley and Palo Alto, rugged individualism and elitist group-think is what brings the taste of bile to our lips every time we see that dancing tree.
It's not jealousy, it's resentment - and there's a difference. You see, we know those smug, snarky clowns in red and white are someday going to fuck up the entire world, and we're not happy about it.