Joel Kotkin writes: You are a political party, and you want to secure the electoral majority. But what happens, as is occurring to the Democrats, when the damned electorate that just won’t live the way—in dense cities and apartments—that you have deemed is best for them?
This gap between party ideology and demographic reality has led to a disconnect that not only devastated the Democrats this year, but could hurt them in the decades to come. University of Washington demographer Richard Morrill notes that the vast majority of the 153 million Americans who live in metropolitan areas with populations of more than 500,000 live in the lower-density suburban places Democrats think they should not. Only 60 million live in core cities.
Despite these realities, the Democratic Party under Barack Obama has increasingly allied itself with its relatively small core urban base. Simply put, the party cannot win—certainly not in off-year elections—if it doesn’t score well with suburbanites. Indeed, Democrats, as they retreat to their coastal redoubts, have become ever more aggressively anti-suburban, particularly in deep blue states such as California. “To minimize sprawl” has become a bedrock catchphrase of the core political ideology.
As will become even more obvious in the lame duck years, the political obsessions of the Obama Democrats largely mirror those of the cities: climate change, gay marriage, feminism, amnesty for the undocumented, and racial redress. These may sometimes be worthy causes, but they don’t address basic issues that effect suburbanites, such as stagnant middle class wages, poor roads, high housing prices, or underperforming schools. None of these concerns elicit much passion among the party’s true believers. Read the rest of this entry »
‘The Pope of Broadway,’ a towering mural of actor Anthony Quinn in DTLA, will be restored as part of revitalization.
Harlem, New York City, 1970s (By Anthony Barboza)
American politics have become increasingly divided in recent years. One reason: Rural residents are having vastly different life experiences from their big-city counterparts
This is a topic that I believe hasn’t been written about enough, or researched enough. When I saw the headline, I thought finally, I don’t have to try to write about this, because someone smarter has.
Our familiar perceptions about state political identities (red, blue, or swing) are useful, as far as it goes, but they conceal a more interesting story, about the county by county, town by town, neighborhood by neighborhood micro-regional distinctions. (and yes, I’m not the first to have this insight). And the ever-widening gulf between urban and rural America is the great underreported story.
This is a separate topic, but related: as cities continue to draw more population migration, rural America — and if you’ve driven through small towns that used to be thriving, you’ve seen it — is less vibrant than it once was. With rare exceptions, America’s urban centers are reliably blue. With outer pockets of red. One more example of long-term demographic trends that don’t favor conservatives, as city populations grow and smaller towns shrink. (though, Detroit’s historic shrinkage is the big exception, and it’s still suicidally blue) How divided is urban and rural U.S.A.? The political and cultural differences in one individual state in America can be more dramatic than the differences between distant regions in America.
The owner of the nicest restaurant in town doesn’t serve alcohol, worried that his pastor would be disappointed if he did. Public schools try to avoid scheduling events on Wednesday evenings, when churches hold Bible study. And Democrats here are a rare and lonely breed.
“The difference in this country is not red versus blue. It’s urban versus rural.”
— Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.
Older, nearly 100% white and overwhelmingly Republican, El Dorado Springs is typical of what is now small-town America. Coffee costs 90 cents at the diner, with free refills. Two hours north and a world away in Kansas City, Starbucks charges twice that, and voters routinely elect Democrats.
There have always been differences between rural and urban America, but they have grown vast and deep, and now are an underappreciated factor in dividing the U.S. political system, say politicians and academicians.
Polling, consumer data and demographic profiles paint a picture of two Americas—not just with differing proclivities but different life experiences. People in cities are more likely to be tethered to a smartphone, buy a foreign-made car and read a fashion magazine. Those in small towns are more likely to go to church, own a gun, support the military and value community ties. Read the rest of this entry »