The Peril to Democrats of Left-Leaning Urban Centers
Twenty years ago, America’s cities were making their initial move to regain some of their luster. This was largely due to the work of mayors who were middle-of-the-road pragmatists. Their ranks included Rudy Giuliani in New York, Richard Riordan in Los Angeles, and, perhaps the best of the bunch, Houston’s Bob Lanier. Even liberal San Franciscans elected Frank Jordan, a moderate former police chief who was succeeded by the decidedly pragmatic Willie Brown.
Actually the biggest share of the credit can go to Daley II of Chicago, who came back from Paris and wondered why American cities conceded prime urban core territory to problematic racial minorities. That started the trend of Parisifiying American cities, unloading blacks out of the cores and onto middle suburbs, leaving the cores for hipster liberal whites and the more distant suburbs for conservative family oriented whites.
In contrast, a cadre of modern mayors is minting a host of ideologically new urban politics that put cities at odds with millions of traditional urban Democrats. This trend is strongest on the coasts, but is also taking place in many heartland cities. Bill de Blasio is currently its most prominent practitioner, but left-wing pundit Harold Meyerson says approvingly that many cities are busily mapping “the future of liberalism” with such policies as the $15-an-hour minimum wage, stricter EPA greenhouse gas regulations, and housing policies intended to force people out of lower density suburbs and into cities.
Other than the mollycoddling of violent criminals, which will be what undoes this political second wave of gentrificationist politics if left unchecked, and in case negro removal doesn’t happen fast enough, none of the things listed here are at all inconsistent with urban gentrification. Like I have written here, high minimum wages are essentially negro removal, environmental regulations are how unattractive industries are driven out of cities, and the housing policies to “force people out of lower density suburbs” is meant to prepare those “lower density suburbs” to be the new apartment farm dumping grounds for blacks.
For the Democrats, this urban ascendency holds some dangers. Despite all the constant claims of a massive “return to the city,” urban populations are growing no faster than those in suburbs, and, in the past few years, far slower than those of the hated exurbs.
Again, that’s a feature, not a bug. Think it through.
If you run welfare Shaniqua and her five kids by four men out of the city and into the Ferguson analogue of your given metropolitian area, renovate the house Shaniqua used to live in, and then two lesbian white women who both work for a living move into the house, the population of the hosue has decreased from six to two, but the block just got a lot better and tax revenues to city coffers just increased. This is sorta what’s happening in St. Louis City, in a way, population decline, but a better population.
Exurban growth is where conservative suburban family oriented whites are moving as their former older inner suburbs become Fergusonized.
This leftward shift is marked, but it’s not indicative of any tide of public enthusiasm. One-party rule, as one might expect, does not galvanize voters. The turnout in recent city elections has plummeted across the country, with turnouts 25 percent or even lower. In Los Angeles, the 2013 turnout that elected progressive Eric Garcetti was roughly one-third that in the city’s 1970 mayoral election.
And that doesn’t matter to the people who win elections in low turnout elections. Because they won, and therefore, have the political power that comes of winning. I happen to think that low turnout is more of a feature than a bug in many cases. And in the case of L.A., it blows ZOMG GREAT HISPANIC VOTER TIDAL WAVE LOL~!!!!!1 out of the water.
City dwellers have historically voted more liberally than their country or suburban cousins, but demographic trends are exacerbating this polarizing impulse. Simply put, the cities that could elect a Giuliani or a Riordan no longer exist. The centrist urban surge of the 1990s was both a reaction to the perceived failures of Democratic “blue” policies as well a reflection of the makeup of white-majority, middle-class neighborhoods in places like Brooklyn, Queens and the San Fernando Valley that featured healthy numbers of politically moderate “Reagan Democrats”—or Bill Clinton Democrats, circa 1992
Since then, these communities have been largely supplanted by groups far more likely to embrace a more progressive political stance: racial minorities, hipsters, and upper-class sophisticates. These groups have swelled, and gotten much richer, in places like brownstone Brooklyn or lakeside Chicago, while the number of inner city middle-class neighborhoods, as Brookings has demonstrated, have declined, to 23 percent of the central city—half the level in 1970.
I don’t think white hipsters wouldn’t vote for a Giuliani. It’s just that Giuliani helped fix so many problems that the problems weren’t problems for such a long time that a lot of people either forgot about the problems or never has any conscience memory of these problems actually existing, so they had no internal defense mechanism against a De Blasio snake oil salesman. This is why De Blasio wants negro removal, because the antics of the black undertow politically undermine his own modern day urban liberalism.
This new urban configuration, notes the University of Chicago’s Terry Nichols Clark, tend to have different needs, and values, than the traditional middle class. Since their denizens are heavily single and childless, the poor state of city schools does not hold priority over the political power of the teachers unions.
As Chicago proved earlier this year, the CTU is losing control even within the context of city Democrat politics.
These social and economic changes inform the new politics of the Democratic Party. On social policy, the strong pro-gay marriage and abortion positions of the Democrats makes sense as cities have the largest percentages of both homosexuals and single, childless women. When the party had to worry about rural voters in South Dakota or West Virginia, this shift would have been more nuanced, and less rapid.
A better way to put it is the way Steve Sailer put it — In urban areas, people are competing against other people, and therefore, there is a status arms race to be holier than thou, or more accurately, more progressive than thou.
These radicalizing trends are likely to be seen as a threat to Democratic prospects next year, but instead will meet with broad acclaim among city-dominated progressive media. Then again, the columnists, reporters and academics who embrace the new urban politics have little sympathy or interest in preserving middle-class suburbs, much less vital small towns. If the Republicans possess the intelligence—always an open question—to realize that their opponents are actively trying to undermine how most Americans prefer to live, they might find an opportunity far greater than many suspect.
Also straight out of Sailer. Now you know why the NYT has made and now again is making Ferguson the most important place in the world.