Saturday, November 23, 2019

Foreign Policy "The West has a resentment epidemic", urban vs left-behind gap, cf The Stranger on the "Urban Archipelago"

The results of the 2016 presidential election in the United States illustrate a broader reality, which is that the gap between the cosmopolitan city and the economic periphery has become the new social class divide across the West. Where people live, as much as how they live, now increasingly determines their beliefs, values, and sense of tribal belonging.
As the researcher Will Wilkinson explores in a recent report, such a “density divide” is not exclusive to the United States. It can also be found in the results of the 2016 British vote on membership of the European Union, where support for remaining in the EU was largely concentrated around London and its extended commuter belt, and the 2017 French presidential election, where support for the left-center candidate Emmanuel Macron clustered around the thriving cities of Paris, Lyon, and Toulouse.
Changes in the global economy have spatially sorted voters into progressive urbanites with a large stake in a new technological future, globalization, and liberal values, and the left-behind who see their own identity and economic prospects threatened as never before. Rural areas and small towns may have always been more culturally conservative, but this divide, combined with the resentment generated by economic and wealth inequality, has triggered the most prominent recent political explosions across the West.
It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on. And we live on islands in red states too--a fact obscured by that state-by-state map. Denver and Boulder are our islands in Colorado; Austin is our island in Texas; Las Vegas is our island in Nevada; Miami and Fort Lauderdale are our islands in Florida. Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They--rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs--are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers. Red Virginia prohibits any contract between same-sex couples. Compassionate? Texas allows the death penalty to be applied to teenaged criminals and has historically executed the mentally retarded. (When the Supreme Court ruled executions of the mentally retarded unconstitutional in 2002, Texas officials, including Governor Rick Perry, responded by claiming that the state had no mentally retarded inmates on death row--a claim the state was able to make because it does not test inmates for mental retardation.) Dumb? The Sierra Club has reported that Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Tennessee squander over half of their federal transportation money on building new roads rather than public transit.
If Democrats and urban residents want to combat the rising tide of red that threatens to swamp and ruin this country, we need a new identity politics, an urban identity politics, one that argues for the cities, uses a rhetoric of urban values, and creates a tribal identity for liberals that's as powerful and attractive as the tribal identity Republicans have created for their constituents. John Kerry won among the highly educated, Jews, young people, gays and lesbians, and non-whites. What do all these groups have in common? They choose to live in cities. An overwhelming majority of the American popuation chooses to live in cities. And John Kerry won every city with a population above 500,000. He took half the cities with populations between 50,000 and 500,000. The future success of liberalism is tied to winning the cities. An urbanist agenda may not be a recipe for winning the next presidential election--but it may win the Democrats the presidential election in 2012 and create a new Democratic majority.
For Democrats, it's the cities, stupid--not the rural areas, not the prickly, hateful "heartland," but the sane, sensible cities--including the cities trapped in the heartland. Pandering to rural voters is a waste of time. Again, look at the second map. Look at the urban blue spots in red states like Iowa, Colorado, and New Mexico--there's almost as much blue in those states as there is in Washington, Oregon, and California. And the challenge for the Democrats is not just to organize in the blue areas but to grow them. And to do that, Democrats need to pursue policies that encourage urban growth (mass transit, affordable housing, city services), and Democrats need to openly and aggressively champion urban values. By focusing on the cities the Dems can create a tribal identity to combat the white, Christian, rural, and suburban identity that the Republicans have cornered. And it's sitting right there, on every electoral map, staring them in the face: The cities.

Yet here we are in 2019 with the current president.  It's as though focusing only on appealing to urbanites without accounting for the influence of the electoral college might have meant that (even with beliefs that foreign elements tampered with the election) Clinton lost by a landslide in the electoral college vote.  How could that have happened?  In part because if you only aim to win over the people in the urban centers and explicitly disregard everyone not included in that scene the rest of the counties and districts might have gone red.

Foa and Wilmot point out:

While much attention has focused on differences in values between progressive cosmopolitanism and provincial conservativism, the fact remains that conservative values, at least on matters of lifestyle and religion (if not on matters of national identity), are either stable or in decline. This makes the populist insurgency an anomaly, for a constant cannot explain a change.
What has changed in the last generation, however, is the level of economic and wealth inequality between regions of Western countries. As Joan Ros├ęs and Nikolaus Wolf have shown, regional divergence began in the 1980s with globalization and deindustrialization, and it has deepened in recent years.
If we are to understand the depth of populist anger, we must look to the economics of regional resentment. In the United Kingdom, for example, a person’s position on leaving or remaining in the EU in the 2016 referendum was linked to the geography of the nation’s housing market, with research showing that property prices are one of the best predictors of whether voters supported or opposed Britain’s vote to leave the EU, even at the ward level (the smallest electoral unit, of around 5,000 to 6,000 voters). Estimates by Chris Hanretty, which we have mapped below, show that Remain constituencies were almost entirely concentrated around London and its satellite commuter towns, while Leave constituencies covered almost the entire rest of England.
It's doubtful the editors at The Stranger stopped to consider that given the economic and social trajectories of the urban vs the exurban regions there might be an electoral shift that would be a reaction to their "screw you" to everyone not in the blue-state cities.   
Op ed pieces at The Atlantic that warn against a rejection of democracy itself might have to be read with a pinch of salt.  What people may be rejecting is an Atlanticist American-centric EU-driven globalist order.  Depending on how things go we might not even have a UK in the next fifty years but not necessarily because of ecological catastrophe.  As Josephine Livingstone put it over at The New Republic, Brits can too easily forget how much raw power, force and coercion went into united the United Kingdom and it isn't necessarily going to last.
Had urban progressives made any effort to actually abolish the Electoral College system in the last fifteen years who knows if they would have succeeded and whether or not in some alternate universe we'd have someone besides the person we have.
As bad as I find the person to be I recall someone pointing out something as to why he supported the man.  Short version, of all the candidates who threw their hat in the ring DT was the one candidate who went so far as to say explicitly that the globalist Atlanticist post-World War II pax Americana policies no longer benefited mainstream Americans.  That in itself hardly seems like a reason to vote for the guy but a progressive once told me that DT gave voters a choice, someone who wasn't just variations on a Bush or a Clinton so people were going to back him.  While talking about the 81 percent who did back him tends to revolve around theories of clan-based backwater racism that's merely part of the morass--it's hard to forget, living as I do in Seattle, what The Stranger editors decided to say to anyone not-blue-state-cities about whether or not they were even Americans, after all.  
Some of the folks that come to mind who support Trump supported Nixon and there are jokes about how much things are similar.  Some things are different.  We've long since stopped having two parties in the two party system who are willing to lose.  The Clinton impeachment was a dog and pony show that came across like cheap self-serving political theater in spite of the character issues of Bill.  Claims that Bush 2 should be impeached were made and nothing happened.  Absent a president willing to voluntarily resign rather than face impeachment there is no precedent for anyone being removed from office by impeachment.  
The possibility that, since he somehow won before, he can win again, is on the table.  That he comes across as a populist agitator with a mouth I don't feel much need to belabor.   The "have you seen the other guys!?" approach to campaign slogans didn't work then and they don't give us reason to think they will work next year.
Here we are in 2019 and writers at The Stranger and editors are admonishing artists to LEAVE Seattle because it's getting expensive and hard to live in and is less and less arts-friendly.  Had there been less electoral balkanization over the last twenty years ... but that's  a pointless what-if.  

Richard Florida was writing recently about the geographic winner-take-all aspect of arts and urban centers, pointing out that creatives are leaving the super-star cities.
In recent years, America has increasingly been defined by a winner-take-all geography, with coastal superstar cities like New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., garnering a disproportionate share of high-tech startups, corporate headquarters, and innovation and talent. But surging costs and inequality in these places—elements of what I call the New Urban Crisis—may be shaping the beginnings of a shift in talent to other parts of the country.
The big knowledge and tech hubs which once had such a stranglehold on attracting talent seem to be losing their allure. Many places around the country now have bundles of amenities—renovated old buildings, coffee shops and good restaurants, music venues, and not least of all, more affordable homes—that can compete with the biggest cities. In other words, the amenity gap between superstar cities and other places has closed, while the housing-price gap has widened.
After a couple of decades of winner-take-all urbanism, talent may be shifting away from the established superstars to less expensive places, large and small, urban and rural.

If this urban sort merely eventually relocates people without creating long-term shifts in the electoral outcome at a cumulative district level there's not much reason to think that 2020 will necessarily go blue.  
Sometimes it feels as though The Stranger articulated what in electoral and demographic terms was a manifesto that could be read as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Stranger has run with the idea that Trump's ground game was white supremacy.  The black friend who surprised me by explaining why he was happy to vote for Trump told me that the Clinton legacy on black incarceration and banks and foreign policy convinced him that keeping on voting for Democratic candidates was not really worth it.  It's not that there's no case to be made about white supremacists being drawn to Trump and his courting them, it's that The Stranger had already declared everyone that wasn't in their touted urban archepelago could go fuck off.  The red district electorate apparently decided to say "same to you" in 2016.  Somehow Clinton lost pledged votes between the election day and the electoral college vote.
It's conceivable that just saying Trump won because racism could become another self-fulfilling prophecy.  When the people I've met who told me why they voted for Trump say it involves a rejection of the United States having be a world cop backing globalist policies that gut working class interests in most places except the urban centers; or that the Atlancist centric post-World War II pax Americana in which we protect the interests of Europe from Russia isn't worth it for Americans then it's possible that, okay, so there are racists who vote for Trump.  But then Woodrow Wilson was pretty white supremacist and he somehow got us into World War I.  Maybe we have an executive as bad as Harding and Nixon and Wilson combined but to interpret the political shifts strictly in terms of white supremacist pandering has me worried that that could, assuming he doesn't get removed from office via impeachment (which has never happened in the history of the republic so it's a big gamble to assume it will happen now with such a polarized two-party system) land him a second term.

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