November 11, 2004
The Urban Archipelago
It's the Cities, Stupid
by The Editors of The Stranger
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. [emphasis added] 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. [emphasis added] 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.
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.
In cities all over America, distressed liberals are talking about fleeing to Canada or, better yet, seceding from the Union. We can't literally secede and, let's admit it, we don't really want to live in Canada. It's too cold up there and in our heart-of-hearts we hate hockey. We can secede emotionally, however, by turning our backs on the heartland. We can focus on our issues, our urban issues, and promote our shared urban values. We can create a new identity politics, one that transcends class, race, sexual orientation, and religion, one that unites people living in cities with each other and with other urbanites in other cities. The Republicans have the federal government--for now. But we've got Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City (Bloomberg is a Republican in name only), and every college town in the country. We're everywhere any sane person wants to be. Let them have the shitholes, the Oklahomas, Wyomings, and Alabamas. We'll take Manhattan
To red-state voters, to the rural voters, residents of small, dying towns, and soulless sprawling exburbs, we say this: Fuck off. Your issues are no longer our issues. [emphasis added] We're going to battle our bleeding-heart instincts and ignore pangs of misplaced empathy. We will no longer concern ourselves with a health care crisis that disproportionately impacts rural areas. Instead we will work toward winning health care one blue state at a time.
That was back in November 2004. Pretty strongly stated and the contempt is so obvious it hardly needs much commentary. But something seems so obvious that in the wake of a frankly disappointing and unhappy election ... that it still needs to be said ...
This year, so long after the editors of The Stranger went with their "fuck you" approach to rural voters, residents of small and dying towns for at least a decade; and after the recent electoral college turn out seems to have given a shockingly large victory to Trump rather than Clinton, the staff of The Stranger had this to say in the somewhat imitable Stranger style.
November 10, 2016
Fuck Fuck Fucking Fuck. So Fucked.
by Stranger Election Control Board
By the time the networks started all-but-calling the election for Donald J. Trump, the Showbox was nearly empty. The crowd watched, stunned, as the United States committed bigot-assisted suicide. The few people who remained struggled to reconcile liberal and progressive victories in Washington State—Democratic governor and US senator reelected, massive transit package approved, minimum wage hiked—with the catastrophic results of the national election.
Well ... didn't the editors of The Stranger emphatically tell the rural red-state voters to fuck off back in 2004? They did say "Your issues are no longer our issues", right? Did the editors and writers of The Stranger just forget that the not-the-real-America red states existed? What could the stupid bigoted redneck electorate possibly do? A victory for Clinton was all but certain and she did, technically, seem to win the popular vote.
Trying to be nice here, perhaps the urban contempt on the part of The Stranger editors was just so much easier before the 2008 financial crash. It's looking like we've had a weird "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment but not just for one famous newspaper, and it seems the Fourth Estate isn't just eating crow but may be forced to dine on a whole murder of crows.
Given the vitriolic and contemptuous way in which The Stranger staff addressed the rural red-state electorate twelve years ago how surprised should they have been at what just happened? Did the Electoral College get abolished between 2005 and now? Did The Stranger writers and editors somehow seriously imagine that their contempt would not be a small variable at play in this contentious and pathetic election cycle? Did it never occur to them that the red state electorate might observe the blue state urban contempt and return the favor?
Relying on that Urban Archipelago might have worked out better if progressives had taken more seriously an attempt to abolish or reform the Electoral College between 2004 and 2016 before it was possible for another Republican candidate to win an election on the basis of the Electoral College rather than a popular vote ... but that didn't happen.
It's possible to feel a great deal of sympathy on behalf of people who are dreading what may come with a Trump presidency ... just not for the folks at The Stranger.