Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Political Geography of 21st Century America

2012 will likely be recognized as a more pivotal moment in the history of America than 2008. Despite a weak economy, despite voter suppression, despite the unprecedented amount of corporate money supporting Mitt Romney's blatantly dishonest and cynical campaign, The United States re-elected President Barack Obama and symbolically rejected radical Republican social and economic ideology. Of course the Democratic victory was not universal. The United States is a culturally and economically divided nation. Geographically we are most clearly divided between diverse urban areas and conservative rural and ex-urban counties.

Since the 1960's the Democratic Party has promoted civil rights policies that have absorbed new social groups into its electorate while the Republicans have increasingly become a party that derives its energy from white backlash and religious fundamentalism while promoting economic policies that primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans. Republicans re-framed the national debate over the role of government by ideologically tying the basic initiatives of the New Deal and social safety net (education, health care, poverty assistance)  to urban minorities. For forty years the Republican narrative has repeatedly reinforced an idea that the "Real America" of white, rural and suburbanites are the true source of our national prosperity that they are perpetually burdened by an undeserving poor, urban, minority population.

Republican mythology has of course ignored the Federal Government's overwhelming promotion of suburban middle class life through home loan guarantees, tax deductions and highly subsidized infrastructure and gas. The lily white suburban dream would never have been a realistic possibility for the majority of Americans without massive federal support. It was always a dream - fueled momentarily by cheap energy and a consumption based economy. Mass suburbanization was, in many ways, a 60 year experiment in economic stimulation through physical expansion, over-consumption and debt accumulation. That dream, the white suburban dream, is over.

Picket Fence Apocalypse (Charles M. Blow, NYTimes)

The Real Reason Cities Lean Democratic (Atlantic Cities)

The Techies Who Helped Re-Elect Obama (The Atlantic)

No Southern Comfort for Wishful Liberals (The New Republic)

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