Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Politics: Liberalism Urbanism?

Salon.com has an interesting piece on what the alternatives are to liberals and the blue states...
[...] As the South knows well, there are interim measures between splitting the nation and submitting to a culture pushed by a hostile federal government. Having lost any say in how the nation is run, liberals may be about to discover states' rights -- for better or worse.

[...] Liberals have long opposed the growth of state power, and for good reason. The century's most significant clashes over federalism have been over civil rights, with the national government forcing the South to submit to desegregation. Since then, fights over everything from abortion to school prayer have pitted Northern liberals, who want to use the federal government to enforce individual rights, often in the face of hostile majorities, against Southern conservatives, who believe that communities should be free to set their own norms.

Now, though, it's liberal enclaves that feel threatened by the federal government, and who will likely need to muster states' rights arguments to protect themselves from Bush's domestic policies.

On the other side, conservatives stop advocating for states' rights as soon as they get their hands on the levers of federal power. It's an interesting reversal.

In the article, they link to a feature in The Stranger, a Seattle alternative weekly, which advocates a more scorched-Earth (or scorched-rural) approach. A new "urbanism" that seeks to consolidate the Democratic ideals in the cities and discards the rest of the country. An extreme, but interesting idea...

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.

[...]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.

Those are the demographics they base the argument on. I'm not sure it jibs with population trends (away from cities?). Though Kerry won urban areas by a whopping 60 percent--that actually represents a 15 percent drop in urban support from 2000 when Gore won the election. So there might be something to it. Here are the policies/plan they advocate...
To all those who live in cities--to all those depressed Kerry supporters out there--we say take heart. Clearly we can't control national politics right now--we can barely get a hearing. We can, however, stay engaged in our cities, and make our voices heard in the urban areas we dominate, and make each and every one, to quote Ronald Reagan (and John Winthrop, the 17th-century Puritan Reagan was parroting), "a city on a hill." This is not a retreat; it is a long-term strategy for the Democratic Party to cater to and build on its base.

Sounds good to me. Here's where they start to get a little bit "fuckthesouth.com"...
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. 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.

When it comes to the environment, our new policy is this: Let the heartland live with the consequences of handing the national government to the rape-and-pillage party. [snip] But if West Virginia wants to elect politicians who allow mining companies to lop off the tops off mountains and dump the waste into valleys and streams, thus causing floods that destroy the homes of the yokels who vote for those politicians, it no longer matters to us. Fuck the mountains in West Virginia--send us the power generated by cleanly burned coal, you rubes, and be sure to wear lifejackets to bed.

Wal-Mart is a rapacious corporation that pays sub-poverty-level wages, offers health benefits to its employees that are so expensive few can afford them, and destroys small towns and rural jobs. Liberals in big cities who have never seen the inside of a Wal-Mart spend a lot of time worrying about the impact Wal-Mart is having on the heartland. No more. We will do what we can to keep Wal-Mart out of our cities and, if at all possible, out of our states. We will pass laws mandating a living wage for full-time work, upping the minimum wage for part-time work, and requiring large corporations to either offer health benefits or pay into state- or city-run funds to provide health care for uninsured workers. That will reform Wal-Mart in our blue cities and states or, better yet, keep Wal-Mart out entirely. And when we see something on the front page of the national section of the New York Times about the damage Wal-Mart is doing to the heartland, we will turn the page. Wal-Mart is not an urban issue.

Of course much of this is antithetical to true liberalism. White Jews from New York (among others of course) went down to the South in the Civil rights Era to fight for the rights of blacks they would never otherwise meet or know. Long has the liberal movement been predicated on rights for all disenfranchised or downtrodden. Why else would one care what happens in South Africa? But what do you do when those in red-states vote (and choose) that life. And viciously reject you and your concern in the process. This is what many refer to when they say these red-state voters voted against their own interests. I don't agree with that entirely. Religion and culture are their interests and in this election they decided it was the priority. We might disagree with that decision, but the article contends they should live with the consequences and we should not feel bad about it. I am tempted to agree. Call me elite enough times and I'll start acting like it...

There is something to this plan. I love Austin and San Antonio. I'm sure Boulder is wonderful. I don't want to cast these places off to wallow in the seas of red hell that surround them. This plan offers a "life raft plan", if you will.

I live in Ann Arbor, one of a few blue islands in an otherwise pretty red state. Greenbelt initiatives, medical marijuana, these are addressed at the local level, and contribute to the quality of life in this city. Our entire County voted the "right" way, even resoundingly rejecting the Prop 2 / Gay-bash amendment. Politics really is local, and this takes it back to that level.

How many times do you need your helping hand slapped (or bitten) before you stop offering it? You start pulling your fingers in and before you know it, you've got a fist.

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