The GOP and the right wing (nutz) hate urban America.

Red Hook Gated Community - Flicker
Red Hook Gated Community - Flicker

Thank gaud someone else sees what I have been saying for quite some time. Daniel Denvir in Salon point out why the GOP continuously votes down anything for urban programs.

There are some oblique references, like Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that child labor laws be modified so that poor children can work as school janitors. “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods,” mused Gingrich, “have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works … They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”

Gingrich’s comment is an example of surviving remnant of dog-whistle politics that demonize urban residents; recent examples include new state laws to drug-test those on public assistance and the ongoing effort to cut food stamps (and Gingrich did call Obama the “food stamp president”). The specter of the black ghetto still scripts urban dwellers as villains (often as thieves robbing the citizen either directly, or as in this Rick Santorum comment, indirectly: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money”). But unlike the era of Ronald Reagan’s welfare queen, today cities are more ignored than attacked. And this goes well beyond Iowa.

“The core of the Republican constituency in metropolitan America are the growing, racially and economically exclusive ‘outer suburbs’ whose privileged status Republicans seek to protect at all costs,” says former mayor of Albuquerque David Rusk, now a consultant. He cited New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as an exemplar of the trend.

And not just the GOP but also a good number of Democrats as well. It’s White Flight taken to the Southern Segregationists extremes. Keep the good paying jobs and positions to ones self and price the poor and minorities out of any chance to moving next store.

And historically it was these liberal people in the 1950s and 1960s that made the trends of Nixon and Reagan possible. Urban renewal they called it. Bulldozing and trashing old (often black) neighborhoods to “save them”.

The neglect of the cities can be traced back a half-century to the apogee of mid-20th-century American liberalism. In the 1950s and 1960s, the captains of municipal state, flush with federal funds and armed with great confidence in modern planning and architecture, bulldozed miles of “blighted” neighborhoods (often non-white) and rammed highways through the centers of many American cities. The feverish remaking of the cities was a desperate attempt to compete against the suburbs and woo back the middle class, which had departed thanks to the federal dollars propping up millions of (whites only) mortgages and miles of highways. Tragically, it was the liberal federal government’s funding of suburban homes and highways, and bulldozer-heavy urban renewal programs, that paved the way for Nixon and Reagan’s abandonment. Black people and the left were suspicious, the rising conservative tide was contemptuous, and politicians changed the subject. So, then, went the neighborhood.

Add to that during the build up to the housing bubble, there was the gentrification of a number of urban and close in suburban areas by upper crust whites. Buying up houses and buildings in poor areas and putting in high priced real estate. There by raising the property values all through the areas as well as the taxes. Driving out the poor and minorities in the process. I saw this happen a number times in Florida and the results here in NE Ohio.

So where are these citadels of mostly white suburban living ? Well here in Cleveland they are mostly on the east side now. With vast new interstates put in during the 1970s through the 199os. Taking the residents safely to their upscale employment in the banks and offices. The Gated Gentry. These are the people the GOP is wooing and the Big Zero in the Whites House panders too. And this is also where the vast majority of our senators and representatives dwell as well. Is it any wonder that few – if any – seem concerned for the welfare of the middle class and the poor ?

One reason that cities don’t figure in today’s campaigns is simply because fewer people live in them: America is now a primarily suburban nation. But America’s suburban majority, which has also diminished urban clout in Congress and statehouses, distracts from something bigger and more important. As older suburbs decline and lose population to further sprawl, the line between urban and suburban issues blurs. The American electoral system obscures the shared conditions facing cities and older post-World War II suburbs.

“If the U.S. had a popular vote election, candidates would focus on saturating the major metropolitan media markets, a race to collect 51 percent of the votes by adding up the biggest population centers,” says George Washington University historian Christopher Klemek, author of “The Transatlantic Collapse of Urban Renewal.” “We wouldn’t be talking about swing states; in fact, we wouldn’t be talking about states at all. Cities — or at least the broad, decentralized (sometimes tri-state) metropolitan urbanized regions that most Americans now inhabit — would be at the center of the campaigns.”

Yet the political debate is dominated by the exurbs, the pell-mell ribbons of home and office development that snake along the nation’s highways. While the original postwar suburbs were built for well-to-do commuters to the city, today’s exurbanites commute from gated home to office park.

Letting the older suburbs rot and decay and be ignored. Once the bastion of middle class America to left to be picked apart. But urban America is where most of our domestic product and growth comes from.

“Cities and metropolitan areas are the engines of our economy,” says Robert Puentes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metro Program. “The top 100 metropolitan areas alone claim only 12 percent of our land mass but harbor more than 65 percent of our population, 74 percent of our most educated citizens, 77 percent of our knowledge economy jobs, and 84 percent of our most recent immigrants. They also generate 75 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.”

Rick Perry, for all of his thickly lacquered rural charm, in reality rules over one of the nation’s largest metropolitan conglomerates. “Growth in Texas,” Ryan Avent notes in “The Atlantic Cities,” “has really been about growth in its biggest cities,” Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Texas is the most urbanized state per capita.

Those cities have labor forces that are powered by immigrants. But on the campaign trail, the perception that cities are harboring Mexicans is a great liability. Gingrich has declared that he will block federal funding to any “sanctuary city.” Romney has gone after bleeding-heart municipalities since 2007 when he ran ads criticizing Rudy Giuliani’s tenure in New York. In response, Giuliani noted that Cambridge, Mass., Somerville, Mass., and Orleans, Mass., had declared themselves sanctuaries. Cities, by virtue of progressive leadership or brown skin, still have the power to attract conservative opprobrium. Think about what Republicans mean to convey when they say “San Francisco.”

So yes. Economic and racial bigotry is alive and well in this country. But now it lives in gated McMansions and speaks not with a southern drawl, but a midwest and eastern accent.


5 thoughts on “The GOP and the right wing (nutz) hate urban America.

  1. I wish I could believe that this would morph into the creed. But, because it’s been my experience that communities suffer the same maladies of any grouping – the haves and the have nots/those who give and those who just take, I am not hopeful.

    I know that primarily in rural and/or low income areas, the majority have long learned to do what was needed to get by/survive. But their ability to obtain quality healthcare, housing, nutrition and other items critical to a positive lifetime is severely limited. These residents do not have the resources to achieve some of what you noted.

    Couldn’t agree more with your statement, ‘People are simply too concerned with getting on with their own lives and living day to day the best they can. Most take little notice in what is happening on a statewide or country wide scale let alone a global scale.’ However, we all seem to find time and energy for what we consider a priority. Truth is that few are willing to take on responsibility for their part in the negative and destructive actions of our governing bodies, much less obtain the facts and be proactive to achieve positive results.

    ‘The problem with historical times is that we generally do not see them as what they really are except in an historical perspective.’ Of course – but, the lesson we never have learned is the consequences of apathy, self-centeredness, non-accountability and choosing to be ignorant will always guarantee ….

    Locally – nationally-globally, for the most part the rich will continue to prosper and the poor will continue to suffer from the lack of resources.

    1. cmaukonen

      At any rate, as I had pointed out on another thread on another blog, unless we return to making everything by hand – which ain’t bloody likely – we will never have full employment or a bombing economy under the current version of capitalism.

      Even the building trades are getting automated. There is a company in China that manufactures buildings using CNC techniques and ships them a floor at a time to the site to be assembled. Each floor packaged with all the necessary stuff – wall board etc. and prewired and plumbed – to be lifted into place by a crane and then put together.

      And we have companies here that do the same thing for houses.

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