I'm saddened, rather than surprised, to come across a special Web site set up by the editors of The Stranger, a Seattle Web-based 'news' (?) outlet. The fact that they set up a unique Web site for this particular opinion piece puzzles me, but perhaps they wanted it to be referenced separately from their main site. It appears (from internal references) to have been written shortly after President Bush was re-elected to a second term in office, dating it to late 2004 or early 2005. It's a diatribe in support of the Left-leaning voters in urban areas, and is outrageously rude and dismissive towards voters everywhere else. It may be relatively old, but it's eerily predictive of the present Administration's apparent attitudes.
Here are a few extracts.
THE URBAN ARCHIPELAGO
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.
. . .
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. ... 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.
. . .
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. ... 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.
EMBRACING URBAN SELF-INTEREST
To all those who live in cities ... 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.
To red-state voters, to the rural voters, residents of small, dying towns, and soulless sprawling exburbs, we say this: F*** 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.
. . .
In short, we're through with you [rural] people. We're going to demand that the Democrats focus on building their party in the cities while at the same time advancing a smart urban-growth agenda that builds the cities themselves. The more attractive we make the cities--politically, aesthetically, socially--the more residents and voters cities will attract, gradually increasing the electoral clout of liberals and progressives. For Democrats, party building and city building is the same thing. We will strive to turn red states blue one city at a time.
From here on out, we're glad red-state rubes live in areas where guns are more powerful and more plentiful, cars are larger and faster, and people are fatter and slower and dumber. This is not a recipe for repopulating the Great Plains. And when you look for ways to revive your failing towns and dying rural counties, don't even think about tourism. Who wants to go to small-town America now? You people scare us. We'll island-hop from now on, thank you, spending our time and our money in blue cities. If an urbanite is dying to have a country experience, rural Vermont is lovely. Maple syrup, rolling hills, fly-fishing--everything you could want. Country bumpkins in red rural areas who depend on tourists from urban areas but vote Republican can forget our money.
You've made your choice, red America, and we urban Americans are going to make a different choice. We are going to make Seattle--and New York, Chicago, and the rest--a great place to live, a progressive place. Again, we'll quote Ronald Reagan: We will make each of our cities--each and every one--a shining city on a hill. You can have your shitholes.
. . .
Above any other advantage, the new urban identity politics solves "the vision thing" for the Democratic Party. No longer are we a fractured aggregation of special interests or a spineless hydra of contingent alliances--we are a united front, with a clear, compelling image and an articulated system of values. Up until now, the Republicans have been winning the image war. When you think of "America," you imagine a single-family dwelling with a flag in the front yard and acres of corn waving in the background. It's an angry red fantasy. But propaganda is flexible, and audiences are pliant. Urban politics opens up a whole new visual vocabulary to be exploited by TV advertising, and it's a vocabulary rich in emotional content, particularly after September 11. This is the era of cityscapes, rapid transit, and crowds of people. Political advertising can no longer pander to nostalgia about the yeoman countryside--we must embrace our urban future.
With all the talk of the growth of exurbs and the hand-wringing over facile demographic categories like "security moms," you may be under the impression that an urban politics wouldn't speak to many people. But according to the 2000 Census, 226 million people reside inside metropolitan areas--a number that positively dwarfs the 55 million people who live outside metro areas. The 85 million people who live in strictly defined central city limits also outnumber those rural relics. When the number of city-dwellers in the United States is quadruple the number of rural people, we can put simple democratic majorities to work for our ideals.
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. . .
Unlike the people who flee from cities in search of a life free from disagreement and dark skin, we are for contentiousness, discourse, and the heightened understanding of life that grows from having to accommodate opposing viewpoints. We're for opposition. And just to be clear: The non-urban argument, the red state position, isn't oppositional, it's negational--they are in active denial of the existence of other places, other people, other ideas. It's reactionary utopianism, and it is a clear and present danger; urbanists should be upfront and unapologetic about our contempt for their politics and their negational values. Republicans have succeeded in making the word "liberal"--which literally means "free from bigotry... favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded"--into an epithet. Urbanists should proclaim their liberalism from the highest rooftop (we have higher rooftops than they do); it's the only way we survive. And in our next breath, we should condemn their politics, exposing their conservatism as the anti-Americanism that it is, striving to make "conservative" into an epithet.
. . .
These, of course, are broad strokes. We all know that not everyone who lives in the suburbs is a raving neo-Christian idiot. The raving neo-Christian idiots are winning, however, so we need to take the fight to them. In this case, the fight is largely spiritual; it consists of embracing the reality that urban life and urban values are the only sustainable response to the modern age of holy war, environmental degradation, and global conflict. More important, it consists of rejecting the impulse to apologize for living in a society that prizes values like liberalism, pluralism, education, and facts. It's time for the Democratic Party to stop pandering to bovine, non-urban America. You don't apologize for being right--especially when you're at war.
There's much more at the link. It's worth reading, if only to show the depths of cynicism, distaste and elitism that the editors demonstrate - attributes which are, I fear, typical of many among the 'intelligentsia' of the Left.
The troubling thing is, the attitudes outlined in this article are precisely those I see being articulated and implemented by the current Administration and Democratic Party majority in the House and the Senate. If those of us who have an altogether different vision of our nation want to stop it, we now have a clear outline of their game plan to maintain dominance over our body politic.
Has anyone come up with a good counter-strategy to the battle plan outlined above? If not, why not? And if they have, why isn't it being posted publicly, and put out there for debate?
(Note that I'm not saying it should be a Republican Party strategy. There are many Republicans who would doubtless identify with many of the sentiments outlined in this article! No, I'm thinking of all those who are conservative and/or libertarian and/or classically liberal and/or genuinely moderate in our political outlook. None of us will fit into a society along the lines of that envisaged above; and we probably won't fit into either the Democratic or Republican party, as each is presently constituted. It's time we worked out a common strategy and began to take steps to implement it . . . before the urban 'elite' and political power-brokers manage to steamroller right over all of us in our divided state.)
The Tea Party movement is a good start - but we need to go further. This article shows us what we're facing if we don't.