From Joel Kotkin: ‘The Suburbs Could Save President Obama From Defeat’

Full piece here.

Progressive policies generally don’t favor more open markets, with freer capital and greater economic opportunity, which leads to families moving into the suburbs on the backs of good paying jobs.

Here’s Kotkin:

‘President Obama’s disdain for suburban America has been well-documented. Yet, ironically, the current revival in housing, largely in those same suburbs, might be the one thing that could rescue his floundering campaign. Unlike the Democrat-dominated central cities and the rock-red Republican countryside, the suburbs remain the country’s primary contestable territory. ‘

It’s interesting to think that this progressive point of view has potentially become mainstream, and so quickly.

People suffer long commutes, longer hours at work, and 30-year mortgages not just for a “McMansion,” or for the sake of conspicuous consumption, or even bland, materialistic living in cookie cutter houses as so often has been portrayed in our popular culture these past 40 years.  The suburbs are clearly an easy target, full of relatively wealthy, restless kids and teenagers who can be led as much by their peer groups, the popular culture (media, music, movies and the web) as they are by their parents, teachers, older relatives and intellectual influences.

Most often, young couples choose the suburbs because they get the most bang for their buck.  They want good schools and greater safety, more access to sports, clubs and other organizations for their kids.  Food and gas prices can be cheaper.  They have more space and quiet when they can enjoy it, and beyond the dollar, they want the best for the children and their families.

On the other hand, cities are often prohibitively expensive for most people because they are so much more economically segregated, and in the poorer areas they have much higher crime rates, open drug selling and use, gang activity and poor-performing schools.  There are little to no legitimate businesses in the bad parts of a city, and in some places, almost a non-existent police presence.  This is to say nothing of the political machines that run many American cities.

Here’s Kotkin again:

‘The movement of people into lower-density areas jibes with one of the biggest reasons for the current nascent housing recovery: the preference by roughly four in five Americans for a single-family house — usually but not always found in the suburbs — over an urban apartment. In a sense, then, the hostility to suburbs among the administration and the Democratic Party is both profoundly anti-democratic and anti-growth.

If you believe, like me, that many influences upon modern liberalism have made it less liberal, and a far cry from classical liberalism, and perhaps even that this tendency is baked into the pursuit of liberty itself, then it’s important to appeal to liberally minded folks and remind them that progressive politics come with serious problems:

 –Economic freedom goes hand in hand with political freedom, and the more regulated the economy, the less opportunity there is for more and varied thinking beyond the box of the politics and the political levers of power, because money and politics have been tied together (you thought this election season was bad!).

As Walter Russell Mead has argued, the “blue model” and modern progressivism won’t necessarily work because it will continue to redistribute the wealth we had, not allow us to gain more wealth and opportunity by adapting to changing technological, global and economic realities.  Our politics may be behind the times in this regard, both Democrats and Republicans.

The community organizer model works at a serious cost to others through taxation, inefficiency and bureaucracy, especially when applied to the national level. I don’t begrudge Obama the moral concern he showed by trying to help poor, mostly black folks on the South Side of Chicago make their lives better, for so often they are the people left in the sections of the economically segregated city that others have fled for the suburbs.  There is a long, painful history as to why this is the case and there are good people languishing in violent and forgotten neighborhoods.  There’s little to no hope.  Yet, there are worse problems and great dangers baked into this model of organization with questionable returns for the very people it’s designed to help, and it seems to be highly divisive to the country and the Democratic party itself.


All of this said, clearly, we can’t go back to the economic conditions of the post-war boom, the G.I. Bill, and the rapid expansion of the suburbs, whichever policies made them boom.   We are now in different times and much of the cultural, economic, and political landscape of the future is at stake.

Please feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site:  Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’  How do conservatism and libertarianism deal with Martin Luther King…?:  Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution..

Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”…How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?

Walter Russell Mead says the Great Society is over:  A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

Look out Omaha…people are coming your way?: …Joel Kotkin Via Youtube: ‘Illinois Is In A Competition’From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’Joel Kotkin At Forbes: ‘Is Perestroika Coming In California?’

Are these the enemies of the future?: Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’

One thought on “From Joel Kotkin: ‘The Suburbs Could Save President Obama From Defeat’

  1. To discourage black voting, Southern Democrats resorted to violence. The white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan terrorized black political leaders to counter the Republican party’s power base. Many blacks were killed (often lynched ) for attempting to exercise their right to vote, for being members of political organizations and for attending school. Racialism was also fueled by the ideology of Social Darwinism , which broadly asserted that because of a natural competition among humans and the social evolution driven by the survival of the fittest, the white man not only should but deserved to retain political and economic power. Thus the behavior exhibited towards Negros was not perceived as racism but rather action that was sanctioned by the ‘science’ of Euro-centric racialism.

Leave a Reply