A couple weeks ago, I linked to this piece about the need for a new, urban-centric agenda that "Blue America" could call its own. While that article was really speculative (not to mention incendiary), I wonder if the results of Red governance, as described by David Broder here, might help push it from the drawing board into reality:
The blue dots are not just political blotches, however. They are the cities from Atlanta to Seattle, home to tens of millions of Americans. They are also the places where in the past federal programs -- subsidies to schools, police departments, transit systems and, most notably, housing agencies -- were vital.
The impact of these election returns was exhibited vividly and in damaging fashion in the catch-all government spending bill the Republican-controlled Congress cleared three weeks after Election Day.
The legislators who fashioned that bill and the president who will sign it get their votes from red America. The legislators and advocates who counted up the consequences come from the blue-dot city constituencies.
Recognizing this change, the U.S. Conference of Mayors -- the most potent of the city lobbies -- is adopting new tactics. After lamenting the losses in programs that subsidized police hiring and encouraged urban development projects, Tom Cochran, the veteran head of the mayors group, said it was shifting its focus from the cities themselves to entire metropolitan areas -- highlighting their economic power and hoping to harness their political clout with Republicans.
Because business has a huge investment in America's downtowns, the alliance makes sense. By themselves, those who live in -- and lead -- the blue-dot cities are clearly the big losers in this election year. Unless they get help, their programs are on the chopping block.
This is another theme I keep meaning to explore in greater detail: the need for progressives and moderates alike to look to the business community in preserving those aspects of our country that are conducive to a healthy bottom line. There's still a great deal of buying power in the cities--this is the whole concept underlying the efforts of community development corporations to attract big-box retailers to underserved urban areas--and maybe that's the thread by which we can attach the utility of the cities to the engine of national policymaking.
We need something. Because as this Philadelphia Daily News column suggests, in many states the urban/rural divide is getting larger, not smaller--the result of a political division that increasingly matches the long-standing cultural schism:
Philly is increasingly Democratic. The Democratic registration edge in the city jumped this year to better than 4.5-to-1. The Legislature is increasingly Republican. Even as John Kerry carried the state, the GOP hiked its majorities in the House and the Senate.
And as GOP majorities (with core constituencies far more rural than urban) continue to grow, issues of import to the city diminish.
Urban blight, school funding equity, gay rights, gun control and mass transit, for example, are more likely to end up on legislative ice floes than action agendas.
Seriously, would the EU consider a membership application from the Eastern Seaboard megalopolis sometimes known as "BosWash"?