Monday, December 06, 2004


A response to the above.

A friend of mine recommended I read this, and at this time, I am glad I did. At first, this article angered me. The writers' attitude displays a typical hostility toward suburban and rural types, the sort typified by the following:

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.

The whole thing goes on like this. If you, being offended by the attitude these people have toward small towns and rural areas, fail to read the whole thing, you might miss the ending:

These, of course, are broad strokes. We all know that not everyone who lives in the suburbs is a raving neo-Christian idiot.
Gee, thanks. I feel so much better now. I'd drop points from this paper, were it not made clear throughout that this is not intended for people who are not part of the club. It's a call to action and redefinition for liberal urbanites, not a retort to the other side. Though I find this sort of hateful arrogance offensive, it does nothing to dilute their message.

Don't get me wrong. I consider myself to be a liberal urbanite, despite my residence in Fresno, CA (a "small town" of 500,000). I admire the cities, I admire sensible, clean high-density living. I hunger for high-capacity data lines, the ability to get everywhere with my feet alone (whether those feet are on the sidewalk or the floor of public transit), and I recognize just how painful the car culture really is (not that I have much of a choice around here). I like recycling, I am not opposed to gay marriage (though I'm not especially supportive, either), I think abortion ought to be legal (whatever my reservations about it), and I am virulently against the Drug War. I just don't think you get anything done by calling other people "stupid."

However, once I reached the following:

In short, we're through with you 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.
I realized what this was really about: minority politics.

When I say "minority politics," I don't mean politics having to do with racial or cultural minorities. I am referring to the sorts of ideas that I am beginning to realize are always promoted by the minority party. The further I got into this article, the greater sense I got that at this point, many Dems would prefer it if the Republicans just got out of our life and let us live as we will. Take this for example:
The lesson is simple for urban residents: Seattle shouldn't cast its lot with the rest of the state. Rural and suburban voters have shown again and again that they aren't willing to fund urban infrastructure. Throughout Washington State, transportation taxes like 2002's Referendum 51 have tanked, while anti-transit measures like Tim Eyman's I-776 have passed overwhelmingly. While that might seem like grim news for cities like Seattle, there's a silver lining: When cities set their own transportation priorities, truly urban systems (like the monorail) get funded and built, while the suburban mega-highways that lard initiatives like R-51 go unfunded. We don't use suburban roads. We can let the suburbs figure out a way to pay for them.
The impression I get is that the writers might actually think the cities can take care of themselves if they just didn't have the interferance, or even the help, of the countryside. Indeed, in this:
We officially no longer give a shit when family farms fail. Fewer family farms equal fewer rural voters. We will, however, continue to support small faggy organic farms, as we are willing to pay more for free-range chicken and beef from non-cannibal cows.
it almost seems that the writers think that the market provided by urbanites might be enough to encourage the sort of agriculture they support! Where's the call for laws outlawing the bad ag? Where's the call for a share of the nation's tax dollars to give to the good farmers? I'll tell you where that call went: it went away with the Democratic majority. Without their realizing it, the debate went from "the progressive party vs. the don't-take-my-money! party" (Dems vs. Repbs) to the "party of middle america vs. that other party" (Repbs vs. Dems). As I have said before, I have found myself with the choice between a party with convictions I don't agree with and a party with no convictions at all. Well, this article is a call for those convictions to be defined, and I can agree with many of them... if they seriously mean it.

It is obvious that the writers of this article belive that the cities can spend their money better than the countryside. The writers say repeatedly that the urban areas should, as far as possible, secede from the countryside (something that would actually be possible under the system I have described earlier, btw). They should promote their own agendas, and forget their bleeding hearts where the suffering of rurals are concerned. They should realize that the health care crisis affects those other people more than it affects urban areas, that federal welfare props up rural areas more than it does urban areas (and are, indeed, siphoning off of money from urban areas to the countryside), that federal programs like Homeland Security are spent disproportionately in irrelevant rural states, rather than being concentrated in the more likely targets and entry points (cities and borders). This all sounds so familiar...

Could it be that it sounds like the Republicans only eight years ago, who accused the Democrats of siphoning capital off of productive people and giving it to people who are not productive, encouraging them to continue to be so? It does to me. It sounds a lot like the attitude "the feds should just get off our backs" that so many Republicans had in those days. In those days, Republicans were all for shrinking a government they thought unneccesary, wasteful, and did nothing but promote urban values very much against their wishes. The Democrats were blamed for the deficit, for "tax-and-spend" policies. Well, what is happening now that they are in power? They probably spend even more that the Democrats did when they were in power!

In short, the Republicans weren't interested in shrinking the government. They only wanted control. They didn't want to end the redistribution of wealth. They simply wanted to redivert it to their own supporters. They didn't actually dislike cultural regulation. Actually, they like it quite a bit, so long as they are in control. Though laws requiring that dark skinned people, women, and gays be respected are instrusive and unwanted, many of them would gladly require at the federal level that the school day begin with the Pledge of Alligence and a prayer, and ban forms of art they find offensive. In short, they don't really want Liberty and Justice for All. What they really want is Control, just like the Democrats did, and had, for a very long time.

So, to the writers of this article I ask, do you really mean what you say? Do you really think the cities could go it on their own, and they we really should leave the country to manage itself as it will? Are you really willing to drop trade barriers to food, so the cities have an alternate source in the event that the countryside of this country goes up in smoke? Are you really willing to stop trying to regulate guns at a federal level and concentrate on keeping guns out of the cities?

Or is this just a smokescreen you're putting up since you don't really have the power to do what you want, anyway? Have you seen the error of your ways, or are you just a bunch of hypocrites, like the Republicans? You talk this way now, but what will you do when you have regained control? Will you begin the process of dismantling the machinery by which the Republicans now opress you, or will you gleefully take control of it, forgetting the rhetoric you now employ? Remember: you participated in the creation of this monster. Do you truly wish it were gone, or do you just want to get back on its back?

You say the cities need to focus on getting their own tax dollars spend on the cities. Are you willing to take the power of taxation away from the feds and, where desirable, the states, in favor of keeping local funds local? Or do you really want to concentrate all the tax dollars in the cities, believing that city money wouldn't be enough?

Personally, I think there are enough people in both of the major parties that would like to see an end to federal meddling. If they could just realize they have a common cause at the federal level, and that they need not interfere with one another at a local level, they could probably get something done. If these people would just abandon their control-freak allies and join forces, we could finally put an end to this. The larger the government becomes, the more it sucks to lose control of it. At a certain size, the losers lose the luxary of being a "loyal opposition." Let's shrink it, together, and stop meddling in each others lives.

Personally, I've always thought of myself as a Libertarian where federal issues are concerned and a Democrat where local issues are concerned. I agree that cities need decent regulation and public action, but the cities should also foot the bill. There's nothing worse than a society whose urban class has become parasitic, other than perhaps a parasitic countryside (which is a recent phenomenon). If we would just drop federal (and state) taxes to the bare minimum necessary to keep order and defend (not offend) against foreign adversaries, the cities and the countryside would get exactly what they deserve, no more, no less. If the people of the cities and the countryside could just leave alone the question of who deserves what and just trust that each can take care of itself without the other's domination or tax dollars, things would be better.

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