Showing posts with label joel kotkin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label joel kotkin. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


"The New York Times Shows Why the Blue Model Is Doomed," says Walter Russell Mead. The Times ran a story, see, in which some guy left "hot, crowded Austin, Tex., and moved into an apartment on Munjoy Hill in Portland, Me., with a commanding view of Casco Bay only steps away." OK, good for him. So?
This is told as a fantastic story of human empowerment and social transformation, which it is. More and more of us are escaping the tyranny of location; thanks to the telecom revolution we can work where we want and when we want. 
The rise of telecommuting will lead to better, richer lives. Families will be stronger. The environment will benefit from less commuting. All good. 
But it also represents the death of the political philosophy and economic system that the Times is otherwise prepared to defend to the last: the blue social model. If this revolution continues—and it will—fewer and fewer people will be stuck in big, high tax, over-regulated cities. While some will still choose to live there, many, especially those raising children, will not.
Quite apart from the "three's a trend, unless you're on deadline in which case one will do" angle, I have to say I'm amazed that conservatives are still doing this. We live in an era of mass migration to the cities. It's not like New York, San Francisco, Philly, Minneapolis, et alia, are emptying out. In fact rents in most big cities are going up -- and surely conservatives know that when people pay more for something it's because they prefer it.

This is an old routine for the brethren. For years I've been following Joel Kotkin's crusade to make everyone hate urban life and move to the suburbs and exurbs like Real Americans, or to pretend this has already happened, all evidence to the contrary. And Mead's "rise of telecommuting" reminds me of Ole Perfesser Instapundit Glenn Reynolds himself pushing hard for telecommuting 11 years ago as an alternative to commie light rail. Reynolds actually proposed as a benefit of telecommuting that unions don't like it "because it's harder to organize workers who aren't all in one place."

Which, incidentally, reminds me of one big reason why people flock to the cities: Because that's where the jobs are. Some of you may remember a few years back when conservatives were trying to send poor people to North Dakota to soak up those big oil boom bucks (or to get a long-haul trucking job -- but that was always an obvious fraud). During that boom, capitalism did what capitalism does and drove housing prices in boom towns sky-high. Michael Warren at the Weekly Standard called these oil-boom immigrants "The New Pioneers" -- "The oil boom that began in 2007 has transformed this area of sleepy ranching communities into America’s new energy powerhouse," Warren gushed, and he said that whether you were young or old, whether you were an able-bodied pipe-fitter or "a receptionist at a man camp, those groupings of dorm-like lodgings for temporary workers that flank the highways of the Bakken," there was a place for you in this bright economic future-land.

Well, fast forward a few economic cycles and things ain't looking so great. Thanks, @jfxgillis, for pointing out this September 2015 Bloomberg story of what happened in the Bakken:
Fracking’s success has created another glut, and crude prices have fallen more than 50 percent in the past year. Now North Dakota’s white-hot economy is slowing. More than 4,000 workers lost their jobs in the first quarter, according to the state’s Labor Market Information Center. Taxable sales in counties at the center of the nation’s second-largest oil region dropped as much as 10 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, data from the Office of the State Tax Commissioner show... 
With the region’s drilling-rig count at a six-year low of 74 and roughnecks coping with cuts in overtime and per-diem pay, the vacancy rates in Williams County man camps are as high as 70 percent. Meanwhile the average occupancy rate of new units in Williston was 65 percent in August, even as 1,347 apartments are under construction or have been approved there.
It's all well and good for Mead to tell people that telecommuting's where the boom is now, sonny! But you actually have to provide the jobs to back that up, and unless I'm missing something there is no boom in internet jobs that pay a living wage.

So why do guys like Mead tell people -- people who probably trust him; they aren't reading his shit for the scintillating prose style -- that cities are over and they should avoid them? That's easy. Look how people in the cities vote. The only hope for wingnuts is to keep their dwindling pool of supporters in the outlands -- cut off from culture, from minorities and foreigners, from the experience of living among crowds without packing heat all the time, from anything that would show them that one could have a pretty good life without fear, isolation, and bigotry. (And if you can't guarantee that your peeps will stay in Fritters, Alabama, at least give them the idea that they can live the dream on the internet, so it doesn't matter whether they relocate by choice or necessity, they'll still be isolated, and you may yet keep them in the fold.)

Then you can keep dangling the Next Big Boom in front of them -- some Eden of free enterprise where they'll be able to shoot off guns and make a living with their hands and no goddamn unions or homos. And they won't know it's a con. How would they? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


So there's a site called Market Urbanism, against which I am predisposed for two reasons: because they announce chirpily in their header, "Believe it or not, free-markets and urbanism go well together"; and because they like to cite Joel Kotkin, who for years has been harboring a hate-on for the Blue Cities and is always predicting their downfall. But I figured I'd give it a chance. I mean, heaven forbid Vox should call me smug or something.

The first item I looked at, by Carolyn Zelikow, about how Richard Florida and his "creative class" (and not, as you might think, rapacious capitalism) have ruined the cities by flooding them with yuppies -- in fact the title is "Richard Florida Should Replace The Term ‘Creative Class’ With ‘Country Club.'" The thing is rife with the conservative version of virtue-signaling (values-signaling?); Zelikow refers to creatives' penchant for "superficial diversity" and "Florida’s tacit preference for bike lanes over food stamps," she accepts the claim that "members of the Creative Class embrace diversity, except when it comes to blacks, whom they prefer not to live around," etc. But look at how she starts:
Here’s a fun fact about me: I embody the Creative Class.

I live in a big, old witchhatted townhouse between Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan in Washington, DC. I love locally raised produce and my exposed brick yoga studio has a juice bar. I fall in love with every silver bullet remedy for civic malaise I come across: teach kids to code! bike lanes! murals! And guess what? I work at a think tank, where we think… for a living!
I should note that at no point in the essay does Zelikow inform us of any plans to move away from creative-class-ridden D.C. -- though she notes that there are "many American cities that are doing just fine without a preponderance of Creative Class representation: Houston, Atlanta, Oklahoma City all come to mind." Can't she telecommute from Oklahoma City? She thinks for a living!

The other item I examined was by Nolan Gray and called "Reclaiming 'Redneck' Urbanism: What Urban Planners Can Learn From Trailer Parks." Gray likes trailer parks on the expected conservatarian grounds -- "a trailer owner pays rent not only for a slice of land in an apparently desirable location but also for a kind of club good known as 'private governance,'" plus there's no "top-down, paternalistic planning," etc. Alas, neither does Gray walk the walk:
The lesson here is not, of course, that we should all go live in trailer parks. As a Kentuckian, I have spent enough time in and around trailers to think better of that idea. But...
Yeah thanks. Still I find even this much honesty refreshing. I wonder when regular, non-niche conservatives will start picking it up, e.g., "Welfare recipients should take regular piss tests and only be allowed gruel to eat -- though of course if I ever get into economic trouble I expect to maintain the standard of living to which I am accustomed, because I think for a living."

UPDATE. Comments, always excellent, outdo themselves on this one. For example, weedcard:
This dipshit has obviously never lived in a trailer park. WTF does he mean by "private governance?" That a man can discipline his woman when she "sasses" him and not have to worry about the statist police force enforcing the radical, left-wing Violence Against Women Act? That since most trailer parks do not require a lease the landlord can kick you out anytime he wants for any reason?
No, weedcard, he means freemarket ReaganHayek doubleplusgood. I mean, it doesn't matter what it means so long as he doesn't have to live in it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Joel Kotkin, who’s been declaring urban life so over for years, is back to preach the gospel again to the conservatives who love his schtick. The last U.S. Census revealed a 12% jump in urban population between 2000 to 2010 – a significant reversal of decades of white flight – and the trend seems not to be reversing, but Kotkin still reassures the rubes that the outlands will always be #1:
Despite all the constant claims of a massive “return to the city,” urban populations are growing no faster than those in suburbs, and, in the past few years, far slower than those of the hated exurbs. This means we won’t see much change in the foreseeable future in the current 70 to 80 percent of people in metropolitan America who live in suburbs and beyond.
This seems rather defensive – who hates exurbs, besides the people forced to live in them? Anyway what really seems to bother Kotkin is that cities no longer give us Republican mayors like Rudy Giuliani, but commies like Bill de Blasio, and Republicans’ vote numbers in cities, traditionally lousy, are even worse than they used to be. Kotkin laments this as a sign of “increasingly homogeneous political culture,” because diversity suddenly ceases to be a swear word to conservatives when it benefits them.

What really seems to piss Kotkin off, though, is the kind of people who are beefing up the cities. The “white-majority, middle-class neighborhoods in places like Brooklyn, Queens and the San Fernando Valley” have gone away, replaced by “racial minorities, hipsters, and upper-class sophisticates” – a trifecta of rightwing boogeymen!

Kotkin complains about the collapse of manufacturing – as if it were caused by liberal elitism, not by rampaging capitalism – but seems less interested in giving poor and marginally educated citizens back their traditional employment than in nostalgia for old Archie Bunker types versus the young, black, collegiate crew that has supplanted them. The new-class resentment is so thick I thought at times I was reading a Megan McArdle column.

While I have never seen Kotkin disturbed by the vast gulf in wealth between Wall Street bankers and the lumpenproles, he is very sensitive to inequality now that hippie-commies are in on it:
This urban economy has created many of the most unequal places in the country. At the top are the rich and super-affluent who have rediscovered the blessings of urbanity, followed by a large cadre of young and middle-aged professionals, many of them childless.
These childless cadres go for “good restaurants, shops and festivals, not child-friendly parks and family-oriented stores. Sometimes even crazy notions—such as allowing people to walk through the streets of San Francisco naked—are tolerated in a way no child-centric suburb would allow.” You can practically hear his audience gasp at this like simple country folk watching a melodrama of wicked city life.

But any Sodom-and-Gomorrah story worth its pillar of salt must predict doom for the ungodly, and Kotkin obliges:
Such social imbalances are not, as is the favored term among the trendy, sustainable. We appear to be creating the conditions for a new wave of violent crime on a scale not seen since the early 1990s. Along with poverty, public disorderliness, gang activity, homelessness and homicides are on the rise in manyAmerican core cities, including Baltimore, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and New York. Racial tensions, particularly with the police, have worsened. So even as left-leaning politicians try to rein in police, recent IRS data in Chicago reveals, the middle class appears to once again be leaving for suburban and other locales.
The plague-o-crime card is a popular favorite with this crew; we see it in cruder iterations at places like Infowars (“PROTESTERS DECLARE THEY ARE READY FOR WAR AS AMERICA’S IMPOVERISHED INNER CITIES THREATEN TO ERUPT“), but also at National Review, most recently in a story by Stephen Eide called “Revive Law-and-Order Conservatism”:
The spectacle of chaos descending on cities long dominated by Democrats obviously plays to the GOP’s advantage. Independent voters in purple-state suburbs don’t like riots. If next summer Philadelphia erupts around the time of the 2016 Democratic national convention, that’s going to be hard for the Left to explain.
This is so wonderfully ripe you almost want to ignore Eide’s vague nod to the facts – “Yes, murders, assaults, and robberies have plummeted since the early 1990s, but the peak was very high to begin with.” (Since he buried it, apparently he’d like you ignore it, too.) But whether up or down, crime is important as the talisman with which the GOP will win nervous honky voters. But first the brethren have to toughen up:
But short-term political calculations aside, Republican candidates must provide leadership on this issue. Conservative attitudes toward crime and punishment are notably softer now than they have been in many decades. Nebraska, which hasn’t voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1964, outlawed the death penalty in May.
That “libertarian moment” was fun while it lasted, but there’s an election coming up, and so it’s back to magic lantern shows of “racial minorities, hipsters, and upper-class sophisticates” casting long shadows across the electorally-fruited plain.

Thursday, January 08, 2015


Normally when we talk here about conservative urbanists, we're talking about Joel Kotkin, who likes to argue that the blue-state cities are over (despite much evidence to the contrary) and that America will rebloom in Minot, North Dakota. But we have a new contender: William S. Lind at The American Conservative posits "Conservatism for the City." So, is this about conservatives ginning up police mutiny against a Democratic New York City Mayor? No, this is a softer side: Lind tells us that "Paul Weyrich was also a strong supporter of New Urbanism, as well as the high-quality rail transit successful cities require"-- what a pity he never had the ear of the Republican Party! -- and "It is easy enough to identify good things New Urbanism offers conservatives," to wit:
At the top of the list is stronger communities. Community is a highly important conservative value because it is through community expectations and pressures that traditional morals are best upheld. People in communities care what their neighbors think of them. If they don’t, they feel the community begin to exclude them...
Conservative urbanists sound like a bunch of hipsters to me. "I was into the nuclear family before it was popular."
If community is too weak to enforce the rules and their enforcement must be left to the state, the battle for the traditional culture is already largely lost. More, the state soon becomes overly powerful...
So see, if we were doing New Urbanism right, we wouldn't need cops so much -- crooks would just get shamed off the street. Though making people ashamed for wearing bright primary colors and synthetics is a good start.
We have seen that in a number of cities that have adopted aspects of New Urbanism. Successful, thriving cities have reduced crime rates, always a conservative goal...
As opposed to the liberal goal of making crime go up. "But looking at what New Urbanism offers conservatives raises another question," segues Lind: "what might conservatism offer New Urbanism?"
Some answers are obvious. We offer the understanding that traditional middle-class values work. Without them, no city, neighborhood, or town, however well designed, is likely to function.
It's a good thing we have these guys around to promote middle-class values to city folk. Wait'll they hear about this in San Francisco!
Beyond these, my observation over the years of New Urbanism’s strengths and weaknesses leads me to identify three important things conservatives can bring to New Urbanism. Those three things are beautiful architecture, dual codes, and streetcars.
[Blink.] [Blink.]
Although many of New Urbanism’s founders recognize the need for beautiful buildings and know there is an objective, traditional canon going back to the Greeks that tells us what is beautiful and what is not, New Urbanism officially is neutral about architectural style. The reason is ideological. Like the rest of academe, academic architecture is dominated by cultural Marxism...
That explains the giant hammer and sickle on Philip Johnson's Lipstick Building.
Conservatism rejects cultural Marxism and all its works, which frees us from the spurious need to be “neutral” about architecture. We demand beautiful buildings.
For rich people anyway. The poor can continue to live in giant cinder blocks. Preferably somewhere we don't have to look at them.
That demand leaves architects with wide choice, ranging from the neoclassical—usually the best for monumental buildings—and Georgian to the Romanesque and the Gothic.
Mr. Developer, put some flying buttresses on that hideous but profitable condo! We'll pay for it by making everyone turn middle-class and get married, which generates wealth.

To flip over all the cards, Lind considers the stuff you see liberal cities doing all the time -- walkability, mixed use, etc. -- to be conservative; Democratic administrations apparently picked them up by osmosis while strolling past a CPAC convention. Oh, and streetcars, conservatives love streetcars! That's probably why Washington D.C., which is the bluest place in the country, is presently rolling them out -- the power of conservative suggestion.

Well, it's nice to see them grabbing liberal stuff and claiming it instead of the other way around for a change.

UPDATE. "I don't even know what expressions like 'cultural Marxism' mean," says John Myroro in comments. "Seriously, I am not being snarky when I say that contemporary use of terms which I thought I understood, words like 'fascism' or 'socialist,' now seem to be used simply as interjections or placeholders. Like saying 'man' or 'you know' in between words that actually signify." I hear you, comrade, but remember that our subjects here are professional propagandists, and they have been trained to believe terms like these have explosive power (at least among the elect, if not among normal people), so to these guys such expressions are more like what "Can I get an Amen" or "I don't think ya heard me" are to gospel tents.

If you want to read more about where Lind's coming from, mortimer2000 directs you his 2007 essay "Who Stole Our Culture?":
Sometime during the last half-century, someone stole our culture. Just 50 years ago, in the 1950s, America was a great place. It was safe. It was decent. Children got good educations in the public schools. Even blue-collar fathers brought home middle-class incomes, so moms could stay home with the kids. Television shows reflected sound, traditional values.
All ruined, now, and you will be unsurprised to learn Lind does not see a role for rapacious capitalism in its demise, laying it instead to "a deliberate agenda" of "Marxism" and "the 'Frankfurt School'" and all that shit, effected by cartoon characters with big beards and big black cherry bombs upon the unsuspecting sheeple. Thus was Gomer Pyle pre-empted by godless videoporn! Further down in this same essay:
We can choose between two strategies. The first is to try to retake the existing institutions – the public schools, the universities, the media, the entertainment industry and most of the mainline churches – from the cultural Marxists.
Wait, what about the cities, Mr. Lind? What about the streetcars?
...There is another, more promising strategy. We can separate ourselves and our families from the institutions the cultural Marxists control and build new institutions for ourselves, institutions that reflect and will help us recover our traditional Western culture.
Aha! Conservatives will build their own damn streetcars -- in Minot, North Dakota! Or perhaps at The Citadel in Idaho, where all the shooting ranges will be Gothick and walkable.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


Aargh blaargh from "professional comedian and writer" Stephen Kruiser over Seattle raising its minimum wage to $15:
Hippie infestation... 
Apparently unaware that it doesn’t have the weather advantages that other places pricing themselves out of existence do (Los Angeles, anyone?), Seattle seems to be ready to set a record for how many businesses it can ruin. 
The earnest idiots who whip up this minimum wage frenzy... "...BECAUSE FAIRNESS.” No discussion of the fact that an entry level, part time job isn’t supposed to be your adult income wage for life. 
What they don’t discuss is just how stifling this progressive feel good, math-hating nonsense is to current and aspiring small business owners. 
Because they want to drive as many people as they can into financial hell.
Seriously, what is he bitching about? He believes in the market, right? So this foolish decision will cause businesses to abandon commie Seattle for the red-state hinterland, and capitalism wins!  I can see those bright folks currently working at Seattle-based businesses like Amazon, Starbucks, Safeco,  Nordstrom, Cray, Corbis, et alia, not to mention the venture capitalists and internet jockeys, and the hipster entrepreneurs of Sub Pop and Babeland, deciding they've had enough of this command economy and running off to Fritters, Alabama or North Dakota to enjoy all the freedom and fracking.

Maybe this'll be the tipping point for that great blue-red inversion of economic energy Joel Kotkin,  Rick Perry, and other great minds are always predicting.

Of course it'll take a while:

As Steve Allen first said and I like to repeat, how ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen the farm?

UPDATE. Some commenters are wondering what kind of capitalist announces his desire to keep workers' wages down. I doubt Kruiser really qualifies as a capitalist, though maybe he employs a maid. Neither do the wingnut-welfare cases at libertarian flagship Reason qualify, which explains this headline: "Seattle Prepares for Robot Revolution by Setting $15 Minimum Wage." At first I thought they meant that granting peons an almost-living wage would speed the rise of robot workers, though bosses need no such provocation and in fact already employ robots as soon as they can get them. You aren't going to slow them down by pretending to be happy with shit wages.

Then I realized it was a revenge fantasy.

Interesting too that they found a cleaning lady who allegedly had a "401k, health insurance, paid holiday, and vacation" only to see it see it ruined by the high-minimum-wage commissars. Maybe the poor woman should get out of that line of work and start driving a cab.

Friday, November 08, 2013


Blah blah blah:
Historically, progressives were seen as partisans for the people, eager to help the working and middle classes achieve upward mobility even at expense of the ultrarich. But in California, and much of the country, progressivism has morphed into a political movement that, more often than not, effectively squelches the aspirations of the majority, in large part to serve the interests of the wealthiest. 
Primarily, this modern-day program of class warfare is carried out under the banner of green politics...
Before we go on, let me note a few things: First, this author, Joel Kotkin, is an alleged urbanist who seems to hate city people: Some years ago he was predicting that sad, city-bound blue states would wither and die while the fecund, corn-fed red-staters would rise to rule.

He's still at it, though in a grumpier and more defensive tone, telling readers that everyone's running screaming from California because it's so horrible and green. The population's only rising a little, so soon you Left Coast hippies will be eating the dust of population gainers like Washington, D.C. -- whoops, we mean North Carolina -- um, still not quite the idea -- ah, yes, here we go: North Dakota, the new Republican paradise, thanks to fracking no long settled exclusively by people on the run from society/the law!

Yet in real life, Cali's political health is vastly improved under Jerry Brown. After the disastrous tenure of Rainier Wolfcastle, Brown engineered a budget surplus and the business interests are happy. He's also merrily passing liberal social policies and telling Republicans to go call a cop if they don't like it.

And it appears the state is with him: He not only gets decent approval numbers for himself -- currently he's at 49% -- he has also managed to get them for tax-hikes-to-pay-for-shit-we-need, which is something Republicans regularly tell us can't ever happen as long as there's one pauper to take food stamps away from instead.

Does Kotkin acknowledge this? Sort of:
Sadly, the opposition to these policies is very weak. The California Chamber of Commerce is a fading force and the state Republican Party has degenerated into a political rump. Business Democrats, tied to the traditional industrial and agricultural base, have become nearly extinct, as the social media oligarchs and other parts of the green gentry, along with the public employee lobby, increasingly dominate the party of the people.
Conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed! Inevitably comes the tear-stained, fist-shaking you'll-be-sorry story, of the sort we saw when Bill di Blasio won:
This may constitute an ideal green future — with lower emissions, population growth and family formation — for whose wealth and privilege allow them to place a bigger priority on nature than humanity. But it also means the effective end of the California dream that brought multitudes to our state, but who now may have to choose between permanent serfdom or leaving for less ideal, but more promising, pastures.
You fools are throwing away a great opportunity to become North Dakota on the Pacific! Sure, the creative destruction that comes with fracking is having some unfortunate social effects in ND, but least they're not serfs! Enjoy your world-class culture, dining, and enslavement, San Francisco parasites!

Really, this kind of thing will make sense when Love Canal becomes a tourist attraction.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


For years now, Joel Kotkin's been telling us that the Blue States are through, because demographics. Things haven't worked out for him, but he's still at it. In the Wall Street Journal:
In the wake of the 2012 presidential election, some political commentators have written political obituaries of the "red" or conservative-leaning states, envisioning a brave new world dominated by fashionably blue bastions in the Northeast or California. But political fortunes are notoriously fickle, while economic trends tend to be more enduring. 
These trends point to a U.S. economic future dominated by four growth corridors that are generally less dense, more affordable, and markedly more conservative and pro-business: the Great Plains, the Intermountain West, the Third Coast (spanning the Gulf states from Texas to Florida), and the Southeastern industrial belt...
I'm so old I remember when all those Californians who were escaping from high taxes to Southwestern states like Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado were going to become Republicans, but hey look what happened. When places get more developed they tend to get more liberal.  (Kotkin's got a better bet in those areas where growth will come from gas and fracking jobs. The ensuing poisoned air and water ought to keep Louisiana from going Democratic for generations.)

I don't know how long they can keep telling themselves stories like this before they try to win votes by changing their policies instead of trying to grow new Republicans in shale oil.

UPDATE. vista, in comments: "If this is the case then our future is the growth of the undereducated, working low wage jobs with zero benefits, living in polluted areas with crumbling infrastructure." I believe that's the plan.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A LITTLE GOOD NEWS. At Zero Hedge we hear from Brandon Martin, who believes the Republicans and the Democrats are colluding to make America socialist; that there is a secret "Liberty Movement" majority afoot which would have swept the polls in 2012 if only Ron Paul had run (then why didn't he, one wonders), but because he didn't they contented themselves instead with ousting RINOs like Allen West; etc. Key passage:
Second, if you subscribe to the well documented idea that elections, at least at the federal level, are entirely staged (which I do)...
At PJ Media one Vik Rubenfeld weighs the traditional reasons conservatives give for Obama's victory (including "dependency on big government handouts on the part of some pro-Obama voters" and "mainstream media bias") and, while he finds much merit in these, cottons to this one:
For decades, adults have been told, and more importantly our children are now taught, that America owes penance due to a past history of racism. It is inevitable that this would play a key part in the reelection of the nation’s first black president.
Rubenfeld concludes that "some percentage of pro-Obama voters decided that putting racism in America’s past would be a deciding factor in their vote," referring perhaps to the voter survey that took place in his mind when he saw a white girl reading a Toni Morrison book.

Over at the Wall Street Journal we get the high-class version of this from James Taranto, who tells us once again about "the increasingly open hostility toward whites from mainstream left-liberals." (Does that mean that if race riots come back, I get to loot? Sweet.)

At Glenn Beck's The Blaze, we get a Kulturkampf kvetch from one Richard Mgrdechian, who tells us "HOW SHORT-SIGHTED LEADERSHIP HAS SABOTAGED CONSERVATIVE POP CULTURE," whatever that is. In 2012 "Republicans once again missed the boat on popular culture," he says. His solution (besides the customary hundreds of words about the need to "leverage the power of popular culture"):
The way I do this is through music. You might have heard of the band I manage – it’s called Madison Rising. We’re somewhat of an anomaly in the music industry, being a pro-American rock band and all.
That's just one example. There's also... well, that's the only example he gives, actually. Did he mention he manages a band called Madison Rising?

Meanwhile Joel Kotkin asks, What's the Matter with Connecticut? Don't you blue states realize it was in your economic best interest to vote for Mitt Romney and the Republicans, who were "the ones most likely to fall on their swords to maintain lower rates for the the mass affluent class in the bluest states and metros"? Yet you voted for Obama! You guys'll be sorry! (Kotkin has been lecturing on the imminent death of the blue states for years; he's basically the guy who expects you to fail and, when you succeed, concludes that you must secretly be miserable about it.)

The bad news is these lunatics live among us. The good news is that Republicans ain't getting their thumbs out of their asses anytime soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

MORE PREDICTIONS OF SUCCESS, MODIFIED FOR NEW REALITIES. Joel Kotkin has an essay about the failure of the blue states and the prospect therefore of red states surging to bring Republicans back to power. To the surprising extent that it relies on long-term data -- that "red-state strongholds such as the Dakotas, Idaho, Texas, Utah, and North Carolina, dominated the list of fastest-growing regions recently compiled for Forbes," versus the "decades-long meltdown" of blue states -- one might ask why this historic growth did not elect John McCain and a Republican Congress in 2008. Kotkin briefly mentions "the failure that stuck to Republicans in the wake of the Bush presidency," but with becoming reticence doesn't say anything more about it, except to predict the same thing happening to Democrats, presumably for the same reasons.

The future is unwritten and anything can happen, but if you're going to mine demographics for electoral gold you might take a moment to consider why they failed you in the last test. Part of the reason, which Kotkin misses, is that the red state growth of which he speaks has not been limited to villages and hamlets, but largely occurred in and around cities, some of which grew less red in consequence. One of the fastest-growing urban areas in the U.S. in recent years is Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina in Wake County. Wake went mildly for Bush in 2004, but strongly for Obama in 2008 -- enough to turn the state.

Kotkin shares the tendency of many political demographers toward wishful thinking. Back in 2004 some of them thought the GOP could get a lift by splitting Texas into five states. A look at the map showed that some of those new states would be Democratic, and while the Republicans might have gotten a few new senators out of the scheme, they would have given up some electoral college votes in the process. It was schtick, but pleasing to the sort of people meant to be pleased by it. As I said, anything can happen, but these games, while encouraging to the Outs at any given moment, tend to have less impact than the state of the nation when the actual polls open.

There Kotkin has a better chance, as the economy may well suck in 2010 and 2012. But on that head he relies on standard Republican class-war rhetoric about "media pundits and cafĂ© society": that Democrats favor a "creative class" solution (which is somehow also supposed to fatten the "public-sector unions" -- maybe he thinks the Freelancers Union and the Writers Guild are public-sector), which in his view cannot work, and that if the economy does recover, one of his sources tells him, "People will compare and move to the places that are affordable and don’t have the fundamental tough tax and regulatory structures." You have to wonder why they wouldn't have done that already -- especially since Kotkin keeps telling us that they have. But he is prepared for that: "a generation of out-migration may be slowing down temporarily due to the recession," he says -- an odd note of discouragement against his many claims of ever-burgeoning red-state vitality.

Part of the problem has to do with the purpose of exercises such as Kotkin's, which is not so much to lay groundwork for a genuine Republican resurgence as to predict one so that Republicans will feel better about themselves. Just before the last election, Kotkin was going on about the "new localism," in which the recession would make "individuals and corporations look not to the global stage but closer to home, concentrating and congregating on the Main Streets where we choose to live -- in the suburbs, in urban neighborhoods or in small towns." As part of this pitch was the reliance on extended family -- "This clustering of families, after decades of dispersion, will spur more localism" -- you might easily have gotten the impression Kotkin was expecting citizens to cling to their traditional homes. Now that politics demands a different interpretation, he posits us as atomized seekers after financial opportunity, ready to blow off Mom and Pop for the sunny vistas of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Prediction is a mug's game under the best of circumstances, but if you keep dishing out visions while working a slide rule, there's always a chance that fortune will provide circumstances that make you look good. But that's not the same thing as having a good argument.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

LIFE'S LITTLE PLEASURES. Now is a good to remind ourselves that things can go horribly wrong. I've seen good times, I've seen bad, and the latter tend to be more prevalent and more lasting. So I suggest we savor every drop of the Arlen Specter thing. It's true, as The Poor Man and Glenn Greenwald have pointed out, that Specter isn't much of a get, and will likely take a 2010 nomination that should go to a more progressive candidate.

Well, Obama isn't much of a progressive, either. I don't care. In these few years I have left, I just want to capture some enjoyable memories of wingnut anguish that may bring some comfort to my charity hospital bed.

Recall, if you will, the days when conservatives told anyone who would listen that Democratic liberals were only hurting themselves by giving the wetter members of their coalition a hard time.

"They have now morphed into Taliban Democrats," said Cal Thomas in 2006, "because they are willing to 'kill' one of their own, if he does not conform to the narrow and rigid agenda of the party's kook fringe... Taliban Democrats have effectively issued a political 'fatwah' that warns all Democrats not to deviate from their narrow line, or else face the end of their careers through a political jihad." James Pinkerton talked about liberals' long heritage of finding "heretics" and "infidels," and of resorting to "ideological cleansing."

Thus also sprach many putative liberals, like our old warblogger friend Armed Liberal, who complained in 2004 that an authentic liberal like Jeff Jarvis (!) "gets piled on for being 'inadequately liberal'. And that's a pisser. First, and foremost, it once again wraps up the smug 'I know better than you' that the Democratic Party has become associated with -- and which lots of people, including me, find amazingly offensive." He predicted that the Taliban Democrats "are going to lose a lot of political power."

Those seem like distant times, but Joel Kotkin was talking about the impending "Democratic Party civil war" last month. The Taliban Democrats theme was not a finding based on observation, but one of the magic charms conservatives and bullshit liberals rubbed in their pockets to remind themselves that their opposition was hopelessly divided.

Conservatives have hated Specter forever, but in victory contented themselves with loud grumbling. This year, in their defeat and disarray, they plumped a challenge by Club for Growth president Pat Toomey, who decried Specter's "betrayal" on the stimulus bill. Suddenly, far fewer of them were talking about "ideological cleansing" as a bad thing.

"Specter must be sent out to pasture," cried Conservative Wahoo. "We can finally be rid of the two-faced, backstabbing, ear-marking political opportunist who shamelessly clings to power," said Mike Netherland. "Specter has been a cancer that has continuously sold out the Republican Party countless times," said the ever-classy B.S. Report.

When the NRSC chairman John Coryn spoke up for Specter, the American Spectator warned, "the Republican base has gotten smaller and the remaining conservatives may have had their fill of Specter." Their commenters rose to prove it: "GOP still backing Specter -- sounds about right. Things humming along without interruption while Hussein Obama is busting America," "This is the kind of thinking that got the GOP thrown out in '06," etc.

The Bear Creek Ledger roared, "No wonder no Republican wants to donate to the NRSC! What a bunch of tools." My favorite bit of outrage came from Matt Lewis, who said at TownHall that Coryn's pronouncement "clearly demonstrates the NRSC is not in the business of electing conservatives, but rather, Republicans."

In this Jacobin environment, Specter did what he had to do. For me, the great legacy of this moment comes not from the shock of the Republican operatives who were caught flat-footed, but from the joy of the wingnut dead-enders who think this is great news for their movement ("Only by ridding itself of the lowly likes of Specter will Republicans reemerge as the party that can rebuild the country by upholding the principles that made it great"). Like I said, Specter's not my favorite, but I'll always be grateful to him for what he accomplished today.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

THEY'VE GOT TO GET THEMSELVES BACK TO THE GARDEN. A few years ago I noted that National Review's Stanley Kurtz really wanted America's safety net destroyed so that family values could be revived. Apparently, now Joel Kotkin hopes for the same result from economic chaos:
Forced into belt-tightening, Americans are likely to strengthen our family and community ties and to center our lives more closely on the places where we live.

This trend toward what I call "the new localism" has been underway for some years, driven by changing demographics, new technologies and rising energy prices. But the economic downturn will probably accelerate it as individuals and corporations look not to the global stage but closer to home, concentrating and congregating on the Main Streets where we choose to live – in the suburbs, in urban neighborhoods or in small towns.
Kotkin also lauds the impoverishment that forces more young adults to live with or seek funds from their parents ("This clustering of families, after decades of dispersion, will spur more localism"). And higher energy prices will make us all locavores! The New Depression will be great for families, if you don't count the scrofula and abandoned babies (but at least their ragged parents won't be able to afford abortions).

Wherever there's a loony New Jerusalem, there always is Crunchy Con Rod Dreher:
I want Kotkin's vision to be true, and I can see economic necessity forcing these kinds of changes on American society. Americans may not become "their better selves" by choice, but because they have no choice.
To be fair, he sees a point in Matt Frost's demurrer before concluding hopefully that "we'll make a transition that looks something like what Kotkin envisions, but it won't be smooth, and there will be a lot of pain."

Isn't there some unsettled stretch in the Mountain States where we can put these people?

UPDATE. Fixed link.