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.

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