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The War Against Suburbia

January 28, 2010

Joel Kotkin in New Geography:

A year into the Obama administration, America’s dominant geography, suburbia, is now in open revolt against an urban-centric regime that many perceive threatens their way of life, values, and economic future. Scott Brown’s huge upset victory by 5 percent in Massachusetts, which supported Obama by 26 percentage points in 2008, largely was propelled by a wave of support from middle-income suburbs all around Boston. The contrast with 2008 could not be plainer.

Browns’s triumph followed similar wins by Republican gubernatorial contenders last November in Virginia and New Jersey. In those races suburban voters in places like Middlesex County, New Jersey and Loudoun County, Virginia—which had supported President Obama just a year earlier—deserted the Democats in droves. Also in November, voters in Nassau County, New York upset Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, an attractive Democrat who had carefully cultivated suburban voters.

The lesson here is that political movements ignore suburbanites at their peril. For the better part of a century, Americans have been voting with their feet, moving inexorably away from the central cities and towards the suburban periphery. Today a solid majority of Americans live in suburbs and exurbs, more than countryside residents and urbanites combined.

As a result, suburban voters have become the critical determinants of our national politics, culture, and economy. The rise of the Republican majority after 1966 was largely a suburban phenomenon. When Democrats have resurged—as they did under Bill Clinton and again in 2006 and 2008—it was when they came close to splitting the suburban vote.

But now, once again, things have changed. For the first time in memory, the suburbs are under a conscious and sustained attack from Washington. [More]

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