December 2, 2013

JOEL KOTKIN: The Revolt Against Urban Gentry.

Couched in progressive rhetoric, the gentry urbanists embrace an essentially neo-feudalist view that society is divided between “the creative class” and the rest of us. Liberal analyst Thomas Frank suggests that Florida’s “creative class” is numerically small, unrepresentative and self—referential; he describes them as “members of the professional-managerial class—each of whom harbors a powerful suspicion that he or she is pretty brilliant as well.”

The revolt against this mentality surfaced first in New York perhaps because the gaps there are so extreme. Wall Streeters partied under Bloomberg, but not everyone fared so well. The once proudly egalitarian city has become the most unequal place in the country, worse even than the most racially divided, backward regions of the southeast. In New York, the top 1 percent earn roughly twice as much of the local GDP than is earned in the rest of country. The middle class in the city is rapidly becoming vestigial; according to Brookings its share of the city’s population has fallen from 25 percent in 1970s to barely sixteen percent today. . . .

This new demography—essentially a marriage of rich, young singles and the poor—has created an urban electorate increasingly one-dimensional, and less middle class, not only in economic status, but also, perhaps more importantly, in attitude. This can be seen in the very low participation rates in de Blasio’s victory in New York, where under one quarter of the electorate voted in the election compared to some 57 percent in the 1993 Giuliani vs Dinkins race. Historically, middle class voters were the most reliable voters and their decline has led to record low participation not only in New York, but also in Los Angeles, where new Mayor Eric Garcetti was elected with the lowest turnout, barely twenty percent, in a contested election in recent memory.

The decline in voter participation occurs as cities are becoming ever more one-party constituencies. Two decades ago a large chunk of the top twelve cities were run by Republicans, but today none are. America’s cities have evolved into a political monoculture, with the Democratic share growing by 20 percent or more in most of the largest urban counties.

Under such circumstances the worst miscues by liberals are largely ignored or excused as politics and media take place in a kind of left-wing echo chamber. Even the meltdown of the healthcare law, which has hurt the president’s approval rating in national polls, seems to have not impacted his popularity in urban areas.

It’ll work until they run out of other people’s money.

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