Where Do Reactionary Ideas Come From?
August 20, 2019 9:48 PM   Subscribe

“Beginning in the mid-20th century, the modern suburb was designed as a comfortable hideout for white America: a low-density environment with many of the conveniences of city life, but none of the friction of heterogeneity or shared space. Roads for cars replace public transit, “lifestyle” affiliations are established through consumer choices, and outsiders are barred, if not through explicitly racist rental policies then through policing. Today, one of the best predictors of one’s political orientation is the density of the neighborhood they live in; people who live in the suburbs are also more likely to get their news from broadcast and local television.“ Outer Limits: Conservative movements thrive when social media connect the suburbs (Real Life) Race And Class In The Liberal Suburbs (1:59:00) How conservative and liberal postwar suburbs have more in common then not. Dan interviews Lily Geismer, the author of ‘Don’t Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party.’ posted by The Whelk (15 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also Previously, a way to fix the problem : A social experiment in demographic diversity, Greenbelt Towns
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 PM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


Interesting read! I grew up in a rural community that was super conservative; I sometimes wonder if the internet has changed it any or just reinforced what it was already like.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:06 AM on August 21, 2019 [4 favorites]


I sometimes wonder if the internet has changed it any or just reinforced what it was already like.

When I was a young college student I suddenly had access to the full internet and developed an interest in the democratic system for creating new Usenet forum subdirectories. I even started to write a short story based on my observation that the ability to self select for both messages received and readers into more and more specific topical areas would lead to a fragmented mostly online “virtual life” future where people’s emotional highs would be higher, lows would be lower and perspectives increasingly incompatible. That was in 1991. It’s the one piece of writing I strongly wish I’d finished and kept, as it feels so prescient in retrospect.

It also gives my perspective on the answer to this question. It reinforces the views for those who stay, even as it offers a window to climb out for those who want to get out.
posted by meinvt at 4:53 AM on August 21, 2019 [12 favorites]


I live in a conservative rural community (~600 people). 30 miles away from the nearest grocery store. 1.5 hours away from a decently sized city. This community is lucky enough to have 100mb fiber internet for some, and 10 mb DSL (or wide area wifi) for the rest. There's almost 100% internet coverage here.

People still vote the same. 70 percent for Trump in 2016. Almost the same percentage for the GOP in 2018. But some attitudes are changing. There's decently widespread tolerance for gay rights & gay marriage, for example. But there's also widespread acceptance of some of the conpiratorial crap that gets shared and re-shared across FB. So maybe it's a wash.

The teenagers are considerably more liberal, possibly in part due to their network access, but the majority of them will flee this place as soon as they can. The ones that stay will mostly be as conservative as their parents.

The real wildcards for change, that I can see, are the effects from the farm tariffs and the state GOP's hostility towards maintaining rural services & infrastructure, but that's a separate discussion.

The internet here has led to some odd cultural changes though. A few years ago, before BTS made kpop mainstream in the US, I was at a football game where the halftime routine had cheerleaders doing their thing while bigbang, Girls Generation, and other kpop groups played. Was quite a surprise.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 5:02 AM on August 21, 2019 [11 favorites]


Beginning in the mid-20th century, the modern suburb was designed as a comfortable hideout for white America

It's hard to ignore how redlining created a completely tilted playing field for all of this by subsidizing home purchases for white people in neighborhoods that were declared "best." People of color, who couldn't buy property in these areas because of explicitly racist real estate practice, couldn't get federally-subsidized loans, and were resigned to neighborhoods labeled "declining" or "hazardous" - which created poverty, segregation, and urban ghettos as we know them from the 20th century. This all started almost a hundred years ago but since home ownership creates intergenerational wealth, it created the patterns of poverty that persist today - long after the practices were outlawed.

In effect, the building of the suburbs were part of a major social wealth transfer from people of color to white people.
posted by entropone at 6:59 AM on August 21, 2019 [24 favorites]


I was at a football game where the halftime routine had cheerleaders doing their thing while bigbang, Girls Generation, and other kpop groups played. Was quite a surprise.

Maybe I'm being too cynical but that sounds like routine colonizing behavior - take from the 'other' while not recognizing how one contributes to and benefits by 'othering'.
posted by kokaku at 7:30 AM on August 21, 2019 [4 favorites]


It seems to be the case that people who live in urban, densely populated areas are more likely to be liberals/leftists/progressives, while residents of rural, sparsely populated areas are more likely to be conservatives/traditionalists/xenophobic. So if we want to build more progressive societies over the long run, maybe we should prioritize changes in building codes and development patterns to incentivize density and discourage quasi-rural suburban estates.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 8:11 AM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm being too cynical but that sounds like routine colonizing behavior

Derail, but - I don't think so in this case. The South Korean government is explicitly propping up and selling the Kpop industry as a big export, just like how the Thai government is spreading their country's cuisine in a very specific way. Sometimes you're not a colonizer, you're just an eager customer.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:35 AM on August 21, 2019 [17 favorites]


In effect, the building of the suburbs were part of a major social wealth transfer from people of color to white people.

It’s always important to Remeber that suburbanization, White flight, urban blight, etc was not a natural result of market pressures but a top-down result of social engineering and racist policy to create a segregated society, from obvious stuff like Levittowns having racial restrictions and redlining to more subtle things like lot limiting or white enclaves refusing public transit money or the general use of car-dependent suburbs as de facto segregation.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 AM on August 21, 2019 [13 favorites]


Did you ever wonder where diverse people go when they are priced out of their urban neighborhoods due to gentrification? They often go to the suburbs.

I live in the Schaumburg school district in suburban Chicago. It's the kind of suburb known for shopping options. In fact, Schaumburg is often used as a standin whenever a city dweller makes jokes about the 'burbs.

Here is the demographic breakdown of our school district:
White: 40.5%
Hispanic: 23.5%
Asian: 26.1%
Black or African American: 5.6%
Two or more races: 4%
American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.2%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders: 0.1%(Source)

This is anecdotal though. So by all means, help yourselves to a quick Google search for diversity in the suburbs or even reverse migration to the suburbs. It's not everywhere, and it's not universal, but it's a thing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:59 AM on August 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


That’s in the end of the first article, that the traditional role of the suburbs is changing because they’re getting poorer and more diverse.
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 AM on August 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


That’s in the end of the first article, that the traditional role of the suburbs is changing because they’re getting poorer and more diverse.

Part of this is because the suburbs were built to be discardable. The notions of private home ownership and self-reliance obscure the infrastructure dependence of the suburbs to such an extent that their governance effectively stops maintaining the moment the developers leave. The roads decay, the pipes start leaking, the school falls apart, the civil servants retire and start collecting pensions....and the suburb's finances are in the tank because they never thought that far in advance.

The people with the wherewithal move on and then the declining community is opened up to renters and people who will buy a house with a leaky roof on a potholed road where kids have to be bused because there are not a enough kids anymore for the local school.

If they are lucky maybe in 20 to 30 years housing pressures result in the area being prime for gentrification and repeating the cycle again.
posted by srboisvert at 10:06 AM on August 21, 2019 [8 favorites]


Very related: Wil Wikinson's work on the urban/rural political divide, which (to oversimplify): as population density increases, Democratic vote share also increases.
posted by Automocar at 12:57 PM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm being too cynical

I’m rather surprised anyone would have this reaction. The cheerleaders didn’t take some piece of indigenous music and then perform in blackface or redface. The cheerleaders took songs produced by the very wealthy & very capitalist pop machines in South Korea. Songs that were already popular across the world but didn’t get mainstream play in the US at the time. How the hell does that equate to “colonialism”?

I thought it was a great thing. They broadened their horizons to listen to pop music with lyrics not in English, and were willing to play it to an audience which would have been largely unfamiliar with those groups. It’s kinda wonderful that a small town in Kansas would briefly join this worldwide and diverse fandom, and that the Internet could let these small town kids avoid the stereotypical cultural isolation of small towns.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 7:25 PM on August 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


It’s always important to Remeber that suburbanization, White flight, urban blight, etc was not a natural result of market pressures but a top-down result of social engineering and racist policy

At the same time, don't forget that suburbanization also happened in quite a few other countries lacking those policies and goals, without urban blight etc. These things were all strongly interconnected in the USA, but I don't see suburbanization itself as intrinsically tainted from being tainted in the US
posted by anonymisc at 1:34 PM on August 22, 2019


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