Whither the Sprawl People?

Whither the Sprawl People?

The new suburban "ideopolises" now hold the balance of power in national elections. Which way will they turn?

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“Where Democrats Can Build a Majority . . .” by John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira, and “The Brawl in the
Sprawl” by David Brooks, in
Blueprint
Magazine
(Sept. 27, 2002), 600
Pennsylvania Ave., S.E., Ste. 400, Washington, D.C. 20003.


The last presidential election left the electoral map
of the United States an intriguing patchwork of the red (Republican) and
the blue (Democratic). It also left political soothsayers busily searching
for portents of its future color scheme.
Blue class="text4"> eventually, forecast Judis and Teixeira, coauthors of class="text57">The Emerging Democratic Majority (2002). Red,
predicts Brooks, a senior editor at
The Weekly
Standard
.


Despite the Republican successes last Novem­ber,
the Democrats stand to benefit from the spread of the postindustrial
economy, in which “the production of ideas and services” looms
large, argue Judis and Teixeira. “The Solid South [red in 2000] is
unlikely to remain solid; some of the mountain and Midwestern states that
are red are likely to go blue; and the blue states that Al Gore carried by
small margins in 2000 are likely to get harder, not easier, for the
Republicans to pick off.”


The bluish new politics, according to their analysis,
is being shaped by the growth of
“ideopolises”—metropolitan areas in which the suburbs
have become more urbanized. No longer merely bedroom communities, such
suburbs provide professional, technical, and service jobs for an ethnically
and racially diverse work force, and have become “extensions of the
city.”


“The politics of these ideopolises emphasizes
tolerance and openness,” write Judis and Teixeira. “It is
defined by the professionals, many of whom were deeply shaped by the social
movements of the ’60s.” In Boston, San Francisco, and some
other postindustrial metropolises, a fourth of the jobs are held by
professionals and technicians. Many ideopolises are in the North and West,
Judis and Teixeira say, “but they are also in states like Florida and
Virginia. Republicans are strongest in areas where the transition to
postindustrial society has lagged,” especially in the Deep South and
the prairie states.


Brooks has a different demographic vision: “The
most important political divide in the coming decades . . . will be between
. . . inner suburbs, which have large numbers of people at the top and the
bottom of the income scale and are hence Democratic, and the faster-growing
outer suburbs, which have greater similarity of incomes and are hence
Republican.”


“The suburbs around Atlanta now sprawl for
hundreds of miles,” Brooks points out. “In a few decades the
greater Phoenix area will have almost 10 million people; it will be a more
significant city than Chicago. Already, Mesa, Arizona, has a larger
population than St. Louis, Cincinnati, or Minneapolis.”


The folks who live and work in the sprawl areas have
no “regular contact with urban life,” Brooks says. They have an
emerging culture of their own. Neither red nor blue, “this new tribe
is . . . a mix—a purple America. These are . . . the swing voters who
will shape the destinies of both parties.” Though they are largely
apolitical now, says Brooks, their moderately conservative
values—stressing order, responsibility, success, and sports—are
in harmony with George W. Bush’s. As the booming new suburbs develop,
the purple “sprawl people” are likely to become redder, in his
view. “I’d bet that the emerging majority is a Republican
one—or at least that it can be.”