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The City, the Suburbs, the Country, and Free Choice

We prefer to live here in town, rather than the suburbs or the very sparsely populated country that stretches out endlessly just beyond the exurbs, but we can well understand why others might choose differently. Our town is Wichita, where there are single unit houses and backyards and barbecues and happily homogenous neighborhoods and all the other amenities of suburban life to go along with the proximity to an art museum and botanical garden and parks and ethnic restaurants and downtown night life and all the other amenities of more or less urban life, and we have no children to attend the rather mediocre local public schools, and even here we can respect the decisions of many of our friends to head for the suburbs or beyond. In any case, we can’t understand the federal government’s efforts to herd everyone into some hell-hole big city.
Rural folk are by now properly paranoid and overwhelmingly voting Republican, but the suburbanites haven’t yet figured out that the left is successfully proceeding with a program to eliminate their chosen way of life. The anti-suburban agenda is motivated by ecological, cultural, and nakedly political motivations, and is now the policy of a President of the United States who who proudly told The Associated Press during his first campaign that “I’m not interested in the suburbs, the suburbs bore me,” yet somehow wound up winning a crucial share of suburban votes in two elections. Various policies to vex those boring suburbs have since been enacted, and now the Department of Housing and Urban Development is telling more than 1,200 municipalities that federal funds will be withheld from them if they don’t comply with new regulations regarding low-income housing and minority representation, and they’re newly fortified by a Supreme Court decision that was largely overlooked during all the hubbub about same-sex marriage and how the Obamacare doesn’t really mean what it plainly says, but the reporters on the real estate beat all realized how it’s likely to affect the average suburbanite’s property values, and sooner or the public will realize that President Barack Obama is far more interested in the suburbs than he admits.
The left’s hostility to the suburbs is as old as the suburbs themselves. The most frequent complaint heard these days is all those suburbanites’ sports utility vehicles are frying the planet as they chug along to downtown jobs, and doing all manner of other damage to the planet, but that’s just the latest explanation. An alarmist friend of ours who was very much enamored of the “peak oil” theory used to present sparsely attended screenings of a documentary promising that it would bring about “The End of Suburbia,” but fracking has forestalled that much-hoped-for outcome and now the left is demanding more immediate solutions. This appeal to Gaia will likely have some guilt-inducing effect on a few of the more more recent arrivals in suburbia, but when they weigh this impending environmental catastrophe against sending their kids to a typical urban school district we expect many of them will decide to vote for the life decisions they’ve made. They might even notice that the anti-suburban animus pre-dates such reasoning.
The last time the suburbs were given respectful treatment by Hollywood was when Fred MacMurray moved “MY Three Sons” to some placidly bland neighborhood within the Los Angeles sprawl, and since then every movie and television show and pop hit since The Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday” has portrayed anything outside the urban core as a dull and racist and homophobic and sexist to the point of “Stepford Wives” den of hypocrites who were carrying on affairs and perpetuating income inequality. Urbanites, on the other hand, were all tolerant and broad-minded and sophisticated and sexually satisfied and on board with progressive agenda, while the rural folk were such an insignificant demographic that were relegated to comic relief and subplots about sexual deviance. The universities and television networks and political machines and the rest of the opinion-making establishment were still stuck in the cities, and the resulting opinion is of course in favor of cities.
Of course there’s also that nakedly political calculation. The cities are mostly dominated by Democratic machines, and in cities the stark reality of of income inequality has its usual salutary effects on the fortunes of the Democratic party, and ethnic animosities between otherwise happily homogenous neighborhoods are more easily exploited, and the public education systems produce a population that is too ignorant to figure it out, and everyone is densely packed into more easily controlled areas. Take away the backyards and barbecues and cohesive homogeneity of a neighborhood, and the sense of individual rights and the rest of those damnable suburban amenities, and the population will be more easily controlled.
Despite the government’s best efforts, though, the suburbs continue to draw ever more people. There was hope that the younger and hipper generation would stay away, and that so would the mass influx of immigrants both legal and illegal, but the lure of the backyard and the better schools and the happy homogeneity has overcome all the official efforts. We still prefer to live in town, but we wish those outside the city limits of this or any other town well. We also hope they’ll wise up soon, and realize who is intent on denying them their choices.

— Bud Norman

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The Second Term Around

A second term agenda has been conspicuously absent from Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. There’s been plenty of sneering criticism for some things that Mitt Romney has said he wants to do, far more sneering about some things that Obama falsely claims Romney wants to do, and a few small proposals such as the ever-popular soak-the-rich tax hikes, but nothing in the way of a grand scheme to fix the nation’s many lingering problems.

The oversight is so glaring that even the president’s most stalwart supporters have noticed, and some have gone so far as to suggest that he offer such a plan in order to bolster his recently declining electoral prospects. This seems reasonable enough, given the apparent difficulty of selling more of the same, but it’s hard to imagine what he might come up with that will woo back any lost voters.

Any plan released at this late date will naturally raise questions about why Obama has waited so very long to unveil it. Some will suspect that it was intended to avoid the critical scrutiny of the media, as if that would ever happen, while the most realistic skeptics will assume it a ploy to prevent Romney from having a go at it during the debates. Those still enamored of Obama will be thrilled with whatever he might come up with, but the rest of the country will immediately be wondering why he hadn’t attempted such a brilliant agenda to begin with. The plan would have to be rolled out in yet another Big Speech, as well, and there have been so many of those over the past four years that many Americans would pay it no mind.

Obama likely has a number of big ideas that he is eager to impose on the nation if given the opportunity, but probably has been keeping them to himself because he believes that they won’t be very popular. All of Obama’s ideas involve spending great gobs of money, a point that won’t be lost on a public that finally seems to be properly worried about the country’s mounting debt, and they always require an almost religious faith in governmental power that has lately become harder to sustain. Although Obama will occasionally hint at how very far left he would go when off the teleprompter, as in his infamous “you didn’t build that” oration, he has mostly tried to sustain an image of moderation.

Such reluctance to be frank has severely hindered Obama’s efforts to even tout the ideas he has proposed. When Obama was hammered about energy prices during the first debate he seemed itching to shout out that of course he had sought increases, that he had told people he would during the first campaign, and that everyone will someday be thanking him when we’re all driving on $20-a-gallon biofuels because he’s pumped the cost of Gaia-killing gasoline to $21 per gallon, and that if anyone out there didn’t like it they could just buy a Chevy Volt or leave the suburbs and live in the city like a real person. He restrained himself, of course, and offered an obviously bogus explanation of how much he truly loves gas and coal and all the fossil fuels, confident that his friends at the Sierra Club would know he was fibbing but hopeful that no one else would figure it out.

Perhaps if the election comes to seem out of reach Obama will at last unleash his inner radical, and go down with his full Alinskyite furor proudly on display. The true believers will love it, but the rest of the country will likely decide that Romney isn’t so scary after all. Expect to hear more sniping about Big Bird and binders, then, and any distraction available to keep you wondering from about what he really has in mind.

— Bud Norman