Thursday, April 19, 2018

Do Democrats Have a Gentrification Problem?

One of the results of Donald Trump's take over of the Republican Party which now counts right wing Christian extremists and white supremacists as its core base is that educated whites, especially those who are college educated have fled the GOP.  Many of these exiles have joined into the Democrat Party, especially in East Coast and West Coast cities and large cities in the blue archipelago in between.  Some now argue that the Democrats risk alienating less educated whites - or at least those who haven't already rallied to Trump's embrace of Christofascists and  racism - and racial minorities as a result of the so-called gentrification of Democrat circles.  Among the reasons for this supposed intra-party strain is housing and income inequality and the increased importance of affluent whites as donors for the Democrats.  A column in the New York Times looks at this question which I personally has been somewhat overblown.  Here are excerpts:
The nation’s largest cities and metropolitan areas — home to a majority of Democratic voters — are at the forefront of the party’s most vexing racial, ethnic and class conflicts.
Last week, in an essay for CityLab, Richard Florida, a professor of urban planning at the University of Toronto, described how housing costs are driving the growing division between upwardly and downwardly mobile populations within Democratic ranks:
The rise in housing inequality brings us face to face with a central paradox of today’s increasingly urbanized form of capitalism. The clustering of talent, industry, investment, and other economic assets in small parts of cities and metropolitan areas is at once the main engine of economic growth and the biggest driver of inequality. The ability to buy and own housing, much more than income or any other source of wealth, is a significant factor in the growing divides between the economy’s winners and losers.
Allies on Election Day, the two wings of the Democratic Party are growing further estranged in other aspects of their lives, driven apart by the movement of advantaged and disadvantaged populations within and between cities. These demographic patterns exacerbate intraparty tensions.
Florida, writing with Benjamin Schneider of CityLab, expands on this point:
While the advantaged members of the knowledge, professional, and creative class have enough money left over even after paying the cost of housing in these cities, it’s the less-well-paid members of the service and working classes who get the short of end of the stick, with not nearly enough left over to afford the basic necessities of life. They are either pushed to the periphery of these places or pushed out altogether.
The competition for housing between rich and poor has become a critically important and divisive issue in urban America.
One of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country, San Francisco, is also one of the most Democratic sections of the country, (San Francisco County: Clinton 84.5 percent, Trump 9.2 percent). According to Romem, between 2005 and 2016, those moving into the San Francisco area had median household incomes averaging $12,639 a year more than the households of the families moving out, $70,015 to $57,376.
Conversely, in the struggling Syracuse metropolitan area (Clinton 53.9 percent, Trump 40.1 percent), families moving in between 2005 and 2016 had median household incomes of $35,219 — $7,229 less than the median income of the families moving out of the region, $42,448.
Research that focuses on the way city neighborhoods are changing by income, race and ethnicity, while not specifically addressed to political consequences, helps us see the potential for conflict within the Democratic coalition.
In firmly Democratic neighborhoods across the country, the economic status of those moving in and out began to shift radically starting at the beginning of this century.
[T]he core of the nation’s cities is being taken over by members of the affluent wing of the Democratic Party at the expense of the less affluent, disproportionately minority wing of the party:
Central neighborhoods of most U.S. metropolitan areas experienced population decline 1980-2000 and population growth 2000-2010. 1980-2000 departures of residents without a college degree accounted for most of the decline while the return of college educated whites and the stabilization of neighborhood choices by less educated whites drove most of the post-2000 rebound.
. . . . neighborhoods surrounding cities’ central business districts have experienced a turnaround.
A similar pattern has emerged in the urban West. “Gentrification in the Bay Area, Portland and Seattle,” Bruce Cain, a political scientist at Stanford, told me in an email, “is definitely pushing disadvantaged populations out of old neighborhoods and into far-flung exurbs.”
Upscale liberal whites “who consider themselves committed to racial justice” tend to be “NIMBYists when it comes to their neighborhoods,” Cain wrote, “not living up to their affordable housing commitments and resisting apartment density around mass transportation stops.”
Michael Lind, a professor of public policy at the University of Texas in Austin, wrote in a prescient 2014 essay, “The Coming Realignment: Cities, Class, and Ideology After Social Conservatism,” that “high-density downtowns and suburban villages are coming to have an hourglass-shaped social structure.”
“Wealthy individuals” are at the top, according to Lind, with a “large luxury-service proletariat at the bottom.”  . . . Lind’s point raises a fundamental question for the Democratic Party: Can it find a way to hold its “hourglass-shaped” political coalition together?
[A] Democratic Party based on urban cosmopolitan business liberalism runs the risk not only of leading to the continued marginalization of the minority poor, but also — as the policies of the Trump administration demonstrate — to the continued neglect of the white working-class electorate that put Trump in the White House.
In other words, Democratic strategists looking to piece together a 21st century political alliance have to consider the unintended consequences of taking the easy route: constructing a coalition explicitly dominated by elites.
I say easy because — compared to the average resident of the United States — the affluent are “vastly more engaged politically,” as Douglas S. Massey and Jacob S. Rugh, sociologists at Princeton and Brigham Young University, write in a forthcoming paper, “Isolation at the Extremes”: Whereas 99 percent of the wealthy voted in the 2012 presidential election and 60 percent gave money to a political candidate, the corresponding figures were just 78 percent and 18 percent for Americans in general. As a result, the affluent are far more likely to have their political preferences reflected in public policies than other Americans.
The hurdle facing those seeking to democratize elite domination of the Democratic Party is finding voters and donors who have a sustained interest in redistributive policies — and the minimum wage is only a small piece of this. Achieving that goal requires an economically coherent center-left political coalition. It also requires the ability to overcome the seemingly insuperable political divisions between the white working class and the African-American and Hispanic working classes — that elusive but essential multiracial — and now multiethnic — majority. Establishing that majority in a coherent political coalition is the only way in which the economic interests of those in the bottom half of the income distribution will be effectively addressed.

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