[P]rogressives are not confined to the coasts but are interspersed throughout the country. And wherever the progressives are one notices that there are the cities where Americans live, there are the Universities where the future is made, there are the thriving centers of commerce that drive the prosperity of the entire nation. [A] county by county map [of party identification] does not show a conservative nation lorded over by elite coastal enclaves, it shows a modern urban cosmopolitan civilization whose politics have been hijacked by the feudal agenda of scattered small-minded mean-spirited hayseeds stuck in the nineteenth century and pining after the End of Days.
I just stumbled upon on a righteously snarky essay from a few months back called The Urban Archipelago that makes this case much more interestingly and entertainingly than I did myself. As I said, it's a few months old, and so most of you may have seen it already, but I missed it somehow and recommend everybody look it over.
Perhaps it is an effect of the post-election siege mentality that prevailed when the article was written, when literally every American with a brain went into that dreadful disgusted Decline and Fall frame of mind as they wistfully pondered the promising skylines nearby... But whatever the cause I would complain that there is a curious and finally unhelpful insularity in many of the essay’s actual policy recommendations. Sometimes the essay seems to imply that environmental degradation beyond city limits won’t come to batter the walls of the city itself in Greenhouse gales, though it will, that gun-nut accumulations of arms out in the Styx won’t find their way to city streets, though they will, that Wal-Martization among the hicks won’t ineluctably derange the economy of urbane sensible citizens as well, though it does.
But I think that the essay diagnoses the progressive landscape very much as it really is, and that its proximate focus on cities is exactly the right one for progressives. I think such a focus on the urban archipelago provides a better lens through which to comprehend even the strategic implications for progressives in the urban/rural interdependencies the essay itself mistakenly rather trivializes. An unswerving focus on progressive urban needs rather than a focus on the hardships of snakehandling premodern bigots who just keep begging to get screwed over by priestly and moneyed elites who disdain them and who relentlessly attack the very ones who try to help them seems by far the better way to go from here on out. Premodern Red-County Hate Mongers are grown-ups even if they are atavisms. We should let them live with the choices they clearly want to make, and make them pay for those stupid choices themselves while we protect ourselves as best we can from the consequences of their stupidity. It's the properly respectful thing to do.
John Nichol’s more recent article in the Nation, also entitled The Urban Archipelago documents what such a focus is looking like on the ground, and provides a more helpful sense of the way forward from here that is less dismissive of the nuances (but also much less funny than the earlier essay). Read them both.