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Why Cities Give Republicans The Brush-Off, And Thus Write Off Future Voters

Republicans tend to see big cities as corrupt and incompetent and, judging by recent election results, the feeling seems to be mutual. Groaning as they are under the weight of one-party (mis)rule, there’s no doubt that cities could benefit from new ideas and competitive elections. But the Republican Party’s deep-seated indifference towards quality of life issues and improving government is destined to make the GOP even less relevant to urban voters in the future.


Relying on suburbanites to carry a counterweight to urban core voters will be tough as more black people (who overwhelmingly vote Democrat) move into suburbs as more whites move into cities:

Data from the 2010 U.S. census continues to trickle out, and with each new set of numbers, a fuller picture of our terrifying changing nation emerges. We need a whole new set of stereotypes, for chrissake. Today, we learn the shocking flipside to the trend of white kids overrunning our nation's cities: there are not quite so many black people in our nation's cities!


Suburbs carry enormous weight in Senate and Presidential elections for almost every state. Especially in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, you name it. Every critical swing states have large suburbs and their fate is closely linked to election outcomes. It's not a given that urban low-income Democrats leaving the cities for the suburbs will help the Republican Party [hence the big urge for those Voter ID laws hoping to frustrate turnout].

The Tea Party was co-opted, or some same glom'd on to the Republican Party. To go to great lengths ignoring cities could undermine the gerrymandering a lot of state Republicans pushed through since '08 and put Democrats back in control of key states and dash hopes to gain Senate seats.

The anti-Obama thing I'm not sure will deliver the needed votes to ensure a Republican takes the White House and the balance of power gap in the Senate is closed. It didn't work last year.

For folks like us who are worried about uber-left Democrats getting any sort of advantage so they can kill off Second Amendment rights, this is worrisome. The GOP killing itself by playing a broken record over and over is gonna get the party sidelined after all those gains in '08, and we could really see more losses in rights in store.

Ignoring the cities and treating the people in them like they're an alien species is self-defeating, and defeat becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Plenty of left-leaning intellectuals freely admit that the GOP policy of ignoring cities and staying away from them actually helps contribute to corruption most large cities face:

Conservatives are eager to blame Detroit's problems hazily on "Democrats," and in most respects I think that's wildly misleading. But I do think there's an important sense in which they're correct. American cities across the board suffer from a lack of partisan competition that undermines democratic accountability.

My view of this is heavily based on the work of George Mason University's David Schleicher, and I really encourage you to look at his research for a long version of the story. But the short version is that ordinary voters rely heavily on party affiliation as a heuristic when deciding who to vote for. If you move to a new place with same-day voter registration, then pay zero attention to local politics up to and including the names of your local member of Congress, then show up at the voting booth to vote in a House election you're in fact perfectly capable of making a well-informed decision about who to vote for. If you generally like legal abortions, equal rights for gays and lesbians, higher taxes, and more regulation of private businesses then you should vote for the Democrat. If you want tax cuts, abortion bans, and lax regulatory enforcement then you should vote for the Republican. You may have a hard time making up your mind because you feel cross-pressured (say you love tax hikes and abortion bans) but it's easy to know what politicians stand for even without knowing anything about them. In fact, thanks to things like the Hastert Rule it actually barely matters whether the specific individual you're voting for is totally orthodox or not. Partisanship makes life easy.

Shift to a big city, though, and you have a mess on your hands. There are very few religiously observant white Christians living in large American cities. So Democrats have an overwhelming electoral advantage. That means that oftentimes a Democratic primary is tantamount to the election or else you have a nonpartisan election, and either way there's no sound partisan heuristic you can use. Meanwhile, the set of issues that arise in municipal politics is totally different from federal politics. The federal government regulates air pollution and the banking sector, the city government regulates liquor licenses and food trucks. There are some areas of overlap (K-12 education, workplace safety) but huge areas of total divergence (national security, zoning) and lots of issues that people feel very strongly about (abortion, marriage rights) don't occur at all at the municipal level and fairly technical questions (how to conduct cost-benefit analysis for a proposed new streetcar) that people don't have strong opinions on loom very large.

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