In his latest New York Times column Thomas Edsall points out the challenge today’s Democratic Party faces:
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 AmericaAllies 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.
Once upon a time (as all good stories begin) both of our political parties were “catch all” parties, uniting contrasting even competing groups. Some of that was geographic, some economic. Midwestern farmers, working holdings of many sections, tended to be Republicans. Small farmers in the South and East Coast tended to be Democrats. Small businessmen tended to be Republicans. Until the Great Depression blacks used to vote consistently for Republicans. Since then they’ve voted just as consistently for Democrats.
That’s changed over the last 50 years as Southern Democrats became Republicans and northeastern Republicans became Democrats. Now the Republican Party is an uneasy alliance between white social conservatives, many in the South, and libertarians.
The Democrats actually have several different factions to contend with. They have the white urban intelligentsia, heavily unionized public employees, blacks, Hispanics, and some groups of sexual libertarians. These groups are actually in competition with one another not just for money but for the attention paid to the issues in which they’re most interested.
Mr. Edsall continues:
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.
Take, for example, “Accounting for Central Neighborhood Change, 1980-2010,” by Nathaniel Baum-Snow, an economist at the University of Toronto, and Daniel Hartley, an economist at the Federal Reserve in Chicago. They found that the 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.
Baum-Snow and Hartley cite what they call “a shifting balance between departures of low SES (socioeconomic status) minorities and inflows of high SES whites” and point out that neighborhoods surrounding cities’ central business districts have experienced a turnaround
driven by the return of college-graduate and high-income whites to these neighborhoods, coupled with a halt in the outflows of other white demographic groups. At the same time, the departures of minorities without college degrees continued unabated.
In Chicago, Baum-Snow and Hartley point out, the largely minority census tracts that gained whites the fastest from 1980 to 2010 were “almost exclusively within 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of the central business district.”
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.”
Here in Chicago “gentrification” is clearly a strategy that has been embraced by City Hall. Lakefront projects, primarily of interest to well-to-do downtown residents, have been greenlighted at the expense of greater services in the South and West Sides. Neighborhood schools there have been closed, magnet schools, some with admissions tests, others with other pre-qualifications, have been opened or expanded.
Meanwhile, public employee salaries and benefits here have been expanded far ahead of general inflation. In other words public employees and members of the “creative class” are winning; blacks and Hispanics are losing.
Democrats are promoting this strategy. Voting more Democrats into office won’t change it. Here in Chicago nearly all officeholders are already Democrats. As in other major cities blacks are voting with their feet.
To compound the problem in Chicago Hispanics now outnumber blacks. As I’ve been predicting blacks and Hispanics will increasingly contend for resources, leaving the present incumbents, mostly white, holding the reins of power.