Saturday, November 01, 2008

Not to be cynical, but...

I believe (contrary to what they say about us Jews) that Obama is a Christian. And I find it fairly convincing that, as a consequence of his faith, he "believes that marriage is a sacred union, a blessing from God, and one that is intended for a man and a woman exclusively." Yet Obama's open, politically-expressed opposition to same-sex marriage strikes me as a very calculated political move, and I find it hard to imagine, given the number of virtually-married gay couples someone with his background and education has probably met, that this is actually how he sees the world. I find it much more likely that his stance on the marriage issue is an attempt to show Joe the Six-Plunger that he's not one of those godless liberal elites. Somehow it's easier to oppose gay marriage than to explain that to be for marriage rights is the opposite of being pro-libertine. But, whatever. It's clear that those who support same-sex marriage are better off with Obama than with McCain, but it's equally apparent that there's no need for the Dems to try to get the gay vote--it's theirs, whatever discriminatory beliefs its leaders profess.

The above is, I realize, nothing new. But it struck me, during the Obama infomercial, that for all the diversity of the struggling families shown, they had several things (apart from financial woes) in common. None lived in apartments (urban or otherwise). All were heterosexual. All were working-to-middle class.

This last one is understandable insofar as the it-bag-toting private-school mothers I see at the coffee shop near wear I teach do not seem to need the government's help, but what about the poor? Also, when introducing the first family, the one with many kids and not enough snacks (I do not mean this to sound sarcastic, snacks are key), we hear the candidate speak of how the family moved to the country or suburbs or whatever for good schools. He emphasizes the word "good." Then some political, I don't remember which, attributes Obama's "Midwestern" ability to "get things done" to his Kansas roots. On the coasts, needless to say, no one ever follows through on anything.

It's impossible for a national politician to expect votes without speaking of city life, with its crowded schools and streets, its tiny apartments, and its visible same-sex couples, as anything but suspect. The Republicans are the main offenders when it comes to dividing this country into the real and the rest. But the Obamercial, moving as it was, served as a reminder that the American Dream is to get out of the city--those who make so much or are so set on city life as to live in the city center have, effectively, overdreamt.


Paul Gowder said...

I wonder if we'll ever get an atheist president. I'd take an observant Jew. 2050? 2100? How depressing.

Phoebe said...

Not sure if an observant Jew would be an improvement. (Thinking of a certain Lieberman.) It would mean more generically Judeo-Christian atheist-bashing, along with who knows what anti-Semitic backlash from the same lovely folks now convinced that Obama is proof that blacks in fact control the government.

"Atheist" ("Godless") is still considered an insult, so I'm thinking the evangelicals' apocalypse might happen before we get an atheist U.S. head of state.

dWj said...

I just found out that my state senator here in the north Bronx, Ruben Diaz, who is a Democrat but is also on the Republican line in the election Tuesday, is an ardent opponent of gay marriage. I'm writing myself in; in the unlikely event that someone in my district sees this before Tuesday and cares to double my count, my name is Dean Jens. And I approve this message.

BTW, estimates I've seen suggest about 30% of homosexual votes are reliably Republican.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand your opening line--why is it hard for a jew to believe that someone is a christian?

Phoebe said...

There's a rumor going around that the rumors going around that Obama is a 'secret Muslim' are especially prevalent in the American Jewish community.

David A. said...

"It's impossible for a national politician to expect votes without speaking of city life, with its crowded schools and streets, its tiny apartments, and its visible same-sex couples, as anything but suspect."

This is not true, really. If it is true, in part, it is often due to the failure of some institution.

The schools in the cities are, actually, often quite terrible. So, there is no reason not to criticize them. It is quite common for people to move out of the city for better schools.

The real reason why anyone disregards the city is that barring some cataclysmic gaffe by the Democratic candidate, it is always going to vote for the Dem.

The same cannot be said for Colorado or Ohio.

If you want politicians to pay attention to the big city, well, then the big city might have to change from being monolithically liberal.

And as to the conditions in the big city, it largely isn't a federal problem. It's largely a local one.

Small apartments and high rents might have something to do with lack of development of housing and with rent control. After all, it is often the case that the middle class and upper middle class live in the coveted rent-controlled apartments. They are the ones who can afford the bribes and kickbacks on the black market. The poor person is relegated to projects. The newly arrived (absent the bribe or kickback) is going to pay $1500 for a studio.

But, that is entirely a local issue.

So, are high property taxes driving the middle class to states like North Carolina. In 2 years, NC and Florida will pick up electoral votes while NY will likely stay the same and MA (even more liberal) will lose votes.

This isn’t to mention all of the other taxes—sales tax, local income tax (there aren’t many cities that actually tax income, though NYC does), high state taxes, high car insurance (outside of Manhattan and a few neighborhoods, there are people who actually drive in NYC—they all just have illegal NC plates) and so on.

Contrary to what you have written, there are plenty of folks who go into Jersey or Long Island for Wal-Mart. Everyone with a car in eastern Queens and Brooklyn drives over the Nassau border to shop at Wal-Mart, and giving their sales tax to that county.

They even do this for cigarettes, avoiding the extra few dollars of tax a pack that NYC charges.

Others will drive over to Jersey City and avoid the sales tax on clothing altogether. Or just pay the 3% on the other items.

The Jersey City option is not confined to those with cars, as plenty of Manhattanites will take the PATH to Newport Mall to pick up a new air conditioner or big-screen TV.

Or they buy a lot of stuff on Amazon, which NYS also wants to tax!

In any event, the local taxes, the poor schools, the lack of affordable housing, are all pretty much local problems. And they are driving the middle class out of NYC.

This will make the divide you see even greater. That is, NY and NYC will become even more liberal. This is especially so, since the reason why NY will remain the same in electoral votes is largely due to immigration (legal and illegal).

The ones remaining in NYC will be die-hard liberals, similar to yourself, and the rest who vote liberal out of expediency but who are culturally conservative (like immigrants who want benefits to make their lives easier but would be opposed to gay marriage). The latter will often leave NYC when their situation improves, perhaps even moving to NC or Atlanta.

So, this dismissal, as you see it, is going to be here for the foreseeable future.

If liberal NYC was in play and if it represented some kind of large national bloc, then you'd hear people talking about the good in NYC.

But, NYC isn't.

The USA has 300 million people. The four largest cities have something like 20 million. Only one has more than 4 million residents (NYC). Three of those large cities are all reliably Democrat. The fourth, Houston, is probably reliably Republican. The fourth, Houston, has 2.2 million residents.

The rest of the top ten are all under 2 million and closer to 1 million in average. They are all a mixture of Dem/Rep cities (Philadelphia, San Antonio, Dallas).

So, the truth is there is no real reason to talk about the Big City for politicians, for even the Big City of NYC is an outlier for the rest of the Big Cities.

It would seem that you are a bit too sensitive to some perceived slight. NYC just doesn't represent USA, nor does it really even represent the rest of urban America.

So, it is perfectly reasonable for Obama to go for that kind of, relative to NYC, suburbanish or rural vote. Cleveland might be a city, but it probably has more in common with Omaha—or even Nassau County--than it does with NYC.

In any event, NY and MA will stay very, very blue, but lose influence. GA and NC will gain in electoral votes, while becoming slightly less red, but still red. FL will become more and more a swing state, though still trend red for quite some time. TX will also gain in electoral votes, but will also be reliably red.

So, the struggle for the center-right to merely center is going to be around for a long, long, time.

I wouldn't be imputing some kind of class antipathy to candidates ignoring the vagaries of city life, particularly NYC.

It’s just that apart from fundraising, NYC simply doesn’t matter as a place to cultivate votes.

As for overdreaming NYCers, well, yes, they probably overdreamt, for it isn't particularly the dream of most Americans to have to give so much of their paycheck to all the myriad taxes and exorbitant rents and, God forbid, if they want to buy a home.

They take their dream to another state.

David A. said...

I wrote my comment in Word and didn't edit it as well as I wanted.

But, in its message it still is what I wanted to say.


PG said...

It is quite common for people to move out of the city for better schools.

People move out of the city TO THE SUBURBS for better schools. I grew up in a small town and went to a mediocre school where I, math illiterate that I am, was the first student ever to take the Calculus AP exam. I ran out of courses to take at the high school and took two at the community college so I'd at least get college credit. I would have been much better off at the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem or similar.

PG said...

Also, re: urbanity:

"Most modern presidents have had a ranch, farm or estate easily isolated from the community around it. Mr. Obama is the first since Richard M. Nixon to be elected while living in a urban neighborhood, and Mr. Nixon soon sold his New York City apartment and retreated during his presidency to exclusive getaways in Florida and California. Mr. Obama, by contrast, is expected to keep his Chicago home."

Obama may have felt it appropriate to focus on surbuban, small town and rural Americans, but his own inclination seems to be decidedly urban.