Some­wheres and Any­wheres

The Buffalo News - - OPINION - New York Times

We’re all fa­mil­iar with a cer­tain po­lit­i­cal ge­og­ra­phy. Democrats win the ci­ties, Repub­li­cans win the ru­ral ar­eas, and the bat­tle­grounds are in the sub­urbs. In gen­eral, Democrats win the denser in­ner-ring sub­urbs where there are lots of pro­fes­sion­als – doc­tors, lawyers, teach­ers. Repub­li­cans win the sprawl­ing outer-ring sub­urbs, where there are lots of of­fice parks and mi­dlevel cor­po­rate man­agers.

North­ern Vir­ginia has al­ways em­bod­ied this fa­mil­iar subur­ban di­vide. Democrats have done well in in­ner-ring towns like Ar­ling­ton. Repub­li­cans have done well in outer-ring boom­burbs like Loudon County. In 2004, for ex­am­ple, Ge­orge W. Bush trounced John Kerry in Loudoun County by 55.7 per­cent to 43.6 per­cent.

But we’re liv­ing in an age of global pop­ulism, a his­toric tran­si­tion as pro­found as those in 1848, 1905 and 1968. One way to cap­ture the emerg­ing di­vide is by us­ing the Bri­tish writer David Good­hart’s distinc­tion be­tween Some­wheres and Any­wheres.

Some­wheres are rooted in their towns and have “as­cribed” iden­ti­ties – Vir­ginia farmer, West Vir­ginia coal miner, Penn­syl­va­nia steel­worker. Any­wheres are at home in the global econ­omy. They de­rive their iden­tity from por­ta­ble traits, like ed­u­ca­tion or job skills, and are more likely to move to ar­eas of op­por­tu­nity.

Some­wheres value stay­ing put; they feel un­com­fort­able with many as­pects of cul­tural and eco­nomic change, like mass im­mi­gra­tion. Any­wheres make ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment the gold stan­dard of sta­tus and are cheer­lead­ers for rest­less change.

This tem­plate for an­a­lyz­ing our pol­i­tics is as ex­plana­tory as any. Re­cently, for ex­am­ple, Michael Kruse had a fine ar­ti­cle in Politico about sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Trump in John­stown, Penn­syl­va­nia. The peo­ple he de­scribed are clas­sic Some­wheres. The steel mills are gone and everybody sort of knows that they are never com­ing back, but the peo­ple re­main, and they love Trump be­cause he sticks his finger in the eyes of the Any­wheres who have made their world worse. The thing about this new set of bat­tle lines is this: It re­draws the po­lit­i­cal map. The ci­ties are dom­i­nated by Any­wheres. The ru­ral ar­eas are dom­i­nated by Some­wheres. But the grow­ing sub­urbs are no longer di­vided. They are Any­where all the way through. Last week, ex­ur­ban Loudoun County went Demo­cratic 60 to 40 per­cent. That’s nearly the same as in­ner-ring Fair­fax County, which went Demo­cratic 67 to 31 per­cent.

The cru­cial ques­tion go­ing for­ward is what will the Democrats do? Will they make places like Loudon County their heart­land, or will they am­pu­tate them­selves the way the Repub­li­cans did, and re­treat back to the ci­ties?

Here’s how you can tell which way the Democrats are go­ing. If they talk mostly about oli­garchy and rich fi­nanciers, they are re­treat­ing to their base. But if they talk about mo­bil­ity – ge­o­graphic mo­bil­ity, eco­nomic and so­cial mo­bil­ity, in­tel­lec­tual and spir­i­tual mo­bil­ity, they are talk­ing the lan­guage of the sub­urbs. And if they have prac­ti­cal plans to en­hance uni­ver­sal mo­bil­ity, the age of Demo­cratic dom­i­nance will be at hand.

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