Pink states vs. Red states

A brief note on the remarkable events in San Francisco this past week. The first thing that strikes me is the geography of this debate. Cities around the country (and the big companies headquartered there) have, of course, been moving steadily closer to gay marriage for years. Urban officials learned pretty quickly that the escalating fortunes of their cities throughout the nineties was due in no small part to the gay communities which provided a model for robust, organic urban renewal. They looked around and found that any of their constituencies who might have moral objections had all fled the to the suburbs years before, and began to partner openly and productively with gay communities. To shun such a valuable bloc of the population would have been ludicrous. And on a deeper level, urban officials accepted gay communities because they were remaking cities in a way people who loved the best of urban life could be proud of. In a way that most people 20 years ago didn't think possible. For the long version, see Richard Florida's work on the significant correlations between gay communities and urban prosperity.

The events in San Francisco serve to underline how the oft-mentioned red state-blue state divide is really just a proxy for the increasing urban vs. 'the rest' divide in America today. It somewhat correlates to states at large, but only in so far as those are densely urban states. The substantive issues of the divide are best exemplified by the cities themselves. The Bush administration has not been good for cities, psychologically or economically, and the cities are growing increasingly alienated on account of this. The hikes in local taxes, the decreasing wages and lower standards of living, all of these are more deeply felt by urbanites, and they are starting to look around and wonder how all these people in 'exurbs' can be so freakin' happy. Well, its not much of mystery. If your state voted for Gore in 2000, you're probably getting the short end of the stick today.

I think Gavin Newsom's decision is part and parcel of this geographic rancor, and I don't think he'll be the last to take this path. America's mayors have presided over remarkable transformations in their cities over the past 15 years, one of the few tangible 'miracles' of the 90s, and they are not about to watch one administration tear it all down. Big city mayors will have to ask themselves where their loyalties lie: in their relationships with the gay communities that have helped make cities vibrant again, or with a president and his moralist supporters from the boonies.


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