Tuesday, November 7, 2017

You're not from around here, are you?

Do you live near your hometown?  I grew up in California's greater Bay Area, which is now a tech mecca but in those days wasn't yet.   I left for grad school Back East, and then lived for a while in the UK.  I was lucky that I eventually got a position the same time zone as my parents.  But I live hundreds of miles away from the town I grew up in, in another major metro center full of people like me, who are mostly white and Asian professionals from somewhere else.

I'm not unusual;  Americans are very mobile, particularly those in technical fields.  And this feeds in to our current political state.  Vox reports that this has an effect that is magnified in smaller, less metro communities.
Those who stayed in their hometown tend to be less educated, less wealthy, and less hopeful. 
They tend to be less open to other cultures and less open to immigrants. 
Ultimately, they tend to be more likely to support Donald Trump.
The article drills down into the data, and finds that stayers were typically those who had fewer opportunities.  The high flying, academically inclined kid was encouraged to leave.  The football player who was tracked into trades, not so much.
In a very literal sense, this is a split between people who have seen the broad and eclectic world with their own two eyes and taken advantage of diverse geographies — and those who have not. These experiences, or lack thereof, shape our outlooks, outcomes, and attitudes. 
For some, that's a choice. For others, it's the product of the way we sort people in this country.
Chris Ladd runs with these data to identify another outcome of transience.
Winning in this economy means shedding attachment to place, community, and older notions of rootedness and becoming instead a global consumer. Citizenship is expensive, time-consuming, and frankly boring. People with any prospect of success in this economy can seldom afford to waste time and energy on local politics or local institutions. ...
He warns,
Democracy in the American model cannot survive this kind of transient, consumer-driven engagement. An electorate that knows every move of presidential politics while unable to identify a single city councilman is living in the upside down. A citizenry disengaged from and disinterested in local politics cannot possibly create competent political outcomes at the most distant level.
What are the alternatives?  The pseudo democracies of Singapore and China, ruled by technocrats and corporations, where votes are largely symbolic, but the institutions run the trains on time.

He concludes,
No practical remedy is apparent. You cannot merely goad people into caring about things that lack any relevance to their lives. A transient population cannot be inspired to care about the boring minutia of local government. If people don’t feel a stake, they aren’t going to be competent decision-makers. But, what if your ability to vote in a presidential election was conditional on showing that you voted in the last city or county election?

Read the whole thing.

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