Sunday, January 18, 2009

The New Urban President

I've lived in an urban city (Oakland, Berkeley, Oakland again, Minneapolis and Oakland yet again) for over a decade now and can't imagine living in the suburbs or a small town again. Growing up in a small town, cities are far off places where "real" crime exists and morals are corrupted, so I understand the fears Arkansas' Wayne Loewer feels:
"I'm worried that he's not gonna understand the rural way of life."

... Guns define Loewer's life. He grew up walking the woods with a rifle. He worked as a guide during duck season for extra income. His deep freezer is full of game that he grills with Cajun seasoning or portobello mushrooms for family dinners. There are few better feelings than the one he gets taking his 14-year-old son hunting and teaching him about white-tailed deer.

"We depend on our guns in the South," he says. One of his favorite bumper stickers reads, "If you want more gun control, use two hands."
Republicans have fed into this doubt of Obama:
Not long after Obama's comments, Loewer received mailers from the National Rifle Association saying that Obama planned to ban hunting, restrict gun laws and close 90 percent of gun shops. Several nonpartisan fact-checking groups discredited the claims, but the gun dealers Loewer talked to said the NRA had it right.

"When Obama got elected, I went out and bought a rifle and pistol shells for every weapon I own," he says. "I bought $400 worth of ammo."
Small town gossip and Republican interest groups have demonized the city way of doing things. It's funny because, if not obvious, the urban cities are who elected Obama, according to Nate Silver in Esquire:
...the future of America is an urban one — among the twenty largest metropolitan areas in 2000, nineteen had added population by 2007, a trend likely to sustain itself as rising gas prices place more pressure on exurban commuters. Republicans trail Democrats among essentially every fast-growing demographic except the elderly — the youth vote, the Latino vote; they never had the black vote. It is long past time that they hone their pitch to urban voters, and find their shining city upon a hill.
Obama looks at cities differently than most politicians, as Amy Sullivan points out in Time:
What really sets Obama apart, however, is that despite his sensitivity to the problems that plague some urban neighborhoods, he does not view cities primarily as problems to be solved. "Federal policy has traditionally treated cities as victims," says Greg Nichols, mayor of Seattle. Ever since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, he explains, government has set up perverse incentives for cities by isolating funds in programs set aside for the neediest, most desperate localities. It's the urban policy equivalent of treating someone in the emergency room when they get seriously ill instead of investing in ongoing primary care and encouraging healthy behavior.
This urbanism Obama brings is scary to Loewer. We're used to faux country folk like Bush who's now selling his ranch for a conservative enclave in Dallas fronting an image of America long gone that has soothed the fears of the millions of Loewer's in red states and formerly industrial OH and PA. As Silver pointed out cities are the future of America and Obama sees that.

The creation Office of Urban Policy shortly after the election and the later tapping of Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion highlighted Obama's awareness. The symbol he's setting by announcing,"My Kennebunkport is on the South Side of Chicago," contrast greatly from Bush and Reagan's ranches and Clinton's poll driven spots.

So while I understand Mr. Loewer's concerns, it's time for the rest of America to get the attention it justly deserves and has been starving for.

1 comment:

  1. Having grown up in a state where any student can take 2 days off, no questions asked, to go hunting and having been taught to shoot before I could tie my own shoe, I can relate to Mr. Loewer's concerns as well however myopic, and self-centered they may be. He is not taking into consideration that this particular president grew up differently, and his view on guns are drawn from the urban prospective where they are seen not as tools as they are mostly in the south and Midwest, but as true weapons of mass destruction.

    I feel that President Obama is not going after the law abiding, responsible gun owners as the conservatives and the NRA would have everyone believe, he is working to reverse the apparent open season on urban youth that has been going on unchecked for decades if not centuries. They [Mr Loewer, and those of his ilk]Are just feeling threatened because the focus is not on them for the first time in... well ever!

    As my grandma used to say,"They will be alright after while."