“Trench Warfare”

Veteran libertarian syndicalist Tom Wetzel excepts from Mike Davis’ “Trench Warfare”. Interesting observations on the exurbs rural gentrification by right wing capitalist element.

“A brilliant analysis of the election and underlying situation in USA by Mike Davis. Especially relevant are his observations about certain smaller cities being home to local right wing capitalist elements, and how the vast spread of development into the Exurbs amounts to a kind of rural gentrifcation — which should upend some of the stereotypes about who Trump’s base are.

Here are some outtakes:”

“The continuing Democratic deficit relative to 2012, however, remains more a Trump vote than a Republican vote. Election returns in these counties and their core cities reveal much higher levels of support for local Democratic candidates and their pro-union positions than for Biden. In light of Clinton’s debacle he was more attentive to such places, but no better prepared to answer the question that every rank-and-file Democrat or former Democrat in the older industrial states has been asking for more than a generation: ‘What will you do to increase job opportunities and economic security here in Erie (or Laredo or Camden or Wilkes–Barre and so on)?’ ‘Millions of green energy jobs’—Biden’s mantra—is an abstraction that utterly fails to connect to the concrete circumstances of people like the locomotive builders laid off after their 2019 strike against ge in Erie or to the J. C. Penney salespeople in Brooklyn thrown out into the street in late September after Amazon drove the famed department chain into bankruptcy. A whole generation of first-in-the-family college graduates—now working as peons for Uber or delivering groceries for Amazon—are unlikely to imagine their future as solar panel installers or software technicians for an otherwise fully automated trucking company. For every ‘green power’ job created, automation and depressed demand will probably dispose of five or ten traditional jobs.

Real solutions demand geographically targeted public investment, control over capital flight and financial outflows, regional economic planning, and, above all, a massive expansion of public employment and public ownership. This is a road that few elected Democrats apart from the open socialists in the ‘Squad’ are prepared to go down or even consider, no matter how much it corresponds to needs at the grassroots. In fairness to mainstream American liberals, however, neither the British Labour Party nor the big continental social-democratic parties have found the will to forcefully address similar questions of regional economic decline and high, structurally consolidated levels of youth un- and under-employment.

‘Despite the common perception that the us has become a “suburban nation”’, write Laura Taylor and Patrick Hurley, ‘exurbia has emerged as the dominant settlement pattern across the country, characterized by different patterns of development and lifestyle expectations from cities, towns, and suburbs, with houses in scenic, natural areas on relatively large acreages.’

Rural gentrification by in-migrants from large metropolitan areas has created something resembling Blade Runner’s Off World. In an important Brookings Institution study published in 2006, exurbs were defined on the basis of housing tracts having a maximum housing density of 2.6 acres per unit that had grown by at least 10 per cent during the 1990s with a minimum of 20 per cent of the working population commuting to jobs in an urban place. Most were located on the outer edge of metropolitan areas, but a significant minority were outside the borders in counties still designated as rural. Based on the 2000 census, Brookings estimated a national exurban population of 10 million, 70 per cent of whom lived in the South and Midwest.footnote23 Since then exurbs, enabled by platform capitalism and virtual commuting, have more than tripled in population to 34 million, and Bain & Company’s Macro Trends Group projects that they will surpass the urban centre population within the next generation.footnote24 This exodus consolidates the new patterns of racial and political segregation that the journalist Bill Bishop famously characterized in 2008 as ‘The Big Sort’.

In the middle and south of the United States especially, the exurban ‘sort’ has countered population decline in small Republican cities and farm counties. Despite syndicated columnist and sprawl aficionado David Brooks’s startling 2017 prediction that the exurbs would someday become the new ‘Democratic heartland’, the opposite seems to be the case. Although there are some solidly blue exurbs—for instance, Buncombe County (Asheville), nc and Mendocino County, ca—they remain exceptional. Trump won the exurban vote (222 counties) by a whopping 17 per cent in 2016.

But it’s the Republicans, not the Democratic factions, who will shape next year’s agenda, selecting those battlefields where they are most advantaged by their Senate majority and their lock on the Supreme Court. At the same time, Trump’s would-be successors—the current favourites include Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Nikki Haley and Ted Cruz—will be competing to feed red meat to the vengeful Trump faithful. With the far right running around planting traps in the path of Democrats, the lynch-mob mood amongst Republicans will become even more dangerously anti-democratic and explosive.

Last January, the well-known political scientist Larry Bartels conducted a troubling survey of Republicans. Most of them agreed that ‘the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.’ And two-fifths believed that ‘a time will come when patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands.’ ‘In both cases’, Bartels adds, ‘most of the rest said they were unsure; only one in four or five disagree.’ After carefully analyzing the responses to his questionnaires, he concluded that white fear of the growing political and social power of immigrants and people of colour had acidified under Trump into a dangerous rejection of democratic norms.footnote38 In effect, a majority of hardcore Trump supporters seem to agree with the Proud Boys and the rest of the alt-right that political violence was justified in defence of white supremacy and ‘traditional values’. ”


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