“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
“And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
“Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
“So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
“Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:4-9 KJV)
There is something a little strange about big cities.
The enigmatic biblical story of the tower of Babel revolves around this strange something that occurs when large numbers of people come together in one place and form a great hive.
Rendering of the tower of Babel
It’s not that something bad has to happen – it doesn’t, especially if the people governing that city are highly principled and grounded in reality. But how often does that happen?
What, then, is this strange “something”? It’s what happens when deceitful and power-hungry people rise to positions of power to rule over their own little “kingdom.” On a more cosmic level, one might say it’s the futility and ultimate disintegration of anything – even a great city – built as a monument to man’s greatness rather than God’s.
Such sentiments are, of course, foolishness to today’s secular and sophisticated Western mind.
But then, our cities are disintegrating. So why don’t we take a closer look?
Let’s consider America’s most vexing and intractable problems: rampant crime, pervasive political corruption and government debt, sky-high taxes, crushing bureaucratic regulations, the embrace of a socialist-welfare mindset and attacks on capitalism, a rapidly growing “dependent class” that relies on government handouts, widespread human degradation and, especially, the abandonment of traditional Judeo-Christian values that has led to today’s devastating social, moral and financial corruption. Most of these issues have a common denominator: They are primarily problems of big cities.
Today, the poster boy for sick cities is uber-bankrupt Detroit, with thousands of burned-out or abandoned homes, the highest violent crime rate in the country (1,052 violent crimes per 100,000 people), over $18 billion in unpayable municipal debt, the biggest three-year drop in home prices in the U.S. (35 percent), a vanishing tax base due to stunning out-migration and a remaining population that no longer bothers to call 9/11 in case of emergency – since more often than not, no one responds. Utterly unable to pay its bills, Detroit is literally self-destructing before our eyes. (As of this writing, 40 percent of the city’s streetlights are broken!)
But there are so many other candidates. Like Chicago, with its legendary murder rate and more legendary corruption rate (four of Illinois’ last seven governors went to prison), not to mention sky-high foreclosures and plummeting home prices. Or Stockton, Calif., the largest U.S. city to go bankrupt last year, with the nation’s highest foreclosure rate and among the five worst cities for unemployment and crime, according to Forbes. Or even New York City, where perversion has become high-culture and taxes are higher than Manhattan’s skyscrapers.
Meanwhile, dozens of other great American cities – from Modesto and Vallejo in the West, to Rockford and St. Louis in the heartland, to Wilmington and Buffalo in the East and Miami and New Orleans in the South – are similarly afflicted.
However, overshadowing all these problems – the crime, the increasing number of people dependent on government handouts and so on – is another parallel trend.
The last few elections have evidenced an extraordinary historic divide between liberal and conservative America. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that, considered as a whole, America’s cities are liberal and the rest of the country is conservative. One glance at any recent electoral red-state/blue-state map makes that conclusion undeniable.
The implications of this trend are nothing short of momentous.
‘Red state, blue city’
In his article in The Atlantic, “Red State, Blue City: How the Urban-Rural Divide Is Splitting America,” journalist Josh Kron describes the evolution of American cities since pre-Civil War times, when the nation’s “political dividing lines were drawn along state and regional borders.” Back then, residents of each state – its city folk and country folk alike – shared a common worldview.
Not anymore. Today, writes Kron, “that divide has vanished”:
The new political divide is a stark division between cities and what remains of the countryside. Not just some cities and some rural areas, either – virtually every major city (100,000-plus population) in the United States of America has a different outlook from the less populous areas that are closest to it. The difference is no longer about where people live, it’s about how people live: in spread-out, open, low-density privacy – or amid rough-and-tumble, in-your-face population density and diverse communities that enforce a lower-common denominator of tolerance among inhabitants.
The voting data suggest that people don’t make cities liberal – cities make people liberal.
That last statement is profound, so let it sink in: “People don’t make cities liberal – cities make people liberal.” More on that later.
Turning to the most recent presidential election, Kron notes that of all the major cities in America, the only ones that went Republican last November were Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth and Salt Lake City: “With its dominant Mormon population, Mitt Romney was a lock in the Utah capital; Phoenix nearly voted for Obama. After that, the largest urban centers to tilt Republican included Wichita, Lincoln, Neb., and Boise.”
So, just how great is this divide between cities and the rest of the population? Kron explains:
The gap is so stark that some of America’s bluest cities are located in its reddest states. Every one of Texas’ major cities – Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio – voted Democratic in 2012, the second consecutive presidential election in which they’ve done so. Other red-state cities that tipped blue include Atlanta, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Birmingham, Tucson, Little Rock, and Charleston, S.C. – ironically, the site of the first battle of the Civil War. In states like Nevada, the only blue districts are often also the only cities, like Reno and Las Vegas.
The problem is that in every state except two, winning a simple majority of electoral votes, or even a plurality of less than 50 percent, means all of that state’s electoral votes go to that candidate. With this “winner-takes-all” system, “a single city can change the entire game,” writes Kron, noting that “Blue cities in swing states that ended up going for Obama include Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Denver, the cities of Florida, and the cities of Ohio.”
Consider Oregon, where I currently live. It reliably goes Democratic in every presidential election cycle. Yet, of this beautiful state’s 36 counties, a large majority – 26 or 27 – are solidly red, and the other few blue. But those few blue counties include the state’s most populous cities, including Portland, Eugene and the capital, Salem, liberal strongholds all. So Oregon as a whole goes blue every time.
It’s the same in state after state across the country. If you look at a red-state/blue-state map of the United States, it’s mostly red. And if you look at a red-county/blue-county map of the U.S., the country looks overwhelmingly red.
2012 county election map
Moreover, despite the traditional pendulum-like tendency of the American electorate to swing from one party to the other in successive presidential races, the “one part of the electoral map” that “has become a crystal clear constant,” concludes Kron’s Atlantic story, is that “cities, year by year, have become drenched in more blue. Everywhere else is that much more red.”
‘The city makes liberals’
The notion that people don’t make cities liberal, but that something about cities makes people liberal, is haunting – mainly because it’s so true. I’ll use myself as an example.
I grew up in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and my parents were Democrats (although a “Democrat” back in the ’50s and ’60s was roughly equivalent to a “Republican” today). I can distinctly remember the impression I had of the “Democrats versus Republicans” divide even as a 6- or 7-year-old child in elementary school in a “blue” area. If I put that child’s “impression” into words, it would go something like this: Democrats are good, caring people who want to help others, while Republicans are selfish, greedy rich people who just want to preserve what they already have, but don’t care about others.
I don’t remember anyone actually spelling it out for me in that way; it seems I just absorbed that belief “out of the air” – from the social atmosphere in which I lived, the only reality I knew.
My “liberal” childhood view of the two political parties could not be blamed on the usual culprits cited by conservatives for liberal brainwashing, like attending a modern secular university and being indoctrinated by unhinged Marxist professors. I was 7. I was simply reflecting the attitudes, feelings and mindset of those around me. That’s how it works.
My childhood home was just outside of D.C., in Montgomery County, Md., one of the most affluent and – especially today – ideologically progressive counties in the nation. To illustrate, Montgomery County has been in the news for passing county ordinances permitting men to frequent women’s restrooms if they “feel” that they are really women – you know, “inside.” Behaviors and “orientations” that a generation ago would have been regarded as both pathological and possibly criminal are today enshrined in law and culture alike. And such upper middle-class suburban communities that serve as enclaves for the federal government’s hundreds of thousands of well-paid employees – most of them liberal – serve as natural proving grounds for such wildly progressive policies.
I spent a lot of time in Montgomery County in the last year or so, following the death of my mother, to help settle her affairs. The area in which I grew up is today filled with many really nice, caring, liberal people. People who feel good about themselves and how caring they are. People whose friends and neighbors are liberals and who barely know any conservatives. People who not only reflexively dismiss conservative ideas, policies or personalities – but who may mock or even demonize them. Much as during my youth in the 1950s, the message permeating the ether now is: Liberals are good, generous, peace-loving, enlightened, tolerant and forward-thinking people, while conservatives are selfish, greedy, ignorant, war-mongering, bigoted gun-nuts.
D.C. is a boom town. In the suburbs, half the cars on the road, it seems, are luxury cars – Mercedes, BMW, Lexis, Acura, Cadillac (many with Obama bumper stickers). Bethesda/Chevy Chase has the largest Mercedes dealership on the eastern seaboard. It even has a Bentley dealership. Bentleys! In my three decades in the Pacific Northwest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Bentley.
This prosperity, of course, is easy to explain: The Washington metro area, including suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, is one of the few regions of the country that right now is doing very well, thank you, even enjoying a red-hot real estate market. That’s because the local industry in that area – namely, government – is thriving and expanding more than any other sector in the country.
To put it bluntly, the whole D.C. metroplex is similar to a gigantic bloated parasite – living off the life and energy (wealth) of the nation, while the rest of the country suffers. Sorry, the truth hurts.
Cities as harbingers
In contemplating our cities’ plight, Americans have been given a gift – a peek into the future, just like that afforded Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ classic, “A Christmas Carol.” We get to see what our future will be like if we don’t change course: Our future is our cities.
If you want to know what America will look like in the future under the “enlightened” leadership of progressive Democrats, look at our big cities, which have been run by progressive Democrats for the last century. The only reason you perhaps haven’t previously heard this damning correlation is that the news media have also been run, for just about as long, by progressive Democrats, and progressives don’t like to publicize their failures.
Although there may be an inherent tendency for large urban areas to reflect a more collectivist outlook – that is, to lean blue – it doesn’t have to be that way. Major cities can be extremely impressive, creative environments, magnificent centers of trade, culture, human cooperation and innovation – without self-destructing and fostering human degradation, but only if basic, proven American principles of freedom remain foremost in those people we entrust to govern us.
The real reason America’s big cities are dragging the rest of the nation kicking and screaming into socialism is that, for decades, those cities have been run by arrogant, power-mad, progressive leftists. Want to know why Detroit looks like a war zone bombed by an enemy power? It’s because it has been run for so long by leaders like former Mayor Coleman Young, who reigned over Detroit for almost two decades. Young was secretly a member of the Communist Party USA – an organization loyal to an enemy power!
What on earth do we expect to happen when, instead of elevating worthy statesmen as leaders, we instead turn our cities over to parasitic unions and plundering politicians dedicated to tearing down everything America has traditionally stood for, everything that has made this nation – including her shining cities – the envy of the world?
What could be worse than turning our thriving metropolises, the engines of civilization and progress, over to corrupt leftist “progressives” – a euphemism for neo-Marxists – with no clue how to run a candy store, let alone a great city? The only thing worse would be to make the same mistake with the entire country – which of course is exactly what we have done in elevating a corrupt Chicago politician and leftist revolutionary to the presidency of the United States of America.
As Daniel Greenfield notes in his article “The American city is dying”: “The Obama administration has won a triumphant victory in imposing the irrational social and economic values of the city on the rest of the country.”
However, Obama’s intended “fundamental transformation” of America is by no means complete. What we’re experiencing right now is much more like a cold civil war. The two warring sides are compellingly described by Boston University professor of international relations Angelo M. Codevilla in his book, “The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It.”
In an analysis so cogent that Rush Limbaugh spent an entire hour on his radio show just reading from it, Codevilla calls the two sides of this great conflict the “ruling class” and the “country class.” The ruling class comprises the political and cultural elite, including the “mainstream press,” the entire Democratic Party and way too much of the Republican Party, i.e., “the Washington establishment.” The country class comprises the totality of real-live, traditionally minded Americans.
Nothing has set the country class apart, defined it, made it conscious of itself, given it whatever coherence it has, so much as the ruling class’s insistence that people other than themselves are intellectually and hence otherwise humanly inferior. Persons who were brought up to believe themselves as worthy as anyone, who manage their own lives to their own satisfaction, naturally resent politicians of both parties who say that the issues of modern life are too complex for any but themselves. Most are insulted by the ruling class’s dismissal of opposition as mere “anger and frustration” – an imputation of stupidity – while others just scoff at the claim that the ruling class’s bureaucratic language demonstrates superior intelligence. …
The country class actually believes that America’s ways are superior to the rest of the world’s, and regards most of mankind as less free, less prosperous, and less virtuous. … This class also takes part in the U.S. armed forces body and soul: nearly all the enlisted, non-commissioned officers and officers under flag rank belong to this class in every measurable way. Few vote for the Democratic Party. You do not doubt that you are amidst the country class rather than with the ruling class when the American flag passes by or “God Bless America” is sung after seven innings of baseball, and most people show reverence. …
The ruling class’s manifold efforts to discredit and drive worship of God out of public life – not even the Soviet Union arrested students for wearing crosses or praying, or reading the Bible on school property, as some U.S. localities have done in response to Supreme Court rulings – convinced many among the vast majority of Americans who believe and pray that today’s regime is hostile to the most important things of all. Every December, they are reminded that the ruling class deems the very word “Christmas” to be offensive. Every time they try to manifest their religious identity in public affairs, they are deluged by accusations of being “American Taliban” trying to set up a “theocracy.” Let members of the country class object to anything the ruling class says or does, and likely as not their objection will be characterized as “religious,” that is to say irrational, that is to say not to be considered on a par with the “science” of which the ruling class is the sole legitimate interpreter. …
The ruling class’s appetite for deference, power, and perks grows. The country class disrespects its rulers, wants to curtail their power and reduce their perks. The ruling class wears on its sleeve the view that the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all stupid. The country class is ever more convinced that our rulers are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The rulers want the ruled to shut up and obey. The ruled want self-governance. The clash between the two is about which side’s vision of itself and of the other is right and which is wrong.
As in all wars, concludes Codevilla, “One side or the other will prevail. The clash is as sure and momentous as its outcome is unpredictable.”
He’s right. Meanwhile, I’ll take the country over the city any day.