Greening the Left

Tycoons will pay to generate leftist ideas in voters' minds, but now they want to see results

This effort was cited in some 2004 newspaper articles as an important contribution to the high Democratic voter turnout among youth.

During the current political off-season, however, Droller says musicians and financial backers are hard to round up.

"There's musician fatigue. There's donor fatigue," he says.

For Vast Left Wing Conspiracy 2.0, an even greater worry is America's real-life -- as opposed to the Democratic operative think-tank version of a -- massive conservative message matrix.

Ironically, Bai made brief reference to this phenomenon in his "conspiracy" article, in which he nonetheless argued that the real action in American ideological evolution takes place in right-wing think tanks.

"The Democratic Party has seen an exodus of the white working-class men who were once their most reliable voters. In the suburbs according to the Democratic pollster Mark Penn, the percentage of white men supporting the party has plummeted 16 points just since Bill Clinton left office," Bai wrote.

That shouldn't have been surprising. According to a USA Todaysurvey, population growth in the largely big-city-hosting counties won by Al Gore in 2000 was 5 percent. In rural, exurban, and suburban Bush Country, population growth was 14 percent, a trend that will likely add more Republicans to the House of Representatives with every passing election.

"I don't know what it is about urban life that makes people more progressive than suburban life," says Seitz Gruwell.

The suburbs' role as a breeding ground for conservative messages isn't terribly mysterious. Out in the cul-de-sacs, perceived quality of life is elevated when individual property rights are maximized, taxes lowered, government diminished, and ethnic, religious, and economic diversity cordoned away. More time is spent in private backyards than in parks, and it's not unusual for someone to go through life and rarely encounter anyone outside his own ethnicity and social status.

In cities, people tend to appreciate to some extent the sort of human social interdependence that is the philosophical root of the U.S. Democratic Party's ideals: the elevation of the public sphere as a potential font of good, a "live and let live" embrace of diversity, and an appreciation for things everybody shares in common -- rather than hoards in private -- such as the environment, public spaces, and government institutions and services. In a dense city, gay, straight, Chinese, and white mothers, fathers, children, and single adults encounter one another in the subway, on crowded sidewalks, and in the park. The quality of their lives depends upon public services such as schools, health care, libraries, and museums.

For these reasons it's foolish for rich liberals and their followers to explain away America's growing tide of conservatism as the result of a vast, well-financed propaganda ploy. America's growing legion of conservative exurbanites isn't comprised of rubes duped by Fox News. These people vote their interests. Facing up to that fact, and building a political movement to grow Americas cities, is a task at least as complicated and difficult as politically proselytizing America's youth. And it wouldn't be nearly as fun.

But in the spirit of Silicon Valley venture capitalism, in which investors finance myriad ideas to see if any of them will stick, maybe it's worth a try.

Perhaps 20 years from now, attractive, ambitious Republican youngsters will fretfully mingle with conservative magnates, wondering how on earth they can conquer the 200 million-person Democratic urban message machine.

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