Blue Heartland

· Among the Barbarians

“We officially no longer give a shit when family farms fail. Fewer family farms equal fewer rural voters.” (The Urban Archipelago, It’s the Cities, Stupid., by The Editors of The Stranger (11/11/04))
Whoa Nellie! The heartland isn’t as red as it might appear. Take Fresno. Please. The former Raisin Capital of the World is now a city of 457, 652. And they voted blue (54.4%). This heartland of American agriculture where family farms churn out steak and eggs, milk, cotton, rice, almonds, and a hundred other edibles for domestic and foreign markets, is no more a conservative stronghold than is Oakland (pop. 399, 484) in the blue heart of the Bay Area. I don’t know how to parse this information except to say that what’s happening in the crimson center of the Golden State may be the future of farmland America.

Why cater to exurbanites?

· Among the Barbarians

It’s the Greeks versus the Romans. This editorial from the Stranger (The Urban Archipelago, It’s the Cities, Stupid., by The Editors of The Stranger (11/11/04)) makes it clear:
The Democrats are party of cities.
The Republicans are the party of the heartland.
Grow our base, say the editors of the Stranger. Press urban issues. If the nation can be ruled from the hinterland, why can’t it be ruled by city-states (aka Blue States)?
Target the most urban red states, for example, and grow their activist and voting population in its cities.
Push issues that matter to cities and ignore rural problems, they say, in their cold urban stylee:

If red-state dads aren’t concerned enough about their own children to put trigger locks on their own guns, it’s not our problem. If a kid in a red state finds his daddy’s handgun and blows his head off, we’ll feel terrible (we’re like that), but we’ll try to look on the bright side: At least he won’t grow up to vote like his dad.

Conservative label poised for stigma

· Among the Barbarians

Liberals often complain that the liberal “brand” has become sullied by its relentless tarring from the right as the philosophy of weakness, equivocation, elitism, wastefulness, and self-delusion.
This is nothing new. Kennedy had to defend the term liberal long before Dukakis danced around it. Kerry ducked it and couldn’t resist the liberals’ favorite sophist tactic: “You’re not even really conservative.” (OK, he actually said “‘compassionate Conservative’ … what does that really mean?” but his point was the same)
In Yes, These Are Conservatives at MyDD, Chris Bowers turns the whole thing on its head at last.
Stop saying “these people are not true conservatives.” Stop trying to sell liberalism as the natural response to honest bedrock conservatism. Accept that the meaning of the label conservative has also changed, and that it’s poised for ruin.
Conservatives now control two branches of the federal government, a majority of statehouses, and a plurality of state legislatures. Their grip on the judicial branch has strengthened.
Over the course of the next two to four years (and beyoond), the liberal opposition headquartered in the Democratic party should be prepared to point out the weakness, equivocation, elitism, wastefulness, and dishonesty of the ruling conservative ideology.

Patient Earth & Dr. California

· Among the Barbarians

[hot earth]Out here on the Left Coast things are looking curiouser and curioser. Detroit is threatening to sue us for requiring cars in California to pollute less. Do they really care that much? Yes, because four other states peg their auto emission standards to California’s, and three more intend to follow suit. And why does California get to regulate its air quality instead of the feds? Because we passed a Clean Air law first.
But that’s not the main story. The reason the California Air Resources Board passed the higher emissions standard was to address the problem of global warming. With 35 million people driving two cars each (statistically) Californian’s contribute a lot of global warming gases to the world’s air. But Detroit (as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Bush Administration) is not convinced about this climate-change thing.
As reported in The New York Times the president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers representing everybody but Nissan and Honda doubted the reality of global warming. “I come from Maine” he said “and we had one of the coldest winters on record….It was very very cold.” So, not to worry folks!
Rain in Maine doesn’t help us much out West, however. In an attempt to briefly describe what rising temperatures would mean in California, the Times reporter, Danny Hakim, fashions a poetic – if weirdly inaccurate – vision of our demise:
“Higher temperatures impede the state’s battle with smog and can worsen forest fires,” he writes. “They also contribute to the early melting of mountain snow, which can lead to winter flooding and less water runoff for crop irrigation in the spring, threatening the state’s $3.2 billion wine industry.”
I think Danny may be worried about his supply of Napa merlot. He should be more worried about where his next salad is coming from. Forget the wine industry. That “runoff” from the melting Sierra Nevada snow in the spring fills the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers which feed thousands of miles of cement aquaducts and reservoirs of the gargantuan water network irrigating California’s 6 million acres of farmland. The state’s farm industry (largely fresh fruits and vegetables and cow products) is worth at least $20 billion a year.
Then there’s the rising sea level problem which could, according to the article, “threaten coastlines and … contaminate the state’s fresh water supply.” I’m not sure how rising sea level threaten’s the water supply. I suppose it could make groundwater wells along the coast saltier. Believe me, it’s the snow pack we watch with hawk eyes.
California is just the canary in the coal mine here. The California Air Board is taking the threat of a heating planet seriously. One of its members put it like this, “The patient here is the earth and its habitants. The treatment option is here before us today.”

American Emperor

· Among the Barbarians

Some call it the Left Coast and others dismiss it as a fantastical realm of gurus and gayness but today I want you to think of it as the birthplace of the Republican Emperor on this the officially declared day of mourning for Ronald Reagan, late president of the Empire and former governor of the Barbarians.
But, you say, Reagan was born in Illinois, in the heartland of the Empire. True, but the myth of Reagan, the hero of the well-shod and down trodden, was born in the West. Those were not wingtips but custom-made cowboy boots hanging from the stirrups in his funeral parade.
The Reagan eulogies tend to skip his governorship but the Barbarians cannot forget it – from his inaugural swipe at the inadequacies of the governor’s mansion to his siccing of the National Guard on his unruly subjects. Even the Giant Redwoods felt his scorn, “If you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all,” he jovially declared in a photo op with lumber company executives. And they do tend to look the same as stacks of two-by-fours.
He ruled us but he could not tame us. Besides, if you want to have real power you must rule the Empire – not its hinterland. Even though that hinterland is a land of empires (Disney, Silicon and the Great Central valleys).
So we watch, some with nostalgia, some with pride, others with amused annoyance, the gilding of the Reagan funeral lilies by an American Emperor wiping the flop sweat from his momentarily relieved brow – he can relax for as long as the eulogies hog the front pages. Then it’s back to the disasters of his flailing foreign campaign.
And for those who have forgotten the political roots of this cherished champion of American Enterprise you might just want to rent an old movie for a preview of Emperors to come… it’s called “Conan the Barbarian.”
[Conan the Republican]