Fwd: 2008 Field Sprouts Rootless Candidates
- --- Julie Keller <jakeller@...> wrote:
> To: email@example.com
> From: "Julie Keller" <jakeller@...>
> Date: Fri, 09 Feb 2007 10:40:15 -0000
> Subject: [utepprogressives] 2008 Field Sprouts
> Rootless Candidates
> The 2008 presidential campaign has already produced
> the next
> generation of American politicians. They don't have
> local accents.
> That's because they don't have local roots. Nor do
> they boast legions
> of home-state friends, teachers and mentors who have
> spent years
> waiting for the proud day when their talented native
> son or daughter
> would run for president.
> These are the candidates from nowhere -- or
> With the race still in its early stages, the top
> tier of contenders in
> both parties is filled with people who reflect a new
> brand of
> post-regional politics. These candidates convey no
> distinct sense of
> place in either their personal style or political
> Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain are the
> prototype examples. In
> both cases, they represent states where they had
> scant personal
> history until they settled there to run for office.
> Barack Obama and Mitt Romney also reflect the trend.
> The Illinois
> senator, vying with Clinton for the Democratic
> nomination, was born in
> Hawaii and raised there and in Indonesia before
> settling in Chicago
> after an Ivy League education in New York and
> Boston. Republican
> Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, grew up
> in Michigan, and
> established his national profile by running the
> Winter Olympic Games
> in Utah.
> Not one of these major politicians represents the
> state where they
> grew up or have family history -- a new chapter in
> modern political
> Among the first-rung candidates, only Democrat John
> Edwards of North
> Carolina and Republican Rudy Giuliani of New York
> are defined in the
> public mind vividly by where they are from. In both
> cases, these
> politicians have personal stories inextricably
> linked to their home
> states -- a fact amplified by thick and unmistakable
> regional accents.
> Until recently, this type of politician was the
> norm. Bill Clinton,
> for instance, was seasoned and deep-fried in his
> native Arkansas, and
> his personal story of growing up in "a place called
> Hope" (not to
> mention Hot Springs) was an important part of how he
> presented himself
> to national voters in 1992.
> But 2008 is showing how the old assumptions about
> politics and
> regional identity are fading fast.
> "There have been huge homogenizing influences of
> America in last 50
> years," said Robert Lang, co-director of Virginia
> Tech's Metropolitan
> Institute and a professor of urban affairs and
> planning. "Everything
> that was a local brand is now nationalized." That
> includes politicians
> no less than beer and department stores.
> In an earlier era, a candidate without thick local
> roots would have
> been at a distinct disadvantage trying to climb onto
> a national stage
> without a base of regional supporters, fellow
> politicians and donors.
> These days, the opposite may be true: Politicians
> with a muted
> geographical identity may be better positioned to
> compete in parts of
> the country -- including fast-growing swing states
> like Nevada and
> Florida -- where most folks are originally from
> somewhere else.
> The 2008 candidates "represent the experience of a
> lot of Americans,"
> said William Frey, a demographer and visiting fellow
> at the Brookings
> Institution. "They're living now in a different
> place than where they
> grew up."
> A generation ago, if you learned that a candidate
> like Romney was a
> Harvard-educated Bostonian, it was a safe guess that
> he would be a
> lace-curtain Irishman like John F. Kennedy or a
> Brahmin in the
> tradition of the Cabots or Lodges. In his case,
> though, his father was
> a former automotive executive who became governor of
> A black pol from Chicago's South Side? Twenty years
> ago, that would
> most likely have been a first- or second-generation
> transplant up from
> Mississippi who paid his dues in the city's
> legendary ward politics.
> Think former Mayor Harold Washington. Obama,
> however, came to Chicago
> to lead voter registration efforts, practice law and
> teach at the
> University of Chicago's law school. His wife,
> Michelle, is from the city.
> A female New York lawyer? Once that would have been
> an ambitious
> ethnic pol from one of the outer boroughs like
> former Reps Elizabeth
> Holtzman, Bella Abzug or Geraldine Ferraro. Clinton,
> of course, broke
> many molds by running for office as a sitting first
> lady, and she was
> helped by the historic willingness of New Yorkers to
> outsiders, as they did with Robert Kennedy in 1964.
> McCain faced his own carpetbagging criticism when he
> first ran for a
> House seat in 1982, entering a crowded GOP primary
> field. He swatted
> the critics away with one good line: "When I think
> about it, I guess
> the place I've lived the longest was Hanoi."
> It didn't hurt that the state McCain happened to
> move to was and still
> is experiencing explosive growth thanks to snowbirds
> fleeing the
> chilly climes of the Midwest and Californians
> seeking their fortune in
> the less-crowded, less-expensive desert to the east.
> Romney arguably has a more solid claim on his
> Massachusetts ties.
> Despite his Michigan roots and undergraduate work at
> Stanford and
> Brigham Young University, Romney came to Cambridge
> for a joint MBA/JD
> in the 1970s and stayed. Still, there was no lack of
> buzz about his
> seeking office in Utah after he took over the Salt
> Lake City Olympic
> Games. In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune in
> 2001, Romney
> acknowledged his desire to run but appeared
> conflicted about where to
> launch his political career. Somewhere between the
> poles" of Utah and Massachusetts, he said vaguely
> when asked in which
> state it would be. He'll underscore the point next
> week when he makes
> his official announcement -- at the Henry Ford
> museum in Dearborn, Mich.
> To Charles Mahtesian, editor of the indispensable
> Almanac of American
> Politics, the four politicians represent "the next
> iteration" in the
> broad sweep of the American story.
> "John F. Kennedy was an expression of the
> Northeastern Catholic
> experience. Ronald Reagan was one of the many
> Midwesterners who sought
> their fortune in California. Place figured very
> prominently in their
> experiences and aspirations, as it did for many
> voters," said
> Mahtesian. "But place is no longer as relevant to
> the American
> narrative and that's reflected in the backgrounds of
> the current
> presidential front-runners ... The candidates
> reflect the mobility of
> the voters."
> To these rootless voters, a candidate's race, region
> and ethnicity
> matter less than their ideas and ideology, says Joel
> Kotkin, an author
> and close observer of American demography.
> "Where a person is from is much less important than
> what they believe
> and what their tastes are," he said. "Do they care
> about gay rights,
> environmental issues, or are they Christian
> Those, Kotkin says, are the new litmus tests. It's
> how most Americans,
> politically at least, are now identified. It doesn't
> exactly matter if
> you live in an exurb in California or Colorado or
> Georgia or if your
> college town is Berkeley, Boulder or Athens. It's
> precisely that you
> live in a McMansion surrounded by chain retail or a
> cozy cottage
> within walking distance of the local dives around
> campus that is what
> defines you.
> Such homogenizing is most evident among wealthy
> Americans, says
> Kotkin, and the candidates, all elites in their own
> way, reflect their
> donor base.
> "Much of the American elite is no longer
> place-based," Kotkin notes.
> "They might live in New York, Los Angeles or even
> Chicago, but they
> are of no place themselves."
> They travel around the globe, have homes all over
> the country and care
> more about the issues of the world and nation than
> those in their own
> backyard. Kotkin, himself a New York transplant in
> mentions two examples close to home to underscore
> his point:
> philanthropy and reading habits.
> The moneyed set in Southern California will "still
> give money to
> Cedars-Sinai (hospital), but are just as likely to
> give to something
> in New York or to Harvard" or overseas, he says.
> And, with home
> delivery of national papers and the presence of the
> internet, Angeleno
> elites have little need for the Los Angeles Times
> when The Wall Street
> Journal, Financial Times and New York Times are
> available either on
> the driveway or on their computer screens.
> As with their economic lessers, the rich also fall
> into camps
> categorized by their worldview and ideology. So
> feminist and
> baby-boomer elites will likely identify with
> Clinton, and the younger
> rich (black and white) will probably help Obama.
> MBAs can relate to
> Romney, and those with military experience will feel
> a kinship to
> McCain. There will, of course, be exceptions to all
> cross-pollination in the different camps, but the
> leanings will be
> categorized by these new identifiers.
> To be sure, parts of the country remain tied to the
> old standbys. As
> Frey, the Brookings demographer, points out, there
> are swing states in
> both the "old" and "new" America. Thanks to its
> status as a retirement
> mecca, Florida is, as ranked by percent of
> population over 65, the
> "oldest" state in America. But the next three oldest
> are very
> different. In Pennsylvania, Iowa and West Virginia,
> competitive all, the old labels -- and geographic
> identity -- still
> Voters, Frey says, in fast-growing swing states like
> Florida or Nevada
> or Arizona "are more understanding of carpetbagging
> politicians" with
> amorphous identities. "They'll be much more
> accepting of these
> non-rooted candidates."