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Fwd: 2008 Field Sprouts Rootless Candidates

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  • Greg Cannon
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9, 2007
      --- Julie Keller <jakeller@...> wrote:

      > To: utepprogressives@yahoogroups.com
      > From: "Julie Keller" <jakeller@...>
      > Date: Fri, 09 Feb 2007 10:40:15 -0000
      > Subject: [utepprogressives] 2008 Field Sprouts
      > Rootless Candidates
      > http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0207/
      > 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
      > everywhere.
      > 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
      > base.
      > 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
      > history.
      > 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
      > Michigan.
      > 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
      > welcome
      > 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
      > "geographical
      > 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
      > conservatives?"
      > 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
      > California,
      > 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
      > and
      > 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,
      > politically
      > competitive all, the old labels -- and geographic
      > identity -- still
      > matter.
      > 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."
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