Sunday, November 09, 2008

How Obama Won the Archetypal American Suburb

The famous creator of the prototypical middle class bedroom community of the 50's & 60's (whose company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year) once said of the culture he helped mass produce:
As a Jew, I have no room in my mind or heart for racial prejudice .... But, by various means, I have come to know that if we sell one house to a Negro family, then 90 to 95 percent of our white customers will not buy into the community. That is their attitude, not ours.
From that bad faith, jump to today's NY Times' piece on how that suburban culture helped elect the first African American president last Tuesday:
McCain’s message, to the extent it was received at all, irritated them. The Democrats of Levittown did not defect — they stayed in the fold, and then some. Over all, in the four municipalities that Levittown spans, Obama got a slightly higher percentage than John Kerry did in 2004, and because of higher turnout, emerged with a 3,200-vote greater margin of victory. (Levittown is defined by ZIP codes and Levitt-built homes, but is not its own incorporated town. Large parts of it extend into towns with large white working-class populations — Bristol, Middletown and Falls Townships, as well as Tullytown Borough — but it does not make up the entirety of any of those places. In those four jurisdictions, Obama defeated McCain, 41,110 to 25,034 — contributing to his resounding 11-percentage-point victory in Pennsylvania) ....

What had changed for Mr. Obama? The financial meltdown obviously made a huge difference. Five more months of exposure to him, and his millions of dollars worth of advertisements, engendered a comfort level. And Iraq, to a much greater extent than the pre-election polls implied, mattered. Nearly every Obama voter I talked to mentioned it, and many linked it to the economy.
If Levittown, Pennsylvania (which in 1957 tried to stone and threatened to bomb a black couple who moved in) can support an African American president, why can't suburban Tennessee?

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