Thursday, August 11, 2005

Lubbock, Texas is 2nd Most “Conservative” City

According to this study, my former home and birthplace of Lubbock, Texas is the second most conservative city in the U.S.
At first, I was intrigued by the study that purports to list the most conservative and most liberal cities in the country wondering what criteria they used to make these ideological determinations. Unfortunately, all they did was look at the 2004 voting records and assigned the “conservative” label to cities that voted heavily for Bush and the “liberal” label to those that voted for Kerry. (Yawn) So it really doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know.
But just for fun, here is the list they came up with:

Top 10 Liberal Cities:
1) Detroit, Michigan
2) Gary, Indiana
3) Berkeley, California
4) Washington, D.C.
5) Oakland, California
6) Inglewood, California
7) Newark, New Jersey
8) Cambridge, Massachusetts
9) San Francisco, California
10) Flint, Michigan

Top 10 Conservative Cities:
1) Provo, Utah
2) Lubbock, Texas
3) Abilene, Texas
4) Hialeah, Florida
5) Plano, Texas
6) Colorado Springs, Colorado
7) Gilbert, Arizona
8) Bakersfield, California
9) Lafayette, Louisiana
10) Orange, California

Out of 237 cities in the survey, San Antonio ranks as the 64th most conservative and 175th most liberal. Austin, by contrast, ranks as the 145th most conservative and 93rd most liberal.
Of course, these rankings would have been very different had the Republicans been running a non-Texan at the top of their ticket, which just shows the weakness of the methodology used in this so-called study.

Still, I find it amusing that I have lived and worked in some of the most conservative places in the country and despite the fact that my demographic makeup would place me squarely in the middle of the conservative fold (white, middle-aged, male, married), I have maintained a decidely liberal outlook on life.

The authors of the study make a big point about the racial makeup distinguishing the cities in each group - with the liberal cities having large black populations and the conservative ones being mostly white. They go on to make a lot of observations about why this is - mostly things we have heard before. But the thing that has intrigued me lately is why this continues to matter and how long it can last.
It is a historical fact that the Civil Rights movement drove most conservative southerners out of the Democratic Party and into the welcoming arms of the Republicans. But surely this should start to settle out over time as the initial shock of desegregation wanes from one generation to the next. I would hope that my children are less inclined to have hangups over race than I do just as I have had less than my parents.
Indeed, I would think that most people would not consider race as a primary factor in their choice of a political party today. Still, we have this obvious political divide that simple surveys like this highlight.

Having lived in very conservative communities such as Lubbock and Kerrville (even more conservative than Lubbock had it been included in the list) I truly believe it is not outside the realm of possibility for there to be a major political shift in the near future. If you look around Lubbock at some of the nearby communities you find places with names like Roosevelt and New Deal and you begin to realize that this area used to be a Democratic stronghold just a few generations back. And then you realize that things haven’t changed that much - the area is highly dependent on government programs like agricultural subsidies for cotton and federal emergency relief funds that helped rebuild much of the downtown area after a massive tornado tore through the city in the early 1970s.
As Republicans continue to demonstrate at both the federal and state level that they are incapable of governing in an efficient manner (ballooning federal deficits and a stagnant economy - two special sessions and still no clue as to how to adequately fund public education) their support among the highly practical people who live in these areas is going to erode and no amount of terror alerts is going to scare them back into the fold.

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