“Conservatives should embrace [New Urbanism] too”

The sprawling suburbs have been associated with Republicans for decades but one writer suggests they should embrace New Urbanism:

“Whenever I start mentioning any kind of New Urbanism items — for conservatives and Republicans who I talk to who don’t know me personally — I’m instantly branded a Communist,” said Decker.

Burgess tells me he came to support New Urbanism after he heard James Howard Kunstler’s 2004 TED Talk. During the presentation, Kunstler showed slides of urban and suburban sprawl, and then declared, “These are places that are not worth caring about [and] when we have enough of them, we’re going to have a nation that’s not worth defending.”…

Ironically, government regulation (the tax code, zoning, a federally financed highway system, and so on) helps explain America’s post-WWII push for sprawl. What is more interesting, though, is that conservatives so readily embraced this modern fad as being tantamount to the American dream.

At what cost, nobody can really quantify. There’s no telling how many marriages were broken up over the stress of suburb-to-city commutes — or how many hours of the day children were deprived of their parents who, after all, were in the car making a big sacrifice so that little Johnny could have a huge yard, live in suburbia, go to a supposedly nice school, and have “rugged individualists” as parents. It’s also hard to quantify the spiritual and psychic cost associated with endlessly frustrating commutes, disconnection from a community, and ugly buildings. And there is certainly an economic cost of taxpayers maintaining low-density areas and infrastructure that yield relatively little revenue.

Interesting argument. Based on what I’ve seen in recent years from conservatives about cities, there seem to be two major concerns:

1. Voting patterns in the United States have broken down generally with cities serving as Democratic strongholds, exurbs as Republican bases, and contention over middle suburbs. Thus, cities are simply viewed as homes to Democrats.

2. There is fear that liberals want to take away the suburban way of life (your own land, space between you and your neighbors, a private life) and make conservatives conform in cities.

But, New Urbanism emphasizes the importance of community life, the ability (which may not work as well as advertised) to design a place in such a way to encourage social interaction. This does sound somewhat like the idyllic small towns conservatives talk about, places where people work together and share common values (but generally have less diversity of ideas, peoples, etc.).

Perhaps the real issue here is the “true” definition of being a conservative: is it being more libertarian where people leave each other alone or about creating moral, tight-knit communities?

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