Recent comments from Hillary Clinton praising American “places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward” leads to this comparison between “trickle-down” and “stagnant” Americas:
This is a different way of categorizing the stark urban and rural political divides of recent years. Yet, it also highlights a key issue simmering within the leading cities and metropolitan areas that are so important to American life: who really benefits in the major cities? Are the high levels of innovation, growth, development, and cultural excitement accessible to all urban residents or do the spoils disproportionately go to the top?Inequality cuts across multiple strata of society. Certainly there are stark differences within cities as well as between urban and rural areas. I’ll add a third area that complicates the story above (though these are likely lumped in with the Trickle-Down America segment): the inequality present in American suburbs. Even as the majority of Americans live in suburbs and seem to have achieved the American Dream of suburban life, life outcomes can differ dramatically across suburban communities.
Over the past 40 or so years, the U.S. has been fragmenting into two parallel societies, which I’ll call Trickle-Down America and Stagnant America. Each one looks upon the other with suspicion and hostility. Trickle-Down America is the America of our biggest metropolitan areas, and it is defined by comparatively high levels of density, diversity, and economic inequality. Importantly, the richest people in Trickle-Down America are typically white, while the service-sector workers who enable them to work longer hours are disproportionately brown and black. Stagnant America can be found in rural regions, small cities and towns, and outer suburbs across the country. This America is largely white and relatively equal, though it too is scarred by poverty, particularly among Hispanics and blacks. America’s most and least educated workers are concentrated in Trickle-Down America, while Stagnant America is home to most of America’s working- and middle-class white voters.
Is Trickle-Down America morally superior to Stagnant America? A good starting point is to reflect on the sources of Trickle-Down America’s wealth. In New York City, my hometown, the local economy has long been dominated by the financial-services sector, which has grown mightily in recent decades. Has the financialization of the U.S. economy been an unadulterated good for the country as a whole? There are many thoughtful people who’d argue otherwise. Indeed, some argue that rents flowing to the financial sector have badly distorted the U.S. economy, and have contributed to the devastation of tradeable sector employment in Stagnant America. Corporations headquartered in America’s cosmopolitan cities have profited immensely from the emergence of a globalized division of labor. Yet many of these same multinationals have pioneered tax-avoidance strategies that have made it harder for the federal government to compensate those who’ve lost out with globalization, all while deploying their considerable influence to get the U.S. government to pressure other countries to adopt intellectual-property protections that serve their interests. And then there is the federal government itself, and its vast, growing army of private administrative proxies—contractors, non-profits dependent on public subsidies, and the like—that has helped make Washington, D.C., and its environs one of the country’s most affluent and educated regions. It’s hard to disentangle exactly how much of Trickle-Down America’s success relative to Stagnant America is a product of straightforward rent-seeking. I certainly doubt that it accounts for all of it, or even most. But surely it accounts for some, and that should give Trickle-Down America’s champions pause.
One important thing to keep in mind is that Trickle-Down America is, overall, characterized by more stringent land-use limits than Stagnant America. These limits have raised housing costs in affluent coastal regions, which has redounded to the benefit of incumbent homeowners. Yet high housing costs have deterred inward domestic migration while driving out large numbers of working-and middle-class residents…
For now, though, Trickle-Down America’s affluent professionals find themselves in a sweet spot, which surely accounts for some of Clinton’s triumphalism. The food is better. Beautiful old houses are being renovated everywhere you turn. An abundance of low-wage immigrant labor adds diversity and dynamism to cosmopolitan cities, yet the noncitizen working class isn’t in a position to press for a more egalitarian social order—one that could prove discomfiting for local elites. Best of all, opposition to Trump is helping to obscure simmering discontent over Trickle-Down America’s business model.
What makes this suburban inequality more interesting for the realm of politics is how is affects voting: areas generally closer to the big city or with demographics more like the big city vote Democrat and wealthier communities and areas further out in regions vote Republicans. Will these same sort of voting cleavages arise in rural areas in cities as various inequalities receive more attention?
Much was made of the effective use of big data by Barack Obama’s campaigns. That analytic advantage didn’t help the Clinton campaign:
Clinton can be paranoid and self-destructively self-protective, but she’s also capable of assessing her own deficiencies as a politician in a bracingly clear-eyed way. And the conclusion that she drew from her 2008 defeat was essentially an indictment of her own management style: Eight years earlier, she had personally presided over a talented, sloppy, squabbling, sprawling menagerie of pals, longtime advisers and hangers-on who somehow managed to bungle the building of a basic political infrastructure to oppose Obama’s efficient, data-driven operation.
To do so, Mook hired a buddy who had helped Terry McAuliffe squeak out a win in the 2014 Virginia governor’s race: Elan Kriegel, a little-known data specialist who would, in many ways, exert more influence over the candidate than any of all-star team of veteran consultants. Kriegel’s campaign-within-a-campaign conducted dozens of targeted surveys—to test messaging and track voter sentiment day-by-day, especially in battleground states—and fed them into a computer algorithm, which ran hundreds of thousands of simulations that were used to steer ad spending, the candidate’s travel schedule, even the celebrities Clinton would invite to rallies.
The data operation, five staffers told me, was the source of Mook’s power within the campaign, and a source of perpetual tension: Many of Clinton’s top consultants groused that Mook and Kriegel withheld data from them, balking at the long lead time—a three-day delay—between tracking reports. A few of them even thought Mook was cherry-picking rosy polling to make the infamously edgy Clinton feel more confident…
In numerous interviews conducted throughout the campaign, Clinton staffers attested to Mook’s upbeat attitude and mastery of detail. But, in the end, Brooklyn simply failed to predict the tidal wave that swamped Clinton—a pro-Trump uprising in rural and exurban white America that wasn’t reflected in the polls—and his candidate failed to generate enough enthusiasm to compensate with big turnouts in Detroit, Milwaukee and the Philadelphia suburbs.
It would be fascinating to hear more. The pollsters didn’t get it right – but neither did the Clinton campaign internally?
The real question is what this will do to future campaigns. Was Donald Trump’s lack of campaign infrastructure and reliance on celebrity and media coverage (also highlighted nicely in the article above) something that others can or will replicate? Or, would the close margins in this recent presidential election highlight even more the need for finely-tuned data and microtargeting? I’m guessing the influence of big data in campaigns will only continue but data will only get you so far if it (1) isn’t great data in the first place and (2) people know how to use it well.
Melding political, social media, and urban analysis, a look at Hillary Clinton’s Facebook fans has an interesting geographic dimension:
Hillary Clinton’s Facebook pages have an unexpected fan base. At least 7 percent of Clinton’s Facebook fans list their hometown as Baghdad, way more than any other city in the world, including in the United States.
Vocativ’s exclusive analysis of Clinton’s Facebook fan statistics yielded a number of surprises. Despite her reputation as an urban Democrat favored by liberal elites, Iraqis and southerners are more likely to be a Facebook fan of Hillary than people living on America’s coasts. And the Democratic candidate for president has one of her largest followings in the great red-state of Texas.
While Chicago and New York City, both with 4 per cent of fans, round out the top three cities for Hillary’s Facebook base, Texas’ four major centers—Houston (3 percent), Dallas (3 percent), Austin (2 percent) and San Antonio (2 percent)—contain more of her Facebook supporters. Los Angeles with 3 percent of her fans, and Philadelphia and Atlanta, each with 2 percent, round out the Top 10 cities for Facebook fans of Hillary.
On a per capita basis, in which Vocativ compared a town’s population to percentage of Hillary’s likes, people living in cities and towns in Texas, Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, North Carolina and Wisconsin were the most likely to be her fans on Facebook than any other American residents.
This hints at the broader knowledge we might gain from social media and should beg the question of how this information could be well used. I imagine this information could be used for political ends. Is this a curiosity? Is this something the Clinton campaign would want to change? Would this influence the behavior of other voters? The article itself is fairly agnostic about what this means.
This sounds like data mining and here is how the company behind this – Vocativ – describes its mission:
Vocativ is a media and technology venture that explores the deep web to discover original stories, hidden perspectives, emerging trends, and unheard voices from around the world. Our audience is the young, diverse, social generation that wants to share what’s interesting and what’s valuable. We reach them with a visual language, wherever they are naturally gathering…
Our proprietary technology, Verne, allows us to search and monitor the deep web to spot breaking news quickly, and discover stories that otherwise might not be told. Often we know what we’re looking for, such as witnesses near the front lines of a conflict or data related to an emerging political movement. We also uncover unexpected information, like pro-gun publications giving away assault rifles to fans of their Facebook pages.
Is this the Freakonomicization of journalism?
While it is interesting to note that sitting presidents tend to lead in Gallup’s “Most Admired Lists,” two other things immediately struck me when looking at the tables:
1. There is a relatively big gap between #1 for most admired man and woman and everyone else. This year, President Obama is at 17% and his next closest competitor is at 3% while Hillary Clinton is also at 17% and her next competitor is at 7%. Since Gallup asks this as an open-ended question (exact phrasing: “What man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?”), it suggests that people name famous people, particularly types who are likely to be in the news a lot and whose positions are notable. If this is the case, is this really a survey about who is most admired or more about who is most well-known?
2. The leaders in each category are only at 17% and their competitors are quite a ways back. This could lead to several suggestions. Perhaps Americans don’t think in these terms much. For men, 32% said none or had no opinion and for women, 29% said none or had no opinion. Additionally, when asked about men 9% said a friend or relative and 12% said the same when asked about women. Even the current President is only most admired by 17%, suggesting that Americans are not necessarily looking to admire their political leaders. Another possible explanation might be that there is a wide range of admirable famous people in the United States. For men, the top 10 only account for 31% of responses though the top 10 females account for 47% of responses. This might reflect the lesser number of women in positions of power or leadership so more attention is focused on a select few.
This leads me to think that this poll may not really not tell us much about anything. Those selected as admired have relatively low figures, certain positions in society lead to being selected, and there are clear leaders but then also a mass of closely-admired figures.
UPDATE 12/28/11 10:11 PM – There seems to be similar variability in a recent poll that asked Americans which celebrity they most wanted to live next door. Also:
The majority of surveyed adults (42 percent) said they did not want to live next to any celebrities. “As a voyeuristic culture that breathlessly tracks every celebrity movement, it’s extremely surprising to see so many Americans saying they wouldn’t like to live next to any celebrity at all,” said Zillow Chief Marketing Officer Amy Bohutinsky. “In fact, more people opted out of a celebrity neighbor in 2012 than in any of the past years we’ve run this poll.”
Perhaps Americans are more tired of famous people this year?