The Younger Generation The Suburbs Have Changed
by Michael Wharton and David Thedens
This attractive collection of essays and interviews about suburbia also illustrates the profoundly changing nature of neighborhood politics in the United States over the past half century. The old two-party politics that underwrote incumbent power and tilted districts in favor of incumbents and incumbents’ political allies has given way to a new compact that sees a greater voice for minority and independent voters in redistricting and elections, and a more direct localism in choosing politicians. Even in cities, where incumbency is still very strong, voters have more opportunities to cast ballots for candidates who say something new, contrast sharply with the past, or respond to the anxieties, demands, and loyalties of our fast-changing communities. One of the most striking and instructive essays is by Michael Wharton, a professor of urban politics at the University of Denver, who looks at how immigrants, minorities, and working-class white voters have reshaped, and reshaped again, American life. The American City is very different from the old-fashioned ”ethnic politics” that once dominated politics in inner cities, and this group of authors demonstrates the many ways that new voting practices and new constituencies have reshaped the American cities.
This book focuses on the impact of social and demographic shifts on politics and government, but its underlying thesis is that we are living in an inescapable new and changing city, and that the only way to adapt to this new reality is to produce new institutions and govern them from a different perspective than has been the case in the past. For example, new technologies have led to extensive and innovative use of telecommunications and the Internet in governmental work. In some cases, a serious attempt has been made to articulate a ”common political language” that applies to all communities and that provides the mechanisms for voter and voter-city connections in the future. We increasingly live in a city, and cities are becoming ever more interdependent, especially when geographical, demographic, and demographic variables are taken into account.