I know this article on race and progressive cities has taken a lot of criticism, but its central observation – that liberal policies and homogeneous cities are closely correlated – seems pretty intuitive. Progressives frequently argue that American hostility to redistribution stems from lingering racial anxiety. Conservatives are less eager to blame our welfare policies on straightforward racism, but many will argue that Scandinavian-style social democracy won’t work in the United States because we lack similar levels of cultural homogeneity. Either way, there seems to be a universal consensus that people from similar backgrounds are more amenable to redistributive policies.
So is it really surprising that small, predominantly white cities like Portland or Denver are more liberal than their larger, ethnically diverse counterparts? Or does this observation confirm something we’ve already suspected? It makes intuitive sense that progressive policies like zoning restrictions or environmental regulations rest on some sort of shared consensus about what constitutes “the good life.” And cities like Portland are not only more homogeneous than New York or DC or Cleveland; their reputation as liberal havens also attracts a greater number of people predisposed to support progressive policies. Voluntary self-segregation is a depressing prospect, but I don’t think that the rise of The Progressive White City should shock anyone.