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Monday, Nov. 12, 2007

Leftyville USA

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Now there is further evidence that some terrifying epidemic of Leftycoccus is spreading through our suburbs, tragically crippling the ability of traditionally conservative residents to keep their minds firmly closed to all progressive political thought.

Attorney Dennis McBride comes from a generally progressive political family, with the exception of a dark-side ewe who recently reinvented herself as a fledgling right-wing talk-show host.

McBride lives in the western Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. At one time, Wauwatosa actually put into writing restrictive covenants in its deeds to prevent property from ever being sold to African Americans or Jews.

McBride is eager to report that Wauwatosa led the way on Nov. 7 to replace right-wing extremist state Sen. Tom Reynolds with Democratic Wauwatosa Ald. Jim Sullivan, a key election in shifting control of the state Senate from the Republicans to the Democrats.

But there`s even stronger evidence of dramatic political change in the suburbs, McBride says.

Wauwatosans also voted 57% to 43% in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and 52% to 47% against reinstating the death penalty in Wisconsin.

Even the emotionally overwrought issue of amending the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage passed by only the slimmest of margins in Wauwatosa with 51% voting for the amendment and 49% voting against.

Clearly, some kind of revolution is afoot when suburbanites are evenly split on whether to hate gay people. Like, just maybe, there might actually be gay couples living right in their neighborhoods. Suburbanites may even know such people or, gulp, have them in their own families.

Invasion of Tolerance

There are other examples of creeping open-mindedness in the suburbs. Belling was right about Whitefish Bay.

In 2002, the North Shore suburb of Whitefish Bay voted for Republicans Scott McCallum over Jim Doyle for governor, Vince Biskupic over Peg Lautenschlager for attorney general and immigrant-hating Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner over challenger Bryan Kennedy.

This year in the Bay, it was a Democratic sweep. Democrat Doyle got more votes than Mark Green, Kathleen Falk beat J. B. Van Hollen for attorney general and return challenger Kennedy beat Sensenbrenner.

What`s more, this pattern in the suburbs around Milwaukee was replicated all over the country, a primary reason for the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives.

According to an analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, Democrats carried nearly 60% of the vote in the first ring of suburbs in the nation`s 50 largest metropolitan areas and about 55% of the vote in the second ring.

For those of us hopeful about the pendulum swinging back from the mean-spirited, right-wing policies of the Republican Party in recent years, the future is bright.

The irony is that this may be the result of right-wing Republicans getting what they always wanted. They originally moved out of the cities so they wouldn`t have to be around black people or pay taxes to benefit anyone less fortunate than themselves.

They elected George Bush as their president with only one domestic agenda—to cut the taxes of the wealthiest people in America. Bush may have been incompetent at everything else, but he succeeded at that one with a vengeance.

As a result, the nastiest and most anti-social of the wealthiest 1% have moved far away from our urban centers to construct mega-mansions on remote country estates. That makes it far more difficult for them to concentrate their political power.

The suburbs these rock-ribbed Republicans left behind have become denser and more diverse and are quickly turning a deep, indigo blue.

Some have speculated it is density itself that pushes politics leftward. In cities and now suburbs where people are more likely to come into contact with people of different races, economic levels and backgrounds, voters tend to be more open-minded and socially tolerant.

Those who isolate themselves from anyone unlike their own vanilla, cookie-cutter selves have withdrawn into gated communities with private security guards. They think they are keeping the rest of us out. Let`s not tell them how cages really work.

The political handwriting is on the wall. Democratic state Rep. Sheldon Wasserman is already considered a strong candidate for the North Shore state Senate seat long held by Republican Alberta Darling.

The hottest rumor is that Darling may even leave early rather than face defeat in a general election.

Formerly uptight, suburban districts have suddenly become more interesting.

Maybe Jim Sensenbrenner should have constructed that multibillion-dollar fence to secure his border a little closer to home.

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