We Democrats, we Progressives, have…and I hate this term but use it anyway…a “nuclear option” too.  Everybody knows it…and folks joke about it from time to time, but maybe as we slide into Bush’s second term and witness the GOP’s unabashed power grab in DC it’s time to make “the joke” something a little bit more serious.

All those folks who talked about “moving to Canada” last November were onto something…they just had the wrong country.  If we on the Left want to avail ourselves of our “nuclear option” to wrest power back from the right wing Neanderthals who thumb their noses at us from the Beltway as if they OWN this country, as if they had MONOPOLY on power, we have to begin to talk about moving to America….to New Mexico, to Montana, to Colorado, to South Dakota…to Wyoming, to Arkansas, to North Carolina, to Iowa, to Kentucky…and even, ahem, Ohio.

You get the picture.  Here’s how that might work…and why this idea is one whose time has perhaps come…
It’s 2005 and the huge wave of Baby Boom retirements has already begun.  On top of which, public school systems in our large cities are under enormous stress…such stress that life for public school teachers in our big cities has become almost impossible…owning a home in the Bay Area?  Home ownership in creative centers like New York and San Francisco have “priced out” many of the artists, teachers and folks who give those cities their flavor and allure.

Even without a single ounce of political motivation, there are urban retirees and young families, teachers and health professionals, and artists and creative professionals… looking for large and small communities located just outside our metropolitain zones.  Communities with an infrastructure of historic architecture, well built homes, civic amenities and which provide close contact with both neighbors and the outdoors, with the cycle of the seasons, and, in this era of Whole Foods, Peet’s Coffee and DSL…all the organic goodness and tech-connectedness that folks have come to expect in the digital age.

Cities like Petaluma, California….or Red Wing and Winona, Minnesota…or Holyoke Massachusetts.

All this trend needs…to have a huge impact on the political infrastructure of our nation…is to turn its eyes to states and Congressional districts that are much closer to “flipping” to our side than anyone really realizes.  ie. To “Red” states.  And far from being a zany and idealistic proposal for starry-eyed idealists…

I’m actually talking about BUYING our Democracy back with ownership and private property, with joining the tax base and civic participation, with…ahem…the hard work of real estate developers and “our” kind of chain stores…of bringing a Martha Stewart touch to places that are MUCH CLOSER to a “Martha Stewart vision” than most people think…of creating our own answer to Sam Walton…a kind of Ben and Jerry’s in the Heartland.

And, while I am making this point heavily tongue-in-cheek…I’m not joking.  Why not do this?

There is too much Democratic money and votes locked up in our big cities and states…and one of the lessons of 2004 is that we can’t stay in our enclaves and “donate” our way out of this mess… perhaps it’s time to do it the old fashioned way, the American way, and start to BUY our way out of it.

  • by building retirement developments across the West and Rocky Mountain States
  • by investing and developing in attractive communities in States that not currently “favoring” our side.
  • by getting groups of families and disgruntled teachers and professionals and looking seriously at building “new paradigms” in attractive quality-of-life regions that folks might not have thought about before…purple zones.
  • in sum, by starting a rolling wave of “Volvos and espresso machines” aimed square at the heartland of this nation.

If we do this together.  If we do this as a part of a “wave”…then no one will actually be doing it “alone.” Many, many states and districts would be enormously impacted by this kind of interior immigration.

Hell, I even have a non-PC Reaganesque name for this proposal, in honor of those racist vigilantes patrolling our Southern borders at the moment.  We can call it the New Pilgrim Project.  (please don’t, however…for obvious reasons.)

At any rate, as a determinedly urban Democrat.  And as someone who is committed to sharing community with neighbors of all income levels and backgrounds…I know that this proposal is fraught with contradictions and inconsistencies.  In some ways, the very people who SHOULD be moving to small towns…the working poor families with kids who are caught in our urban public school systems…can’t.

And I also know that the small and medium towns of America are much different places than most people think…with waves of Latino immigration in recent years that have truly changed the face of the heartland in ways most urban folks don’t realize.  Further, small towns are home to citizens who’ve lived in community for generations and who would be quite resentful of simply being “bought out” of someplace their families have lived in and built up over our nation’s history.  In some ways, it is the long standing urban poor who have the most in common with folks in small towns, even though they often vote differently.

Nevertheless, it is important to point out that we do have a “Nuclear Option” (what a repugnant phrase) that the GOP does not have.

There are piles of Democratic votes and money and energy that gets focused into redundant counties and cities….that could, with a simple change in point of view, be directed elsewhere.  And have the side benefit of ownership of a three bedroom historic home with wood floors.

You can pick the state or region.

New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Virginia.   10,000, 40,000, or 100,000 new voters would have an impact.

We need to seriously begin to talk about this.  It makes sense economically…and culturally this trend is already well established..however mostly within states that are ALREADY heavily Democratic.  ie. Folks move from NYC to…uh..Vermont, or the Catskills or Western Mass.

If someone told you that they had a deal that was high quality of life, financially beneficial, allowed you to participate in building something exciting and new…AND contributed to wresting power back from the GOP in DC.  Wouldn’t you at least give it a listen?

For what it’s worth, I could envision a movement that aimed to move not just those who were “well off” from cities and urban regions…but those who weren’t as well.  A for-profit/non-profit alliance that would truly change the face of rural American small towns forever, by moving folks of ALL backgrounds and income levels into the heartland.

And to all those Right wing…abuse the system…threaten the “nuclear option” zealots who’ve run out proud nation into the ground these last decades…we can proudly look them in the eye and remind them:

We’re American citizens too.  We can move where we want, buy property where we want, make affiliations how we want, work how we want and vote how we want….

and the logical consequence of the GOP taking the Federal system and shoving the coincidence of their fake “majority” down our throats is that at some point we would say enough.

At some point we start to fight back the old fashioned way.

At some point we would BUY our country back.

{cross posted at Liberal Street Fight, which is still working through some funkiness, but is, as always, well worth a look!}

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