SocraticGadfly: So much for 'liberal' Austin; drop-dead proof it ain't

February 24, 2015

So much for 'liberal' Austin; drop-dead proof it ain't

Everybody in Texas, especially those who live there, and lot who live outside of Texas, likes to talk about how liberal Austin is.

Well, for some time, I've said that by New Deal or Great Society types of measures, that ain't so true.

And now, the Austin American Statesman agrees, in lots of detail.

Let's start with this:
The metro area’s elevated levels of income, education and occupational segregation combined to make Austin the most economically segregated large metro and the third-most segregated among metros of all sizes, the study said.
Followed by this, that also applies to Silicon Valley, Massachusetts’ Silicon Corridor and other similar areas:
Denser and more populous metro areas tended to post higher rates of economic segregation, the authors said. Yet a series of studies by the institute suggest that a large creative class tends to exacerbate those divides even further.
That said, even compared to other techie areas, Austin didn't do so well.
By one of that study’s key measures, Austin’s upward mobility rate trailed only three other Texas metro areas — Dallas, Killeen and Waco — and it lagged well behind the tech-savvy hubs in Silicon Valley, Seattle and Portland, Ore.
So why is this?

My theory? This is connected with that New Deal and Great Society issue, especially that second paragraph.

Techsters think that supporting gay rights or nth-wave feminism makes them liberal, even as they ignore widening income inequality, first.

Second, their incomes let them buy their way into economic segregation that feeds educational segregation, too. It's called the suburbs, or unincorporated county areas. You know, like Westlake.

Indeed, the story goes on to note that the influx of tech workers increased the economic segregation.

That said, I've heard people in the past talk about either "the city of Austin" or "old vs. new Austin."

On the first? Austin the city itself was segregated long ago. Double-decking I-35 reinforced that, but it didn't cause that.

On the second? When did you start living in Austin yourself? Have you ever lived in South Austin, or in vicinity of MLK or Caesar Chavez streets?

Just visiting Fifth Street as a hipster doesn't qualify.

And, finally, why is this worse even in Austin than in Silicon Valley?

Because, as the story reminds us, this is Texas:
“While this isn’t unique to Austin, economic segregation is magnified here along race (and) ethnicity lines,” he said. “Our severe disparities in educational attainment according to race (and) ethnicity give our economic segregation in Austin a particularly pernicious quality.”
That’s why.

And, until the techsters that came to Austin from out of state admit that, they're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

But, but, Austin's so liberal.

Well, if we take metro Austin to be coterminous with Travis County, maybe not.

In 2012, Travis County, in the presidential election, went 60 percent Democratic. Before that, it was 64 percent in 2008, 56 percent in 2004, 42 percent (and 11 percent other, presumably almost all Nader) in 2000, and 52 percent (with 8 percent other) in 1996, per its City-Data page.

Sounds liberal for Texas, doesn't it?

You know who does better?

El Paso. Per City-Data, here's El Paso County's totals:

2012 — 66 percent
2008 — 66 percent
2004 — 56 percent
2000 — 28 percent
1996 — 62 percent
I guess Bush's Spanish was enough to sell El Pasoans in 2000; no other clue as to what was up.

Beyond that, though, it's clear, that El Paso is more liberal than Austin. And why? A large minority, specifically Hispanic, population is a fair reason why. But, minorities can be good neoliberals, not New Deal liberals, too. Just ask Dear Leader. Or, not too far from Austin, just ask the Castro brothers.

In El Paso, part of that is also traditional blue-collar jobs, including smelting and things like that. Union jobs. The types of jobs that techie neoliberals (or proto-libertarians in "transition") sneer at.

Austinites might say, "But, Austin is weighted down by all the 'red' outlying areas."

Well, pseudoliberal apologists, I had just Travis County on the links above. I didn't include Williamson County. And Austin itself makes up almost 90 percent of Travis County. If I had included Williamson County, which is red, but less red than the state's average, it would have been far different. Austin Metro would be about 53-54 percent Democratic.

El Paso is a smaller percentage of El Paso County, and it has the conservative military presence of Fort Bliss, to boot. And, if I expanded Metro El Paso to include Doña Ana County, New Mexico, which is bluish, those voting percentages would only drop about 2, maybe 3 points.

And, while smaller in size, places like Laredo (Webb County) and elsewhere in the Valley are even more blue than El Paso.

Techie Austin? It's white (with some Asians), and libertarian, not liberal. El Paso is real liberal Texas, along with Hispanic areas in the Valley.

And, that, connected with the problem of getting Hispanic voters to turn out, outside of presidential elections, is why Battleground Texas was clueless, as well as sucky, when it wasn't just grandstanding and patting itself on the back.

And, as for the rhetorical questions I asked above, about "where did you live in Austin"? That applies if you moved to Austin 5 years ago, 15 years ago, or 25 years ago, or if you were born there 40 or more years ago.

There's nothing wrong with support for gay and lesbian, or transgender, rights, or other "interest group" liberalism, of course. But, if you're focused on that without income equality, labor organization and other things, you're not really that liberal.

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