Monday, November 06, 2006

Joining the Party

Well, the midterm elections are upon us here in the U.S. Let's hope that, come tomorrow night, President Bush will find himself confronted with a Democratic House of Representatives, and maybe a Democratic Senate too. I'm not a Democrat, but this time around, the Democrats are a vehicle for not only providing a desperately necessary rebuke to and limitation upon the current administration, but also--and more importantly, to my mind--an opportunity for populist, socially-traditional-yet-economically-progressive, "left conservative" communitarians like myself (all eight or nine of us) to actually see some real expression of our ideas. Not as much as we'd get if the Christian Democratic Union suddenly swept into power, but hey...baby steps.

The truth is, like most Americans these days, I'm not registered with any particular political party. There was a time when this didn't bother me; I liked to style myself an "independent" who voted on the basis of issues and candidates, not the party, and I took that as a sign of political maturity. I suppose, to the extent that I connected my habits to any larger theory of politics, my motivation was vaguely republican in the classical sense: "party politics" meant professionalized politics, meaning impersonal and corrupt politics, and as one who believed that proper self-government required civic virtues like prudence and personal involvement, I figured that by refusing to support party organizations in any formal I was doing my bit to support more responsible elections. There was probably a fair amount of general religious and/or moral distaste for the power-hungry, coalition-building aspects of parties in there as well; I thought politics and political ideas were important, of course (I mean, I've studied them them whole life!), but I didn't see them as so serious as to mandate the kind of desperate, ethically compromising shenanigans that parties give rise to. So better to downplay that aspect of the political game as much as possible, I thought.

In a lot of ways, I still think that way. I'm a goo-goo at heart, concerned about voter turnout and campaign finance rules and media bias and state boundaries and a dozen other issues that have more to do with the process and effects of politics than the outcome of any given election. (See here and here and here for examples.) But I suppose there came a point where I stopped fitting the pure good-government stereotype. I never could sign on with term-limits in principle, for example; while I suppose I recognize them as a useful tool for increasing turnover and thus preventing professionalization (and hence corruption) in political office, and something that ought be able to be legitimately imposed if democratically chosen, in general I've always thought they were much too blunt an instrument: why not actually address the failures and limitations in our voting habits and options, instead of arbitrarily restricting who the people can vote for at any certain point? And there were other deviations on my part as well--as much as I've agreed with campaign reform efforts, for example, it's become clear to me that addressing the distorting power of wealth in a democracy has to begin with thinking about ways to empower all citizens, rather than merely restricting those citizens who happen to be in a position of influence. Basically, I've become a lot more democratic, a lot more populist and expressive in my political outlook over the years, and that means I've become a lot more sympathetic to parties.

Of course, to some people an "expressive" defense of parties makes no sense; a party is an organizing tool of elite interests, nothing more. Admittedly, if your understanding of democracy is a pluralist or protective one, then you probably think elections are entirely about who governs, and believe that the ideal democracy is one which channels the people's will into various groupings which are constructed so as to ensure the protection of individual rights and the larger economic and administrative structure of society. In that case, there really is no such thing as an expressive political party--but then, in that case, you're probably against all populism and expressivism in politics anyway. My understanding of democracy is a lot more beholden to participatory and developmental models; I think elections are about governing, yes, but are also--and more importantly--about creating and maintaining those assumptions and perspectives within which we recognize good government. Voting alone can't do that, of course--there are a hundred important ways in which citizens can participate in the generation of potential political worldviews. But contributing to, supporting, and voting for parties is perhaps the most time-tested and important of all those ways. (And no, I don't think that means contenting oneself with merely "strategic" options at voting time; my votes for Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000 were not deluded attempts to disrupt the party system, but small but sincere effort to give expression to views that need to be included in it.) Hence, I've found myself becoming a party person--sometimes even complete with the buttons and funny hats. Democratic politics is about building a party through your vote and other efforts which carry and thereby refine your ideas, not waiting for the perfect vehicle which can express those which you've refined all on your own. (In short: what Todd Gitlin says.)

So fine, I'm willing to commit myself to parties. But why the Democrats? Have they moved any closer to where I wanted them to be two years ago? To some degree, actually yes, they have. The Democrats of 2006 have are in the position they are today primarily because the faults of President Bush and his administration in the handling of Iraq have become manifest to many more people, but that is not the only reason. In fact, when it comes to particular races, running against the Republican management of Iraq alone is, as Senator Lieberman's all-but-inevitable trouncing of Ned Lamont in Connecticut is making clear, far from sufficient. Down in the trenches, what you have are Democrats who have also benefited from their party leadership having spent two years thinking about all the moral and religious and cultural values arguments over the past couple of years, whether expressed in connection with abortion or immigration or outsourcing or same-sex marriage or school choice or a dozen other issues that have resonance with rural, small town, and exurban voters far beyond what elite economic and political opinion usually acknowledges. The result is that the Democratic party has gotten behind some great people, like Senate candidates Harold Ford, Jr., in Tennessee, James Webb in Virginia, and Bob Casey, Jr., in Pennsylvania, as well as dozens of similar House candidates. Conservative Democrats, of course, have always trumpeted these folks, but even mainstream secular Democrats seem increasingly aware of their value to a stronger, more populist, more religious party coalition. An genuinely Democratic argument against unlimited abortion rights exists in embryo out there, one that can be properly combined with a smarter, progressive argument about human rights and personal dignity. A lot of success by some of these candidates, and it could grow in strength.

Of course, all the success in the world by these and similarly minded folks won't mean a complete change in the whole platform of the Democratic party. As such, that means that this time around I'm supporting a party that is going to probably do a mildly better job than the Republicans at expressing my interests and aspirations in regards to matters of social justice, especially in regards to trade, education, job creation, social insurance and welfare, international affairs, and so forth, but a much worse job at defending religious and moral priorities, promoting moral and family-friendly media and cultural reforms, etc. Does that mean I'm prioritizing my economic and egalitarian concerns over social and traditional ones? I don't think so; I think I'm saying that, while also doing something good for the county's political health, I can potentially do something long-term for my preferred vision by supporting a party that doesn't admittedly doesn't adhere to those parts of it I perhaps care most about. If those parts really were on the line this election, my feelings might be different. But what I'll see on my ballot tomorrow is indicative of the larger reality in which party thinking becomes necessary. I've got a choice before me for Kansas House District 95. On the one hand, an experienced Democrat, Tom Sawyer (yes, that is his name)--an accountant, responsible legislator, predictable Democratic supporter. On the other hand, a nice old fellow put up by the Republicans by the name of Benny Boman. In some ways, I much prefer his direct and hard-line approaches to abortion and casinos in Kansas (basically, "stop abortion" and "no casinos") over Sawyer's Democratic boilerplate...yet Boman, if elected, would surely go to Topeka and be lined up with the same evolution-obsessed, tax-bashing Republican machine which has run the state government for decades. Sawyer, besides all the obvious good things he'll do (like promote decent educational standards), will be part of a minority, and thus will have to be creative, and maybe that'll even mean he'll have to be open-minded. And with open-mindedness comes change: change in a party's approach, and even--and more importantly in my book--in their ideas.

It may be happening nationally; certainly it's happened here in Kansas, where the Democrats, though far from wielding real power, have nonetheless changed the landscape somewhat by picking up voters that single-issue Republicans have left behind. It's not enough to get me to register as a Democrat; I'm still holding out for the Christian Democratic Union to start running some local candidates. But in the meantime, for this election at least, I figure there's a party worth joining, and voting for. I hope enough others do the same.

17 comments:

KB said...

Having grown up under communism, I have seen "left conservativism" taken to its logical conclusion. Is this not the worst combination possible? I mean you oppose both economic and personal freedom. What else is there? 

Posted by Anonymous

Russell Arben Fox said...

Sorry Anonymous, but I'm afraid you're wrong. First, because communism is not left conservatism's logical conclusion (the communist state that you experienced was, I assume, a state that created its own secular culture alongside its political and economic oppression; promoting a strong religious culture alongside egalitarian politics is hardly the same thing); and second, because there really is something "else" to left conservatism besides attacking unlimited economic and personal freedom--there is, for example, the attempt to create a just society, and recognizing the importance of collective agreement upon and support for moral norms while doing so. The question of "what else is there?" is more properly asked, I think, by people who look at liberal society and ask if there is any common good--whether economic or otherwise--to be found in that society at all. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

IKL said...

What reason do you have to believe that Harold Ford and Bob Casey are "great people?"

Don't get me wrong: I'd vote for them if I lived in their states, because I strongly prefer them to the Republicans that they are running against. But they are both politicians who got where they are in large part because they are from locally highly influential families in cities run by Democratic political machines (though the elder Casey seemed to have a reputation for personal honesty). In Ford's case family members are reputed by be highly corrupt.

Now, this doesn't mean that they aren't good guys. But family dynasty politics, especially of the Ford type, in crooked small to mid-sized cities, is not my idea of the best of the Democratic party. And it seems very much in tension with being a "good government" voter. 

Posted by IKL

Russell Arben Fox said...

Fair enough, IKL; "great people" is an overstatement. I think they're great because of (as I wrote about Bob Casey way back when  their potential: as economic progressives that are also opposed to the abortion license, they are people who can perhaps simultaneously advocate both "civic compassion and family values," as well as insist (contra many anti-tax Republicans) that both of those things "still have to be defended and paid for." Maybe that's reading too much into them, but as I said in my post, my commitment to the Democrats this time around is at least as much about trying to fan a particular sort of flame within the party as it is about particular legislative aims.

Regarding Casey and Ford in particular, I have no inside information, except that Ford actually seems to me, despite having come from a family that has very clearly benefitted from its Memphis dynasty, slightly better on the balance. While Bob Casey, Jr., has been courted and shephered by the Democrats since the moment he graduated from college, Harold Ford, Jr., has seemed to take some control of his destiny, broadening himself and taking some risks (including, for example, abandoning his House seat to make this Senate run). I see him as the young man of promise whose parents want to see succeed beyond the world they've long since contented themselves with.

As for the good government thing...well, I plead guilty. Nepotism isn't particularly democratic, nor conducive to clean government. But it sure helps on election day. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Doug said...

Professionalization, particularly at the state leve, does not necessarily equal corruption; nor are part-time legislators immune to pernicious interests. Apart from human failings, they are also prey to structural problems. To wit, a part-time legislator by definition has to keep the day job. Insofar as they are people who are independently wealthy or self-employed or something similar, you get a legislature that will overrepresent those interests. Insofar as they are employees of an organization, they will be tied to that organization. I think of the Georgia state legislator who essentially admitted he was the representative of BellSouth. There are problems with both full-time and part-time approaches, and it advances good understanding of government to admit that up front. 

Posted by Doug

Anonymous said...

You've probably talked about this in detail before, but I don't understand why you automatically believe that religious and moral principles that you agree with are automatically more important than economic ones. Many countries around the world have strong social and legal controls on precisely the sort of things you are talking about. They ban abortion, make it extremely difficult to get a divorce, censor their media to protect the populace from immorality, etc. And they are largely unpleasant places to live. The poor and young have little hope, the governments are corrupt, sectarianism is rife, minorities (of all sorts) are persecuted, and the list goes on. What confidence do you have that controls of the sort you propose don't result in the US looking a lot more like Guatemala?

It's also strange to me to see such a separation laid out that way. Is helping the poor not a moral and religious duty? Is torture not a moral or religious duty? Abortion and censoring television are not the sum total of moral and religious teachings, and historically, they weren't even that significant a topic. The modern elevation of these topics always seemed strange and somewhat calculated to me. 

Posted by franck

Russell Arben Fox said...

Doug,

Your point is well-taken, and it's one I've come to recognize the truth of over the years. Nonprofessional, nonpartisan, part-time political operations are as susceptible, maybe even more  susceptible, to corruption, though usually of a slightly different (i.e., more venal) type. Strong parties can contribute to that, but they can also help fight it too.

Franck,

You're right--I have written a lot about this before. Very basically, my concerns about abortion, divorce, consumerism, sex and violence in the media, etc., are all part and parcel of what I see as the sort of ethos necessary to a strong and moral culture, and thus as also necessary to a just economy. I've written a lot about how the "seamless garment ethnic<' which involves an opposition to abortion and the death penalty, also has to involve a strong advocacy of universal education, health care, and work opportunities if it's not going to be a sham. So I don't see a separation here, neither between different types of "moral" issues (abortion on the one hand, helping the poor and opposing torture on the other), nor between "moral" issues and economic ones. 

Posted by Russell Arben Fox

Anonymous said...

I understand the claim about the "seamless garment", though to have non-Catholics appropriate it is somewhat weird. My point is merely that there are zero examples of "seamless garment" theory working in practice. Ireland before the Celtic Tiger and Quebec before the Quiet Revolution did not have strong or just economies, but they did have all the social controls you are talking about. Can you point to any example of "seamless garment" theory working out in practice? I can't think of one. Places with strong social controls on people do not have just or vibrant economies. Belief in a "seamless garment" polity seems to me like belief in utopia.

But you just claimed a separation above - somehow abortion is a moral issue and poverty an economic one. Why would Democrats do a much worse job at defending moral and religious priorities if they are more likely to reduce poverty? 

Posted by franck

Anonymous said...

Places with strong social controls on people do not have just or vibrant economies. 

You've never been to Asia, I gather.

Also, I note that "just" and "vibrant" are related but distinct things, and "vibrant" is rather slippery. Japan is a very rich country, but with slow growth. Is it "vibrant"? Okay, how about China?

It's not hard to find examples of conservative societies that show rapid economic growth. Whether they're the sort of "conservative" that you like and approve of... well, time to define some terms, perhaps.

Thailand is a traditional, highly religious society where everybody respects the King (and he's a good King), where family ties are tremendously valuable and valued, where religious orders sworn to poverty and public service are hugely important. It's a culture where good manners and generosity matter deeply, where people keep the values of the village even in the heart of the city, and where most people "know their place" in the best possible sense of the word.

It's also a deeply corrupt and nepotistic society permeated at every level by promiscuity, prostitution and drug use.

Oh, and they've had some of the fastest economic growth in Asia in the last 20 years -- Bankgok has the planet's worst traffic jams, and about as many Starbucks as Chicago.

It's a big world.


Doug M.

 

Posted by Doug M.

Russell Arben Fox said...

Franck,

If the way I wrote my concluding sentence--"So I don't see a separation here...between 'moral' issues and economic ones"--implied that I accepted a separation, than I wrote clumsily, because I don't. Not only do I not see a "moral category" difference between them--providing jobs and health insurance are as much about respecting human life as is opposing abortion and the death penalty--but I also don't see a reason to accept the liberal doctrine that committing to one means abandoning the other.

Why is it weird to hear non-Catholics embrace "seamless garment" rhetoric? Admittedly, I don't approach it with full-bore, natural-law-based presumptions, but I don't think that means I can't distinguish between those who truly advocate it, and those who abuse it.

Finally, you say that "places with strong social controls on people do not have just or vibrant economies." If you assume that "justice" or "vibrancy" in an economic sense have to measured against the expectations of today's globalized, growth-driven, boundless market economy, then I'll admit that you may be right. But that just goes to show why I think achieving what I'm hoping for will have to begin with slowly, bit by bit, reconstructing (and recovering) a different kind of socio-economic order. Think, for example, of the flourishing blue-collar economies in America's urban neighborhoods throughout the 1950s and 60s--most of them had fairly strong informal social controls, and those controls were part of what kept the neighborhood united and the unions strong. Or think of French farming villages today, with similarly strong social expectations and similar success in preserving their (relatively egalitarian, all things considered) way of life. Using communities of those sorts as models may not be a perfect guide to larger economic problems, but neither does it strike me as necessarily "utopian."

Oh, and I just noticed that Doug has provided some good counter-examples from Asia...examples which also suggest the complications inherent in what I'm talking about. Thanks Doug. And fair enough; human nature is what it is, and I've no illusions that my hoped-for society is going to be without downsides and hypocrisies. (South Korea, a pretty strong economy with a growing, Confucianism-inspired welfare state, also conjoins fairly strong social controls with an awful lurid underbelly.) So maybe I should just say that I prefer this particular set of problems, think I can make a good argument for them, and think that the closer the Democrats move in that direction, the better it'll be for them and the country.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Thailand is a good example. Russell doesn't strike me as a legal gambling and prostitution fan, not to mention a fan of human trafficking. Thailand also has huge inequalities between the north and the capital and little safety net. (Part of the reason Thaksin remains popular is because he actually did something for poor rural people.) I don't think Russell supports any of these things, but he is free to jump in.

Now Singapore might have been a reasonable counterexample, since it is not corrupt, not blatantly immoral in the sense I think Russell means, and does practice social controls along with relative egalitarianism and prosperity. But I don't think Singapore is very generalizable.

French farming villages are a bad example, since they are massively subsidized by both the French state and the EU, and are losing population anyway. I guess I don't see the blue collar urban neighborhoods of the US in the 50s or 60s as flourishing either, especially since we are talking about a period that saw large-scale white flight and riots.

China is not a just society - that's why they have a new economic protest every hour or so and need such a repressive security apparatus. They do have high growth, but they have extreme repression on religious expression and family size, and the safety net outside the cities is in freefall.

Japan is wealthy and relatively egalitarian, but it doesn't have the same kind of morality that Russell wants. It isn't repressed at all in terms of media and the social controls on media are if anything, weaker than in the US. 

Posted by franck

Anonymous said...

What I meant about your first point is that I fail to see why abortion is more important than poverty reduction even from a religious or moral perspective. But you clearly differentiate between moral/religious issues and economic ones in your discussion, and rate moral/religious ones higher for some reason. 

Posted by franck

Russell Arben Fox said...

Franck,

"But you clearly differentiate between moral/religious issues and economic ones in your discussion, and rate moral/religious ones higher for some reason."

I'm afraid you're going to have to help me, then, because I really don't see where I'm doing that. Haven't I called in these comments (as well as many other places on my blog; just Google around a little) fighting poverty, providing decent education and health care, supporting international law, etc., all "moral" concerns? Have I really ranked fighting abortion "higher" than any of those? I don't see where. I'll admit this post talked more about abortion, but that's because it is in regards to abortion, among other issues, where I hope to see the Democrats' success in this election cycle possibly begin make a difference in their party's thinking. I'm not talking about an evolution in Democratic party thinking in regards to, for example, Social Security, because I'm already fine with the Democratic position on Social Security.

As for your comments on various examples of arguably "left conservative" communities, there's too much to say on all of them to make a single coherent comment. Regarding French farms: yes, they're heavily subsidized (is that bad? what if you think it's worth subsidizing?), and yes, they're losing population--but not nearly as fast as America's farming communities though. I have complicated feelings about places like Singapore and other East Asian and Southeast Asian societies, as I think there are good arguments that can be made in defense of a more communitarian, less liberal form of democracy that would fit better with Confucian cultures, but I also recognize that many of those arguments have just been covers for authoritarianism. Finally, white flight was a 70s phenomenon; the blue-collar Democratic, urban trade union strongholds of America's cities didn't begin to breakup until you had 1) forced integration and busing, and 2) the collapse of the American steel and automobile industries, neither of which "inevitable" or simple black-and-white issues.

Doug said...

Just for the record, Doug M(uir) is not this Doug (Merrill), though we agree on a great many things and, confusingly, both blog at Fistful of Euros. As we are both overseas on this important day, I suspect we are both blogging and commenting a bit more energetically than usual.

Frankly, I'm a bit like a kid on Christmas Eve. I'm going to bed before long, and I'm hugely anticipating what will be under the tree tomorrow morning, with just a little bit of worry that it will be a lump of coal. 

Posted by Doug

Anonymous said...

don't think Thailand is a good example. 

I picked Thailand because it was complicated, not "good". There are things about it that Russell would love, other things he'd abhor. But -- it's definitely a country with strong social controls and a vigorous economy.

Now Singapore might have been a reasonable counterexample

Or South Korea, Taiwan, or Japan. Or, in a different way, Malaysia.

Or -- in a different way -- the Nordic countries. Russell might not like the extreme secularity of a Norway or a Finland, but they're definitely countries that are rich and economically competitive, and they're also countries with a highly developed sense of community and tradition.

Then of course there's rich little Switzerland, where almost every adult male owns a gun, and which didn't get around to giving all women the vote until the 1990s.

Point being, you claimed there couldn't be a society that was socially conservative but economically vibrant. That's wrong.

Where the question gets interesting IMO is when we try to define "socially conservative". Prostitution in Thailand is ancient tradition; a government that seriously tried to outlaw it would be radical, and probably horrible. Swedes are some of the most little-c conservative people in the world, same-sex marriages notwithstanding. And so forth.

If you want an argument against Russell, try this: while there are socially conservative states that are economically successful and generally nice places to live, they tend to be either authoritarian, highly secular, or both.

French farming villages are a bad example, since they are massively subsidized

Ooh quelle horreur.

Every economy has subsidized regions and sectors. You have to clarify why /this particular/ subsidy is bad.


Doug M. (Muir, not Merill)  

Posted by Doug M.

Anonymous said...

Doug Muir,

You're right that I was overly broad before, so I appreciate you restating it. Let me restate the point to say that I can think of very few places that are economically successful, egalitarian, and religously moralistic in the way Russell is talking about. Thailand, Taiwan, and Japan don't qualify, though I do agree that they are closer to his ideal than the US.

You can't massively subsidize the whole society - that's why French farming villages are a bad example. We're talking about organizing a society according to specific principles, not just small sectors of the society, while the rest of it gets to live in the projects. There aren't enough German and Dutch taxpayers to fund it. French society in general, on the other hand, is definitely more interesting to consider. Their pro-natalism policies seem to me like things Russell would support.

Russell,

"As such, that means that this time around I'm supporting a party that is going to probably do a mildly better job than the Republicans at expressing my interests and aspirations in regards to matters of social justice, especially in regards to trade, education, job creation, social insurance and welfare, international affairs, and so forth, but a much worse job at defending religious and moral priorities, promoting moral and family-friendly media and cultural reforms, etc."

It's pretty clear to me that Democrats are way better for the poor than the Republicans, and it is by no means clear to me that Republicans actually do defend religious and moral priorities. They aren't willing to censor the airwaves or talk radio, and they keep getting taboo topics into the national news (e.g. Mark Foley). So I can't see any significant difference between the parties on religious and moral priorities in any way that might lead one to vote Republican except for abortion.

Finally, I don't accept your narrative about the collapse of urban blue-collar neighborhoods. It wasn't "forced integration and busing" that destroyed urban neighborhoods, it was the state no longer enforcing racial separation through violence and intimidation. White flight actually started in the 1930s as social control loosened and accelerated after Brown in 1954 and the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

Posted by franck

Russell Arben Fox said...

Franck and Doug (and the other Doug too?),

"Let me restate the point to say that I can think of very few places that are economically successful, egalitarian, and religously moralistic in the way Russell is talking about."

I agree--there aren't many such places, if one is thinking of whole states or national societies. Locally, you see more examples of it. But I admit that my ideal is hardly one with a great deal of broad-based historical evidence to back it up; while I don't think it is inherently  contradictory, I agree that it's really more an ideal than a blueprint.

"You can't massively subsidize the whole society--that's why French farming villages are a bad example. We're talking about organizing a society according to specific principles, not just small sectors of the society...French society in general, on the other hand, is definitely more interesting to consider. Their pro-natalism policies seem to me like things Russell would support."

Well, I'm not sure that's correct Franck; must egalitarian and/or religiously shaped polities be comprehensive polities? If you can preserve certain forms of collective life here and there, and doing so benefits the larger society (as French farming villages benefit France), isn't that better than nothing? (Assuming you agree with me that you think it's worth doing in the first place, of course.) The fact that the context within which this ideal can be pursued is going to have to change as one moves from local to national polities isn't, I think, an argument against the ideal in general. (And as far as that goes, you're right that, broadly speaking, I do admire French society--and Swedish  society too for that matter. True, they're pretty secular. Then again, is the struggles both societies have had with Muslim immigrants wholly the result of racism or economics, or might it not have a lot to do with an enduring, clearly post-sectarian, but still culturally Christian understanding that both France and Sweden make use of in holding themselves together? I don't think that's an easy question to answer, and is at least important to any account of the rise and conservation of the European welfare state model as anything else.)

"...it is by no means clear to me that Republicans actually do defend religious and moral priorities."

David Kuo notwithstanding, at the very least the Republicans brought various religiously conservative priorities into play in regards to the choosing of Supreme Court justices or reforming welfare rules. But really, this sort of thing is far more about rhetoric and recognition than actual policy accomplishments. Over the past couple of election cycles, the Democrats have gotten better at what priorities they at least recognize as legitimate; that's part of why I wrote this post in the first place.

"It wasn't 'forced integration and busing' that destroyed urban neighborhoods, it was the state no longer enforcing racial separation through violence and intimidation. White flight actually started in the 1930s as social control loosened and accelerated after Brown in 1954 and the Civil Rights Act in 1964."

I'm just going to have to disagree with some of your history here. Yes, the suburbs starting booming as early as the late 1940s, in the midst of the great African-American migration from the South, but if those movements and later "white flight" were the same thing, then the powerful urban party machines, the unions, the neighborhood associations, the Knights of Columbus, all the forces that kept blue-collar communities intact and relatively wealthy and equalitarian up through the mid-1960s, wouldn't have been there. But they were. Real gaps between the rich and poor, real alientation between the cities and suburbs, didn't begin until the 60s and 70s.