Thursday, March 22, 2007

Origins of Detroit conservatism

As this abstract points out, the big three in relation to Macomb county residents were a) the riots, b)the counter culture, and c) the recession of the late '70s.

"Detroit" here refers to the Metro Detroit area in general. I use it mostly to refer to the suburbs.

The riots hastened a white exodus from the city of Detroit that had been going on for years previously and that included working class whites as well as more affluent residents. They also left a legacy of bitter racism on both sides. Of course, the consequences for this racism were much more serious for the black residents of Detroit than for the people who participated in white flight, with the city of Detroit largely abandoned by white businesses, leading to a serious economic crisis that continues to this day. The suburbs, although varying from post-World War II G.I. houses that were really small to the homes and incomes traditionally associated with the notion of a suburb, didn't experience an economic implosion. Even though things started to go down hill in late eighties, it still doesn't compare to what happened to the city of Detroit itself. Anyways, the legacy of the riots caused an extreme reaction among whites against the civil rights movement and against associated movements.

Then, anti-war demonstrations and the counter culture further alienated people in Macomb county, especially since part of the economy of Macomb county depends on defense contracting. But the anti-counter culture stance started before heavy anti-war protesting. Warren was the site of a mass burning of Beatles records after the "More popular than Jesus" remark, which gives you an idea of the climate.

Then the recession of the '70s turned people against Carter and the Democratic Party in general.

So what does it all mean? I think Detroit area conservatism is a function of the failure of the Old Left to really address issues beyond economic ones. The economic issues no doubt were the most central problem of these people's lives, people who I consider to be my people, but ingrained prejudice wasn't dealt with. So in the post Civil Rights, post Counter Culture, post anti Vietnam War environment they retrenched into social conservatism instead of adopting or approving of the new trends.

In a way this is good, because the circle has come around and the basic labor issues that Detroit was founding on are becoming very relevant once more, but it's bad in the sense that it stifles voices that may be against Bush and against the War.

I don't think both issues are mutually exclusive. The state of labor and the economy relate to economic globalization, benefitting corporations, and the Iraq war is about benefitting corporations with regards to oil and defense contractors as well as about making the Middle East safe for U.S. influence, which in practice means safe for profit by the U.S. upper class.

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