The Atlantic: Conservatives Might Miss Next Tech Wave Due to Dislike of Cities

I have a question for Alexis C. Madrigal of The Atlantic. Were you watching AMC's Halt and Catch Fire last Sunday? I have to ask because your humble correspondent has the suspicion that you watched and took note of the spaced out  character of Cameron Howe, a genius computer programmer who enjoys playing video games and having her ears perpetually plugged in to a Walkman playing loud Hard Rock music. On Sunday's episode, Cameron was walking around downtown Dallas while spending the money from her first tech company paycheck when she met some homeless drug addicts in an alley. So with her "urban sensibility" she then rents them a hotel room where they all party down and they show their appreciation by giving Cameron a really ugly amateur tattoo on her arm.

It is with this in mind that I suspect that Mr. Madrigal, trying to dream up a magazine storyline, conceived the the idea that most computer programmers have the same tastes as Cameron Howe and prefer city living in contrast to those "yahoo" conservatives who would rather live in more quiet areas. The result was the appearance of a stunningly ridiculous Atlantic article, Why Conservatives Might Be Left Out of the Next Wave of Tech:

It's one of those stats that just smacks you across the face: In a recent Pew poll, only four percent—4%!—of consistent conservatives want to live in America's cities.

Meanwhile, about a quarter of people with mixed political views want to live in cities more than they want to live in small towns, suburbs, or rural areas. And nearly 46 percent of consistently liberal people want to live in cities.

For someone who writes about technology, this is particularly significant. It's not just that the latest round of hot companies are deciding to headquarter in cities like New York and San Francisco; it's also that many of these companies make sense, for the most part, only in urban environments.

...Cities have been engines of technical and economic dynamism for as long as cities have been around. But the Pew poll could suggest a new digital divide emerging—a general line between rural conservatives, who do not have access to new technologies and services, and liberals in the cities who do. If so, it would be one more way in which the country grows polarized, and a(nother) rebuttal to the old idea that, in the networked age, geography would become irrelevant.

And Madrigal never heard of suburbs which are an easy commute from central cities? If a tech worker has a job in New York City, why wouldn't he (or she) simply commute from suburban Westchester County or Long Island. In fact, with the high cost of living in many cities, that is something that makes economic sense.

Also that poll he cited really doesn't prove much as this comment posted by a reader noted:

"Urban" for liberals means a place of culture and art, vibrancy and diversity, languages and food and people people people. "Urban" for conservatives means crime, government corruption, high taxes, languages and food and people people people. For liberals "urban" is San Francisco, Austin, Boston, NYC, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago. For conservatives "urban" is Atlanta, Little Rock, Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis, Newark, Memphis, South Central Los Angeles, South Chicago. That's why this poll means nothing. You ask a liberal if they prefer urban they'll assume all the pollyannish notions of a blues bar in Austin or a trendy tech center in San Fran and be all in. You ask a conservative if they prefer urban and they'll be reminded of the numerous large swaths of American cities that simply aren't safe. For anyone. Liberals aren't flocking to ALL urban places. There are many even they know they can't go.

And in case Mr. Madrigal hasn't noticed, Cameron Howe is a FICTIONAL character. Anybody who would party with homeless drug addicts in a hotel while getting tattooed with possibly unclean needles in real life would be too stupid to be a programmer. The idea of such a thing really happening is as dopey as claiming that conservatives might be left out of the next tech wave because of some poll results about urban vs rural.

P.J. Gladnick's picture