Suburbia. A place of white picket fences and well-manicured lawns. A place where people go to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, settle down, raise a family, and live peacefully. Unless it’s election season.
As we enter the final days of the 2012 Presidential campaign, both the Obama and Romney camps are focusing their efforts in areas wrought with undecided voters, hoping to sway them red or blue come November 6. And suburbia, once a predominately white, Republican safe haven, has today become the hotbed of political moderation. People of the suburbs live in a geographically centrist position, in and of itself, not in a major city, yet not in the middle of rural farmland. Consequently, suburbanites’ views tend not to be as liberal as city-dwellers, while also straying away from socially conservative views of folks in rural communities.
A major contributing factor behind this suburban shift to the center could be the consistent racial transformation of suburbs over the past 10 years. According to U.S. Census Data, combined with a University of Minnesota Law study, the amount of “diverse” suburbs (defined as 20-60% non-white) has jumped 37% in the last decade.
With this sharp uptake in racial diversity, along with their relatively stable economic climates, the suburbs of major American cities no longer glare a blazing scarlet or navy but a light pink or baby blue on election maps. Their views scatter across party platforms. They disapprove of high tax rates, yet are confused why wealthy executives should pay a lower tax rate than them. They care about the environment, but see North American oil production as a means to save at the pump while driving to soccer practice.
As my Mom and Dad, a Democrat and Republican who live in the Philadelphia suburbs, tell me, there’s a very “mind your own business” kind of culture in suburbia. They and their friends don’t particularly like the idea of abortion, but don’t think it’s anyone’s decision to make but the mother’s. Two men getting married, they tell me, doesn’t prevent them from paying their bills or going on with their day. However, their conservative fiscal tendencies and new, costly small business regulations have them wary on voting for Obama, being that my Dad works for a small paper company.
Politicians have begun to take notice of such moderate views, and even better, actually adopting some. Congressman Charlie Dent from the Philadelphia suburbs of the Pennsylvania 15th has been named one of the leading moderate Republicans in Congress, championing conservative measures on national security and finance, but voting against defunding Planned Parenthood. Despite the R next to his name on the ballot, Dent has been reelected 3 times in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 45 to 39 percent. Mike Fitzpatrick, another Pennsylvania congressman in a suburban, Philadelphia district has highlighted his voting with Democrats on environmental issues.
Another suburban battleground lies just across the Potomac from D.C., in the counties of Northern Virginia. President Obama made history in Virginia in 2008, being the first Democrat to win its 13 electoral votes since 1964. However, the Obama camp is still focusing its efforts on the Old Dominion State, where a majority of polls have Mitt Romney ahead by decent margins. The Romney campaign has certainly seized on this potential opportunity with multiple campaign stops in Virginia and an ad buy across the state. One particular ad has a previous female Obama supporter highlighting Romney’s more moderate views on abortion, like his approval of contraception and abortion in cases of rape or incest. This more centrist tone as well as the ads use of a former Obama voter now supporting Romney reflects the Romney campaign’s knowledge of Virginia’s volatility.
With all the partisan deadlock and idiotic ideologues that have plagued our political climate the last 4 years, perhaps a hope for moderation lies with the soccer moms and the Costco-shoppers of our country. Politicians are starting to take heed from these everyday suburbanites. They have no interest in radical fanatics or special lobbies. They just want a common-sense government that runs. Their main concerns are getting the kids to school, the bills paid, and maybe having time at night to watch that Tivo-ed episode of American Idol.