Cities & local communities should form networks of mutual support across regions to defend progressive values
In a previous piece on conscience & moral imperative in the Trump era, I promised to follow up with some specifics about my particular approach to the present & future struggle.
This current piece outlines a major focus of that work. The premise is this:
Cities & local communities of conscience must join together to support each other, oppose Trumpism & Trumpublicans, & defend the progressive values that have made us the engines of human civilization for all of history. ¹ ²
This is far from a novel notion, and various efforts & organizations of this type have existed for decades. ³ ⁴ ⁵ ⁶ ⁷
So I’ll be advancing a few particular angles on the idea, discussed below. But first, a bit on the motivation & case for such efforts.
Five-Point Case for a Union of Cities
1. There are more of us than them
- It’s well understood by now that Trump lost the popular vote by record margins for an elected president (~3 million votes, 2.1% points)⁸. In particular, he lost big cities by massive margins. ⁹
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) January 7, 2017
- Perhaps less well known: U.S. cities cover only ~4% of land mass, but contain 63% of the total population ¹⁰
2. The majority of economic output comes from cities ¹¹ ¹² ¹³
3. Cities are sites of growing progressive majorities ¹⁴ ⁹ ³⁷
4. Yet cities often fall victim to state & national power structures dominated by gerrymandered districts¹⁵ & archaic Electoral College majorities¹⁶ that increasingly represent national minorities. ³⁷
- This results in undemocratic tyranny of the minority. Add vanishing approval ratings & plummeting credibility with the public¹⁷ ¹⁸, & it becomes clear that centralized, external governments have little mandate within cities that overwhelmingly oppose them. ¹⁹ ²⁰ ²¹
5. Cities share more values & characteristics across state & national borders than we share with our neighbors within these borders. ²² ²³ ²⁴
- For instance, my home-city of Philadelphia likely has more common values, more shared interests with Houston & London than it does with Erie & Exton.
Note: This is not to deride small towns & rural America, or dismiss their legitimate hardships & grievances; they need & deserve renewed attention & support. This is also not to exacerbate the rural resentment that in part ignited Trump’s fervent support in those areas. This is only to say that cities should be building networks of mutual support & solidarity that transcend, bypass & build leverage against the artificial borders & centralized, decreasingly legitimate authorities that impede our progress & threaten our shared values (imperiling millions along the way).
Any community or town of any size that shares these values should be welcome in these networks, but we shouldn’t tolerate support for the myriad moral obscenities ushered in with this administration. We’ll never agree on everything, but we should share a moral compass (as most urban areas do). That compass points in the almost diametrically opposite direction of Trump & his administration’s odious actions & statements to date.
How do we get there?
Probably no single straightforward way. A multiplicity of strategies & efforts are warranted. As mentioned above, many such networks are already in place & more will come. ⁴ ⁵ ⁶ ⁷ ²³ ²⁴
For me, I plan to pursue the idea in a few narrow ways:
The Solidarity Economy
The so-called New Economy or Solidarity Economy presents alternative models of economic organization which prioritize shared values & resource circulation within communities committed to those values. ²⁵ ²⁶ These models contrast sharply with traditional neoliberal capitalism — where moral values are regulations to be gamed²⁷, local communities are incidental scenery (or tax shelters), corporations are people & actual people & natural resources are raw materials from which wealth is extracted, removed & reconstituted in executive/shareholder portfolios (at increasing levels of concentration). ²⁸
The Solidarity Economy organizes around shared interest rather than self-interest. Rather than piously deferring to an omniscient Invisible Hand to ordain the benevolent social outcomes we desire; it exhorts you to roll up your sleeves with your real hands and Do It Yourself.
(Worker-owned Cooperatives are a quintessential instantiation of Solidarity Economy principles, and I’ve been pitching in at one of Philly’s finest, W/N W/N Coffee bar, for the past year).
It’s not easy. It entails swimming against & across the strong currents of entrenched social & economic systems which evolved for other ends. Which brings me to my next subject.
Platform Cooperativism / Open Access & Commons
Platform Cooperativism describes a growing movement at the intersection of alternative economics & emerging technology. The basic idea involves building tools & platforms to facilitate Solidarity Economy cooperation & transaction. ²⁹ ³⁰ ³¹ ³²
Closely related ideas around Open Source technology, Open Access information & the Commons form a backdrop & a precedent for Platform Cooperativism.³³ ³⁴ ³⁵ I intend to devote some time and effort both to Platform Cooperative efforts in particular & Open Source/Access projects in general (such as the Resistance Manual from Black Lives Matter movement leaders).
Evangelizing / Signal-boosting
…With local friends, colleagues & collaborators. Writing, sharing & amplifying pieces such as this one on various distributed networks (such as Indivisible & others). Apparently, it helps. ³⁶
That’s basically my plan to advance the idea of a liaison of cities & communities of shared values, though things change with circumstances & the course of time. I’ll probably revise & extend these ideas as I work through them. And of course, in addition to these things, I’ll continue to join rallies & street protests, & contribute time & money to various causes (not to mention the lion’s share of time & effort poured into my deeply consuming day job, trying to help preserve legitimate local public-interest journalism …&, you know… the republic).
Cities, big & small, are far from perfect; we have many severe, chronic internal issues to sort out. But we don’t need more problems foisted upon us by external parties, and we must oppose unconscionable developments like those gushing forth from Trump & Trumpists, which carry minimal credence in our cities. There are more of us, we produce more for this country & world, & we are, by all recent & historical evidence, the moral vanguard of civilization.³⁷ We are the centers of people-power & the engines of human progress throughout history. Let’s act like it.
References & Notes
…the engines of human civilization for all of history.
² The Cultural Role of Cities (1954). Economic Development and Cultural Change. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1151661
…far from a novel notion, and various efforts & organizations of this type have existed for decades.
⁷ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_of_Mayors / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_of_Mayors
…more of us than them
The majority of economic output comes from cities
Cities are sites of growing progressive majorities
…cities fall victim to state & national power structures dominated by gerrymandered districts & archaic Electoral College majorities
see also: ³⁷
..undemocratic tyranny of the minority. Add in vanishing approval ratings & plummeting credibility with the public, it becomes clear that centralized, external governments have little mandate within cities…
Cities share more values & characteristics across state & national borders than we share with our neighbors within these borders.
²³ http://www.bbc.com/news/education-35305586 (are cities the new countries)
The so-called New Economy or Solidarity Economy presents alternative models of economic organization
…moral values are regulations to be gamed
…people & natural resources are raw materials from which wealth is extracted
Platform Cooperativism …building tools & platforms to facilitate Solidarity Economy cooperation & transaction
Open Source technology, Open Access information & the Commons form a backdrop & a precedent for Platform Cooperativism.
Signal-boosting… it helps
³⁶ The Critical Periphery in the Growth of Social Protests http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0143611
more of us, we produce more for this country & world, & we are, by all recent & historical evidence, the moral vanguard of civilization.