Suburbia and Party Politics

Mark Clapson considers that suburbia holds the key to recent history on both sides of the Atlantic.

In both England and the USA, the politics of the suburbs are often assumed to be conservative, conformist, and petit bourgeois. Yet suburbia holds the key to the recent electoral triumphs of the New Democrats and New Labour over their conservative opponents.

During the 1990s, at general elections and presidential elections, the phrases ‘Middle England’ and ‘Middle America’ were used to describe the huge, amorphous constituency where the elections would be won or lost. Over half of the population of both countries lives in a suburban home. Yet ‘middle’ no longer means middle class: it includes the affluent working-class and blue-collar suburbs. It also embraces the growing diversity in ethnic groups who have quit the poorer parts of town. No longer can suburbia be dismissed as a boring dormitory for the white, snooty, conservative-voting middle classes. The suburbs have moved on: the tired clichés about suburban life and politics are out of date.

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