As I noticed in my last post here, back to the future seems to be a norm in politics.
Last weekend, the local left pretended it was 1954 on questions of racial balance in school. My Purple Wisconsin colleague Jim Rowen chose to genuflect before a time honored relic of the American left - the so called "iron ring" thrown around Milwaukee in the 1950s.
The "iron ring" amounted to this. The state prevented the city from forcing proximate local communities from joining the city against their will. In this, it did anticipate much of our current controversy over regionalism. Advocates of the city seem to believe that support for the city means forcing others to pay for whatever stupidity city politicians want to promote. It's never going to happen.
But the larger point is that the "iron ring" was drawn too late. As Russell Knetzger pointed out in last Sunday's Crossroads, Milwaukee nevertheless managed to annex huge amounts of real estate. For its population and age, the city has a huge geographic footprint. I'm not sure if there are still farms within the city limits, but - as recently as thirty years ago (over a period in which city population has been more or less stable) - there were.
In my last point, I wrote about the second generation school desegregation litigation in the 80s. One of the points that the defense made in that case was Knetzger's. The city managed to annex huge swaths of real estate to the north and west of the city center. Indeed, we introduced piles of materials from the 50s and 60s that Milwaukee promoted this area as "the suburb in the city." Indeed, an earlier use of the term "iron ring" was to say the the city would not provide services such as water (as if Milwaukee owns the lake; an odd position for public trust zealots) to suburban communities.
The African American population moved into this area - in a pie shaped pattern emanating from the city center. This is not unique to Milwaukee. We introduced evidence that showed the exact same pattern of black outmigration patterns in every other midwest industrial city. People who live an area of initial settlement do not disperse randomly. They tend to remain in proximity to friends and families. Indeed, that type of outmigration is not limited to African Americans. Other ethnic groups have followed a similar -albeit less pronounced - pattern and there is evidence of Hispanic migration to the southwest.
That this population remained in the city is evidence of how much the city was permitted to expand - generally over the opposition of those brought within its borders.
I understand that it is doctrine among the local left that this opposition can be dismissed as racist, This is reductive and lazy. People moved to the suburbs because they wanted a new house and a yard. They did not wish to remain in the city because they wanted self-determination for their new communities.
I understand that, for folks like Jim, self-determination that allows people to avoid paying for his policy preferences is anathema. Maybe he's right. But folks who take exception are not racist for them.
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.