This past year has seen a rapid migration from densely populated urban areas to exurban and rural communities. Certainly, COVID has much to do with this, but the trend is not temporary. Fair warning to those greeting the newcomers: Be prepared to fight to protect your current way of life.
When you serve as executive director for a national Republican political organization, part of the cost of admission is a lot of travel. Spending all this time on the road only serves to deepen my appreciation for what a great country this is. At the same time, you get a firsthand view of its changing landscape.
Politico recently reported that, according to census data, nine of the fastest growing districts are represented in Congress by a Republican. Six of these are in Texas, two in Florida, and one each in South Carolina and Utah. The short-term impact would pretty obviously seem to be this is good news for Republicans, especially when it comes to drawing new maps for legislative districts. What it means long-term, however, is far less clear, at least to me.
When the population in the metro area of Atlanta exploded in final years of the last century, every single suburban district was represented by a Republican in the House of Representatives. Now the seat once represented by John Linder, who headed the National Republican Congressional Committee, as well as that of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, both sent Democrats to buttress Nancy Pelosi’s narrow majority.
The new arrivals moved to escape high taxes, crowded schools, traffic congestion, and a myriad of government policies that stifle economic growth and prosperity. They moved with the attitude their new community would provide opportunity and reward their individual efforts. They arrive excited about all the things that are different here than where they previously lived. Then, in a short amount of time, they feel the need to improve things by importing various items from the location they supposedly left behind. Before too long, they feel empowered to essentially insist on putting these things into place. From where I sit, they just cannot leave well enough alone.
This all usually starts with wanting to make general living conditions just a tad more convenient. Just have to get the stores and gas stations closer to where you are living. Cannot exist without more dining options.
Then things start creeping into lifestyle areas. Just have to create a bike lane, even if it means changing two lanes into one. Commonsense observations such as noting going from two lanes to one has to mean cars stuck in traffic longer, burning more gasoline, and emitting more into the air fall on deaf ears. No, we are told this is how we can shape behavior to reduce driving over the longer term.
School systems are pressured to reduce the emphasis on reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, we need to worry more about diversity, self-esteem, and understanding the shortcomings of our country.
Individuals who were greeted with open arms are soon lecturing those there before they were about how to make all things great and small so much better. My advice to all these fast-growing areas is simple and straightforward. Of course, keep an open mind when new ideas are suggested. At the same time, defend the quality of life you have right now with a vengeance. Do not be tempted by things that are supposed to make life more convenient when the tradeoff is losing items important to your current way of life. Resist the temptation to substitute convenience for quality of life. Most important hold your elected officials responsible for protecting your way of life. Insist they avoid chasing shiny objects that promise pie in the sky outcomes.
These warnings come from someone who has witnessed this phenomenon up close. I grew up in Port Jervis in Orange County in New York State. It is a fair distance from New York City, but as Gotham City has declined into a third-world area, many living there fled to my hometown. At first, they were thrilled with what they found. Unfortunately, it did not take long for them to bang the drums for all the conveniences they had left behind. Their attitude of entitlement and reliance on government replaced one of self-reliance. Even more unfortunate, the local government did chase the shiny object, indulging the new arrivals, thinking these wealthy, well-educated folks should be allowed to call the tune. Today, I no longer recognize the place I used to call home.
If you love where you live, get ready to fight to protect it. Defend your way of life. Hold your elected officials accountable for protecting it. Otherwise, be prepared to watch the fabric of your community change before your very eyes.
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