Adventures in Exurbia

LAT exurbs story sounds a familiar note

Today’s Los Angeles Times gives front page play to Peter Wallsten’s story about how the slumping economy may drive residents of some traditionally Republican exurbs to vote Democratic this year:

“This is the first election I ever actually looked at someone else other than the Republican candidate,” said Rodriguez, 33, who is studying to be a teacher and is a fixture at the lawn chair hobnob here on Greely Court, a quiet cul-de-sac in a Pasco County subdivision called Wrencrest.

“I’ve had enough with the Republican economics,” she added, as her husband, Danny, who had just driven from his banking job in Tampa, piped in: “No more Bush.”

It’s good reporting by Wallsten on a nonetheless tired subject. While there is certainly something to be said about the anomie of the exurbs, people have been writing this story for years. Including Wallsten: he wrote a version of this story in September of 2007, focusing on independent voters instead of Republicans:

On a recent Wednesday evening, after a prayer service devoted to a Bible verse about respecting the authority of God and government, the Waterses said they had lost their enthusiasm for the current authority figures in Washington, and said they were worried about next year’s election.

“I’m still a Republican, but I’m very close to being an independent,” said Phil Waters. “I’m closer to the middle than I used to be because of the way the Republicans have screwed things up.”

OK, we get it: many Americans are angry, and unsure how they will vote. Give me more. How are the campaigns planning to capture these shifting demographics? How seriously are they taking this grass roots disillusionment? The LAT notes that today’s article is the first of an occasional series. Hopefully future entries will move the exurban question beyond the stale “demographic shift” framing.

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Justin Peters is editor-at-large of the Columbia Journalism Review.