I had a post prior about our ongoing elections and how there’s a somewhat generic split between urban and rural voting tendencies. Given the timeframes, what that post focused on was the historical trends, which effectively built ‘strongholds’ for a generation +.
A reminder that the side effect of a stronghold is that the party which controls that stronghold has zero interest in addressing any of those voters concerns. The party wants to expand their control/voting base, so they really are only targeting other areas. The people in that stronghold never really hold their members to account, so there’s no reason for the party to actually do anything. In today’s social media age, that causes anger at being ignored… and well, here we are.
But that’s a tangent. What I really wanted to talk about is the rural urbanite. Depending on the city you live in, there was a small, yet noticeable population of rural residents that actually spent most of their time in an urban setting (long-haul commuters). You can see this more as the baby boomers retire and cottage country undergoes a massive shift in demographics and engagement. There are quite a few reports of camping grounds taking over small town councils, with seasonal representation. That’s a generational shift with geographic tendencies. And yet, that particular demographic (retired and can afford to move to cottage country) also has a rather particular voting trend. The older you get, and the more money you have, the more likely you are to be right leaning.
This doesn’t apply to the ‘true rural’ areas. You’re not going to find a densification in the Appalachians of retired wall street bankers. Instead, you’re more likely to find that urban sprawl doubles the geographical size. Folks will retired and move 1-2 hours away from an urban centre. It actually squeezes the rural centers to smaller and smaller sizes. This is generally accounted for in Canada’s 3rd party redistricting exercises. Gerrymandering is extremely rare here – the US is a real edge case globally.
So that’s one particular trend, the ‘aging out’ of the urban centres. There’s another one, that won’t necessarily impact THIS election but will impact the next one.
I’m going to call this the pandemic spread. Or more specifically, the massive proliferation of remote workers. Where areas were having emigration issues where the high school graduates would move to urban centers for education, and stay for employment, that shift is starting to reverse. A lot of education can be done remotely, or even those that have been away for studies can now return to urban centers IF they have a reliable internet connection. Canada has some serious challenges here, mainly due to geography and lack of population density (90% of Canada is within 100km of the US border). Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will have a massive impact on the ability to remote work, and therefore the distribution of the population.
This isn’t about urbanites (born and bred) leaving in droves to rural settings, but more about slowing the haemorrhage from rural to urban. Small towns now have an incentive (outside of politics) to build an environment and services that support more than the grey-haired club. It’ll also mean that the traditional strongholds, structured often due to geographical location, and likely to see some chipping at their control.
Which is a really interesting paradigm shift. Rural was often seen as being more and more irrelevant in the larger picture of politics. Yet the reality is that the age curve of baby boomers and the ability for younger remote workers (where property costs are extremely lower) can lay their roots are causing a heck of a shift. Not for this election (1 week to go!) but it will certainly be there for the next one. A more spread set of political views would certainly help with the more ‘extreme’ and echo chamber spaces we have seen these past few years. Let’s see how this plays out.