Was thinking about this the other day, in the context of the blue-state exodus from NY, NJ, and CA.
Maybe David Brooks was right. Since generally speaking, large successful cities eventually become havens for the upper-middle-class (while the middle class retreats to the suburbs), and downtowns become characterized by things which cater to the wealthy — fine arts, high-end restaurants, boutique stores, etcetera, the “blue” areas will tend to have greater “wealth awareness” than similar “red” zones, as the cities more and more become places inhabited by two groups — those who have significant amounts of money, and those who cater to them.
This cultural divide is pretty old. Even in the 1850s, antebellum society was generally divided between Republicans (who largely represented middle-class values and especially the urge to gain financial independence, much like any contractor or small entrepreneur today), versus the large inner cities, where the great magnates of the day (then, usually cotton) held sway over a large “working class,” with what we call the middle class conspicuously absent.
This inevitably leads to class conflict, because some people will pay 18 bucks for a hamburger….and the rest either does so as a treat (eating what the former regard as crap the rest of the time), or else live beyond their means to do so. The folks who can’t justify a 40-dollar hamburger-tab-for-two are producing goods which are beyond their own reach, while others float serenely by, uncaring what the folks behind the counter think (and reasonbly so: how often do you care about your cashier’s life story?).
One group tends to value wealth, and looks up to lawyers, CPAs, stockbrokers, etcetera. The other generally values independence, and values small to mid-sized industry guys, contractors, entrepreneurs, start-up mavens.
You can really see this in process in Dallas, which is a huge, sprawling city, but has a downtown that culturally is very much becoming a “blue” zone, where middle-class people may come in to work or to catch a sports event, but only the wealthy, the few tourists doing the restaurant thing, and the hipsters actually stay after 6pm. Desire aside, nobody else can afford to do so.
What y’all think?