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From Hobby Horse to Sacred Cow: Whitey and the Midterm Election

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Barely after the sun rises tomorrow morning, party apparatchiks will dissect the voting data to determine who captured politics' golden chalice -- suburban and exurban white voters -- and how.

Who are these folks? According to Finding Exurbia, a fascinating new study from the Brookings Institution, exurban counties have:

* Disproportionately white populations (83 percent)
* With "middle incomes" ($40K to $100K)
* Contain higher percentages of "nuclear" families and homeownership.

Racism historically dictated both parties' flirtations with suburban and exurban white voters: "End Forced Busing!" "States Rights!" "Contain Urban Crime!". But now centrist racial politics do.

Occupying the middle lane, centrist racial politics try to be the most amount of things to the most amount of (white) people. This outlook soothes the guilt of some whites, skillfully panders to the racial fears of others, and generally serves to woo the moderate "swing" white voter. Try as they might, the Democrats could barely conceal their ambivalence towards issues facing racial minorities (immigration, affirmative action, etc) this election.

The exurbs are having a big impact in the three Senate races that matter most: Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri. Centrist racial politics produced some troubling moments, but also delicious comedy -- especially in these crucial "toss-up" races. (Have you ever seen June Cleaver, at a Playboy party, dancing with a Macaca, screaming "school choice vouchers!"?) Thanks to the centrist racial politics of Exurbland, candidates from George Allen to Claire McCaskill are championing its causes, walking tight ropes, making odd declarations, and doing a lot of apologizing (but not too profusely).

Today, White voters in the emerging suburbs and exurbs in a handful of states may determine which party controls the US Senate. And their brethren nationwide, establishment strategists believe, hold the keys to the 2008 presidential election.

The rest of America, beware: centrist racial politics in Exurbland are transforming its voters' hobby horses -- school "choice," taxpayer and private property "rights", gated communities, and "color-blind" indifference -- into sacred cows.

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