Many years ago, I started to notice that the emerging geographical divisions in US politics would be between the right in the rural areas, the center in the suburbs, and the left in the urban centers.
America’s political map is famously divided into shades of red and blue. But while most of America was anxiously watching screens and needles to see which hue the handful of crucial swing states would turn, the nation’s future was ultimately being decided at a far more granular scale—in the suburbs.
Geography’s defining role in how Americans vote has increased over the past decade or so, as people have sorted themselves by income, education and ideological outlook. More affluent and college-educated professionals and knowledge workers have clustered in larger cities, as many working-class people moved outward to the suburbs and rural America, widening the chasm between blue cities and red outlying areas.
But in the 2020 presidential election, it was the suburbs that were the inflection point, carrying the Democrats to victory. The dominant fissure was not between urban and rural voters but between suburban and rural voters. And not just close-in highly urbanized suburbs in close proximity to the urban center, but some further out suburbs, even exurbs.