Will the Rural Myth Persist? Philadelphia Mayor Nutter Offers Some Insight
Having established this we’re-all-rural-at-heart proposition, the Republicans will seek to portray Mr. Obama as an exotic, urban dilettante, estranged from real America.
Reliant on the small town myth for his success in November, Senator McCain has steered clear of urban issues throughout the campaign. In an interview earlier this summer (available soon on MayorTV and previewed below), MayorTV asked Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia whether McCain can talk about urban issues in the campaign and still reach his Republican base.
It’s certainly not my position to offer advice for Senator McCain given that I’m a good Democrat and I’m supporting Senator Obama. Having said that, Senator McCain can talk about whatever it is he wants to talk about. I think the challenge of leadership is the ability to reach out to as many constituencies as possible...I think our main charge in public office is to serve everyone in our constituency regardless of party, regardless of race, regardless of class or whether you think people are going to vote for you or not.
I think that if you box yourself in, if you limit what you can talk about because you’re worried about political constituencies, I don’t think you’re much of a leader.
Although he originally endorsed Senator Clinton (and her stance on urban issues) for the Democratic nomination, Mayor Nutter is now an Obama supporter, telling MayorTV, “I look forward to working with Senator Obama on city issues, urban issues, metropolitan issues…”
Fundamentally, Nutter is most concerned that the next president be aware of issues that matter to the nation’s cities. He has been particularly vocal about the need for the candidates to talk about crime and in our interview passionately described Philadelphia’s program to reduce recidivism by giving a tax break to employers who hire ex-offenders.
On several occasions – for instance, here and here – Senator Obama has tied together the interests of America’s urban centers with the interests of the United States at large, echoing Nutter’s sense that “cities really do matter.” Obama has, on these occasions, elevated cities from the mythical liberal enclaves that Senator McCain and many Republicans would have them be to common ground for discussion rooted in the country’s existent socioeconomic conditions.
Senator McCain’s small town mythology, on the other hand, is opportunistic and myopic. As Mayor Nutter put it:
This segmentation, this isolation by constituencies – I’m only talking about these four or five things because I only want to appeal to 51% of the public in order to get myself elected – I think is short-sighted and does not allow for the kind of full representation that all of us as Americans deserve.