Ed Glaeser rightly bemoans the presidential campaign’s lack of interest in big city issues. Ryan Avent says “voters must be the ones to demand more urban policy proposals from the the candidates” and wonders why they don’t. I think it’s more a question of the voters who care about these things not living in the right places. Neither Iowa nor New Hampshire nor South Carolina includes a substantially sized city. What’s more, at the moment we’re in a dynamic where general election campaigns don’t seriously target California, New York, Illinois, or Texas but those states contain the bulk of our biggest metro areas.
Insofar as states like Florida and Virginia get targeted, you might see candidates trying to take on transportation and planning issues that have salience in those places, but realistically it’s hard for big cities to figure on the agenda in a big way when New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and the Bay Area are all off the table in electoral college terms. On the other hand, presidents don’t really write the laws — congress does — and the House Democratic caucus is full of leaders and chairpeople from in and around large metropolitan areas. Given a sympathetic president to sign things they write they could probably do a lot of good. On the other hand, the Senate is structured so as to largely disenfranchise urban America, so maybe we’re doomed.
Photo by Flickr user BryanSereny used under a Creative Commons license