The Washington Post's Alec MacGillis has a nice piece on Barack Obama as having the strongest "city pedigree" of any presidential nominee since Al Smith in 1928. (MacGillis dismisses Michael Dukakis as a resident of "genteel Brookline" -- and it's true that, despite having its most famous resident take the subway to Beacon Hill when he was governor, Brookline insists on calling itself a "town." And he writes that John F. Kennedy and John F. Kerry fit Hyannisport and Nantucket better than they did Boston.)
But the gist of his piece is that Obama represents the rise of the metropolitan mindset rather than the revival of urban politics:
With his organizer background, he could have cast himself as a knight riding to the rescue of cities neglected by Republican administrations. Instead, he has adopted the framing increasingly favored by many mayors and urban-policy types -- promoting America's cities based on their strengths, not their failings. Cities, he argues, are now melded to their suburbs, and, taken as a whole, America's metro areas are the "backbone of regional growth," as he put it in a June speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "Washington remains trapped in an earlier era," he said, "wedded to an outdated 'urban' agenda that focuses exclusively on the problems in our cities, and ignores our growing metro areas, an agenda that confuses anti-poverty policy with a metropolitan strategy, and ends up hurting both."
As a matter of policy, this approach makes sense. As politics, it's even more sensible. The reason the Democratic Party remains competitive (and, this year, ascendent) in national politics is that it has become the Metropolitan Party even as its inner-city base has lost voting strength. This happened a long time ago in Massachusetts, when older suburbs aligned themselves with Boston to elect Democrats such as Dukakis (and, more recently, Gov. Deval Patrick). It's now happening in places such as Virginia, whose slice of metropolitan Washington, DC, seems likely to deliver the state to Obama next week.