Wasting Away again in Modern Reloville...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

This weekend, I read the book NEXT STOP, RELOVILLE: Life inside Americans New Rootless Professional Class by Peter T. Kilborn. It describes a lot of people who look, well, they look an awful lot like me and my family. We're people who see moving as a way of life; as a means to an end. Three of the top twenty five "Relovilles" are located in Northern VA -- Franconia, Leesburg, and Centreville. But even outside of those boundaries, "Relos" are all over Northern Virginia -- on my street alone (in an neighborhood known for lower turnover rates) I can count six of sixteen houses which have been bought and sold at least once in the last ten years, all to people who were not born in the Commonwealth.

What does this mean for us politically? First and foremost, that anyone ignoring this group does so at their own political peril. This is not an easy group to politically tag. Given the lack of time spent in any one place, Relos are often tax averse, and not as interested in long term community projects, and deathly afraid of anything that might lower property values (where most keep their largest store of personal wealth). On the other hand, Relos are often obsessed with schools (both locally and in obtaining in-state tuition on the college level) and are willing to pay higher taxes for these gains, and their children go on to become the long-term residents of tomorrow. They are often highly educated, affluent, and eager to belong, but a bit gun-shy about having their advances rejected by those who insist that residency is the best test of loyalty.

When I go to Democratic meetings and strategy sessions, these folks often fall through the cracks. Party politics tends to reward longevity (nothing wrong with that) with it's "neighbor to neighbor" organizing, but perhaps it's time to remember just who are neighbors are. Just as the party often failed to realize until fairly recently that bringing young people into the party was beneficial to all of us, tapping into Relos could mean the difference between a win and a loss in the often razor thin elections of Northern Va.

Which is one reason why the netroots are so important. Relos use the internet; they are less likely to read the local paper. Relos watch cable news because it's everywhere they live; networks and cable access are meaningless to them. Relos are on the litservs for their subdivision and schools, but perhaps not always on the voter identification lists. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are important to Relos because no matter where they are, their ability to communicate goes with them. Yes, they absolutely need to be identified and reached by person to person contact. I'm the first to agree with any boots on the ground campaigning. But there are other ways that will help. Let's make sure we do.