Whether you’re an anti-gay evangelical activist or a Muslim dreaming of a new caliphate, here’s the really big picture: liberal attitudes are well adapted to urban life and culturally conservative ones are less so. And the world’s demographics are moving toward greater numbers of urban dwellers.
That’s pretty much checkmate. To have a growing “medieval values coalition” in the world, you need lots of people living in small towns and rural areas. But that’s not where things are going.
Think of a state like New York in the United States. Two-thirds of the state’s voters reside in the city of New York proper. Two-thirds. How does a cultural conservative win a democratic election in the state absent winning the urban vote?
Answer: he doesn’t.
And the demographics of New York state are the demographics coming to the entire globe in 2050. Think about that.
The below United Nations data chart ought to be on the wall of every politically interested person, left or right. It focuses the mind. The blue line plots the percentage of urban dwellers in the world. The green line plots the percentage of rural dwellers. The chart begins at 1950 and projects out to 2050.
The large “X” that the intersecting lines generate is what ought to startle because it shows that the urban/rural percentages change places over time. In other words, there was once a roughly 70-30 divide in favor of rural dwellers in the world (in 1950). It will be the exact opposite in 2050 (70-30 in favor of urban dwellers).
The below chart stops at 2050, but the urban trend doesn’t. By century’s end, demographers project a 90-10 urban/rural split in the human population. 90-10. These numbers are great for the production of cultural liberals and left of center mayors in the world (like Los Angeles’s Antonio Villaragosa, Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, and New York’s Mike Bloomberg). It’s not so great for the production of reactionary-minded traditionalists (at least in substantial numbers).
The joker in the deck of this global urban trend is the international airport. Yes, plague may one day come to the demographic rescue of cultural conservatism. (See the excellent and disturbing movie, Contagion, for a plausible dramatization of how such a scenario could play out.) In an apocalyptic calamity of the global plague variety, culturally conservative ruralists could well inherit the Earth after all.