Friday, February 26, 2016

Talking with WNHN's Arnie Arnesen about Manchester's Millyard renaissance

I had an enjoyable conversation about my Politico Magazine piece on Manchester with Arnie Arnesen, former Democratic gubernatorial and congressional nominee from New Hampshire, who hosts "The Attitude," a politics interview show on Concord's WNHN that's syndicated nationwide via the Pacifica Radio Network.

That interview -- about how New Hampshire's largest city turned a massive, largely vacant 19th century brick industrial complex into a 21st century knowledge industry hive -- can be heard today at noon in the Concord area, at various Pacifica affiliates from Vermont to Hawaii this week, or via podcast download right now.

We also chatted a bit about Des Moines, the subject of my previous "What Works" series installment for Politico Magazine, where I'm a contributing editor.

"The Attitude" can be heard this week on stations including KPFT (Houston), KNSJ (San Diego), KAKU (Maui) and KHOI (Ames, Iowa). Check your local Pacifica affiliate for listings.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How Manchester, New Hampshire, got its old mills spinning 21st century gold

My latest installment for Politico Magazine's "What Works" series is out and explores how a northern New England city turned a massive, nearly vacant 19th century mill complex into a 21st century knowledge industry powerhouse.

Manchester, New Hampshire -- a planned Utopian industrial city -- was home to the world's largest textile factory, a nearly 7 million foot red brick complex that by the mid-1960s was largely abandoned. But by accepting the fact that the old manufacturing industries weren't coming back -- and the arrival of a "world famous inventor colorful enough to have invited comparisons to Thomas Edison, Willy Wonka and Dr. No" -- the once moribund city has cultivated a high tech cluster in its old millyard.

Hunter S. Thompson had some choice words for the Union-Leader to kick off the piece, but that didn't stop that paper from giving the story some nice coverage this weekend.

This is my second piece as a Politico contributing editor. My first: this widely circulated story on how Des Moines went from dull to cool.

[Update, 1/25/16: talked with WNHN's Arnie Arnesen about the story on her syndicated Pacifica Radio show.]

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

That time the DNC quashed superdelegate reform

Bernie Sanders supporters have suddenly discovered the Democrats' infamous superdelegates, those party luminaries who, unlike ordinary delegates to the national convention, are allowed a vote for whatever presidential nominee they feel like, without direction from primary voters anywhere. But for those older than 20 or so, this shouldn't be coming as a surprise, as the party went through all of this back in 2008, when at one point it looked like superdelegates might steal the nomination from Barack Obama and give it to Hillary Clinton.

What few realize is that the effort to reform the system so that this could never happen again was intentionally foiled by the Democratic National Committee back in 2010. I broke the story for Newsweek at the time -- and at a stage in the process where the decision could still have been reversed. Guess what? Nobody cared. Not MoveOn, not Bernie Sanders, not even the White House, even though they'd backed the reforms the DNC overturned. Indeed, the only person who tried to do something about it was one of the committemen from Maine, Sam Spencer, who was subsequently tossed out of his position.

But this week, suddenly lots of people care. Huffington Post had this piece on my 2010 piece. Newsweek tweeted it out as if it was fresh news. Salon cited Spencer's quotes. Now MoveOn has petitions demanding the rules be changed now, which is of course not how this all works.

Lesson: if you're a Democrat and think this is a bad way of doing things, make a stink in the off-year when the decisions are actually being made, not during the election when those decisions suddenly imperil your favorite candidate. And maybe buy Sam Spencer a drink.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Atlantic's American Nations-powered take on New Hampshire's people

Happy New Hampshire primary day, everybody!

Alas, I've been far too overwhelmed to do this sort of thing myself, but The Atlantic's Connor Friedersdorf has taken up the question of who lives in the Granite State these days. I'm pleased to say he starts with American Nations' take on New England culture.

I'd of course have gone on to discuss the Scots-Irish enclave that took root in southern New Hampshire (see Derry, Londonderry and -- as Manchester was originally called -- Derryfield) and how it helps account for the state's electorate having more libertarian tendencies than its New England counterparts. (Some of the early Londonderry settlers moved to Midcoast Maine, shaping that state's trajectory, as readers of Lobster Coast well know.)

Also, for those who enjoyed my recent Politico piece on Des Moines' transformation: look out for the sequel later this month on, yes, Manchester, New Hampshire.

Monday, February 8, 2016

How's a city boost its reputation? A case study from Des Moines

This weekend, the Des Moines Register published a long read exploring how the city's boosters succeeded in changing the national media narrative on their once-boring, now-cooler city, which my piece for Politico played a role in. It's likely of interest to anyone charged with urban "branding".

Reporter Matthew Morian talked to Matt Lauer, Al Roker, and myself. The takeaway -- aside from my contribution that Iowa, unlike say, Maine, hasn't had to wage an unproductive post-colonial cultural struggle with its a former hegemon -- is that a place wins the PR battle when its people actually believe and have internalized the message the official boosters are trying to get out there.

The caucuses have passed, but if you're curious to know more about Iowa and how its cultural history and geography effect its political behavior, try this piece as well.

Meanwhile, on to New Hampshire.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Talking with VOA about Iowa's "socialists"

Happy Iowa Caucus Day to all you political junkies out there. In honor the day, Voice of America has this piece exploring why so many Democratic caucus goers in the Hawkeye State say they have no problem with socialism.

Reporter William Gallo asks them and me about the phenomenon, and gets a similar answer: the legacy of early Euro-American settler groups casts a very long shadow. "“To a lot of people, what Bernie Sanders is suggesting is a completely foreign idea,” one resident of (very Danish-American) Elk Horn tells him. “Whereas to Scandinavians, this is something that in the old country, it’s been this way for a while.”

For more background on the ethnographic legacy in Iowa and why it matters to the rest of the American political map, please consider my recent Politico story on such, or if you're up for a book length treatment, American Nations.