This week the media had a field day predicting that Mitt Romney might lose the GOP primary in his “home state” of Michigan. To be sure, Romney was born in Michigan and his father was the state’s governor. But his “home” — in more realistic terms — seemed more like Massachusetts, where he was governor, or Utah, where he led an effort to host the Winter Olympics and also the “home” of his Mormon faith.
Now if the media wanted to portray Romney as “in trouble” politically, it would have been to conjecture that Romney would somehow lose support in Utah. I think Michigan is going to be won by Obama anyway.
It got me thinking about the longtime “movers vs. stayers” arguments in America — something that is foisted upon you in our county more than in other places.
Where only the past matters?
In Nevada County, whether intentional or not, “stayers” often put the “movers” on the defensive. District 1 Supervisor candidate Sue McGuire touts that she’s a “6th generation Nevada County resident” in her campaign literature — as did resident and financial services business owner Mike McDaniel in an op-ed about public pensions last week.
Mike even signed his name that he was a “sixth generation” resident (though he went away to college in the Bay Area). Sue is a law-school graduate.
All this preoccupation with how long your family has lived here — in generations, let alone years — has caused a friend to joke that our motto is “Nevada County — where only the past matters.” It’s a reference to a lack of economic diversity too — and I think he’s only half-joking.
In truth, however, it’s not uncommon to be a “stayer,” at least in rural areas.
Only a third of the people living in U.S. urban neighborhoods and suburbs say they have spent their entire lives in the same place, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. That compares with 48 percent of Americans living in rural areas.
On the other hand, the nation’s most transient region is the West (so that makes our county somewhat of an anomaly), while the nation’s most rooted region is the Midwest. The report is here.
I’m more of a “mover” than a “stayer” but extremely proud (still) to be a native Californian. I was born in and grew up in Pasadena in the early ’60s; lived in Denver in my early teens (my father was transferred); then we moved back to California (where I finished high school near San Jose).
I lived in Berkeley and Chicago for college degrees, and moved to South Florida (my first job during the ’82 economic downturn) — but settled in San Francisco and Marin County for a more than a decade after that. So I’m “four states” — California, Colorado, Illinois and Florida; see chart.
Now us “movers” vs. “stayers” are settled together in a small rural county of “stayers.” But that’s changing: A growing number of people have moved here from somewhere else.
I suppose that puts the “stayers” on the defensive too, worrying that people want to disrupt their rural lifestyle. In some cases, losing their influence is at play too.
Most “movers” that I know embrace the more laid-back lifestyle, rather than wanting to change it. They came here to raise their children or for family ties — the same reasons as the “stayers.”
Jobs — the No. 1 reason for moving in the Pew study — was not one of the reasons in many cases. A lot of the folks are retired.
But just like Democrats vs. Republicans, or working people vs. retirees, there’s sometimes friction between the “movers” and the “stayers.”
It seems misplaced, though, because in the end, here’s what the Pew Survey concluded:
“Levels of community satisfaction do not appear to be correlated with people’s past mobility patterns. Equal shares of movers and stayers——–about six-in-ten — rate their current community as good or excellent.”
That’s worth remembering.
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