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Buffalo: New York’s Midwest city


This video about Buffalo, produced by tourist and preservation groups, is quite impressive and reminded me of a few broader issues.

First, we often forget that New York State encompasses what we know as the Midwest. In his New York Times op-ed yesterday, David Brooks argues that the trajectory of American politics is being determined by the working class of the Midwest:

If Balzac were alive today, he would plant himself in that region of America that starts in central New York and Pennsylvania and then stretches out through Ohio and Indiana before spreading out to include Wisconsin and Arkansas. He’d plant himself in the working-class families in this area.

I agree with Brooks. In fact, he reaches a similar conclusion - "American politics are volatile because nobody has an answer for these people. They will remain volatile until somebody finds one" - to the one I did in my article on the midterms for spiked (here). But I also thought it interesting - and correct - that Brooks notes that the Midwest begins in central and western New York. I spend a fair amount of time that area, and it definitely has more of a Midwest feel, unlike the rest of the state.

For decades, "rustbelt" has been a synonym for Midwest. While the decline of manufacturing is striking, this video of Buffalo reminds us that many of the Midwest's cities remain beautiful, with amazing and inspiring architecture. Also, despite the decline in population, cities like Buffalo remain home to hundreds of thousands (Buffalo's peaked around 600,000 in 1950, and is now just under half that), and cannot just be written off. We need to find a way to draw upon the still-vibrant energies of the local people to make something happen in the economies of the Midwest.

2 Responses to “Buffalo: New York’s Midwest city” Leave a reply ›

  • I think these observations are accurate. I'm a retired historian who once taught Urban History, and I have always been fascinated by the make up of the so-called lake cities. All of them have similar characteristics, and fascinating ethnicity which makes them even more interesting, and they do reach at least as far as Buffalo--how about the small town of Herkimer (probably spelled it wrong)where I once had dinner. I know it would be fun to poke around in cities like Buffalo. These people have been written off by many in the msm, and even though Buffalo is in New York, it's still a fly over district. Thanks for the video.

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