David Hoppe

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:: Indy versus Indiana

The city versus the state

by David Hoppe

When Mike Huber, now in his capacity as president of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, released a statement opposing HJR-6, the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, he highlighted an increasing tension between Indianapolis and the rest of the state.

Tellingly, while Huber and the Indy Chamber have openly opposed writing homophobia into the state’s constitution, the Indiana Chamber has chosen not to take a stand. “There hasn’t been a final definitive decision issued by the Supreme Court” about the legality of state bans on gay marriage, Indiana Chamber president Kevin Brinegar told The Indianapolis Star. The Star didn’t say whether or not Brinegar was ducking when he said this.

The disconnect between Indianapolis and the rural and exurban parts of the state over who can or cannot be married is just the latest example of the gulf between the state’s city dwellers and our country (and exurban) cousins. But this rupture isn’t unique to Indiana. It’s happening on a global scale.

As scholars Michele Acuto and Parag Khanna observe in a recent paper, “Nations are no longer driving globalization — cities are The Return of the City State,” the world is undergoing a massive structural change, which, in turn, is going to affect our politics, economies and our very identities.

Half the world’s population, they point out, is now living in cities for the first time in human history. This is making cities more potent as political entities than states or even nations.

Cities, for example, are pulling ahead of so-called sovereign nations in trying to tackle climate change. The C40 initiative, an alliance of mayors from 60 cities around the world, is dedicated to finding practical ways of reducing the carbon footprint in urban areas.

Cities drive global economic activity. Acuto and Khanna cite a McKinsey Global Institute study that shows the world’s economic activity can be tracked according to what’s going on in 400 metro areas. They point to recent international mergers of stock exchanges, beginning with New York and Frankfort and, pending, between London and Toronto, Sidney and Singapore and Chicago and Sao Paulo, to name just a few.

Global inequality, they contend, has become more stark within countries, than across national borders.

This echoes what we see, albeit on a less magisterial scale, in Indiana. This state would be almost unthinkable without Indianapolis to give it economic and cultural credibility. Yet, as in so many other parts of the United States, political decisions and social policies are controlled to an unrepresentative degree by people living where the culture tends to be retrogressively homogenous, and the economy is hollowed out.

When you look at the poor job of stewardship the state of Indiana has provided its citizens over the past several decades, it’s no wonder more and more young Hoosiers see their only hope for a future in Indianapolis — and that Indianapolis realizes it has more in common with its sister cities, in other parts of the country, and around the world, than within a set of boundaries that mean more on a map than in real life.