This is the sixth in a series on Whitewater’s local politics of 2021.
There’s no politically predominant group in Whitewater. Strictly speaking, a subculture implies a dominant culture, but it’s less dramatic to describe Whitewater as several subcultures than as balkanized. One might call the city multicultural, but that term often implies an acceptance of different cultures, and neither Whitewater’s traditionalists nor populists can be described as friends of multiculturalism…
Whitewater is a collection of subcultures sitting beside, and sometimes mixing, with each other.
It was the claim – the insistence, truly – of Old Whitewater that there was one town, with one people, and one message for them. This claim lingered long past its expiration date; it lingers in some minds still.
The height of that view was 2006-07, before the Great Recession. There are few towns where a local politician would publish an online news site and be taken seriously. Old Whitewater took all of this seriously. A traditional conservative outlook was simply assumed as the default outlook of each and all. Boosterism was the patina of that time in this city, but beneath that coat of whitewash there were genuine grains from different timbers.
The Great Recession and its aftermath broke apart any credible claim – if ever there were one – that the city was of one type of person or outlook. (Failure to understand the enduring influence of the Great Recession on Whitewater and other small Midwestern towns is a significant misunderstanding.)
What Whitewater was below the surface then is more evident now: about half college students, half non-students, White, Latino, Black, and each of these groups of more than one politics (some in support of this more diverse city, others opposed to the very idea of diversity).
(For many years, I waited patiently and hopefully for more publications, of varying viewpoints, to sprout here. They have. Residents with recourse to digital tools now publish dozens upon dozens of local pages through Facebook, stand-alone sites, Twitter, or Instagram. There may be no person in the city happier about this than I am.)
No doubt local government would like one quick stop, one easy touch, but a normal community – let alone a vibrant one – seeks more than that.
There’s much from publishing that Whitewater still needs, but a more competitive publishing environment is a better environment.
That more competitive publishing environment is a consequence of the shift from one (presumed) dominant politics to several competing political factions.
Tomorrow: The Common Council.