Farhad Manjoo, self-described “lefty New York Times columnist” and Californian, paid a recent visit to Dallas in an effort to find out why “everyone’s moving to Texas.” The resulting column is worth reading, if a little scattershot. (It’s packaged with a fun little “Where Should You Live?” project that invites you to input your city-living priorities and spits out a recommended place to live; I got Chapel Hill, N.C.)
It contains a handful of pertinent observations, like Manjoo’s suspicion that the blue state vs. red state stuff is overblown. For the people moving here (or anywhere), politics matter much less than (relative) affordability, jobs, and housing. Manjoo is right that Texas’ badly underfunded public services look even more pitiful when compared to California’s welfare benefits. But while our state’s natural beauty can’t quite match the mountains and beaches and forests of California no matter how many lagoon communities developers here throw up, most of the scenery is really quite similar:
“Texas has barbecue and California has burritos, but the American urban landscape has grown stultifyingly homogeneous over the past few decades, and perhaps one reason so many Californians are comfortable moving to Texas is that, on the ground, in the drive-through line at Starbucks or the colossal parking lot at Target, daily life is more similar than it is different.”
I think Manjoo overrates the extent to which fear of climate change is now pushing people along the California-to-Texas pipeline, although that’s obviously something we should all take more seriously before it’s too late. (And if things continue the way they’re heading, climate change should prove more of a factor in cross-country moves).
And Manjoo’s coastal eliteness gets the better of him at times. He avoids gratuitous references to livestock and things being bigger in Texas, which I very much appreciated, but is nevertheless shocked that people with liberal politics live in the ninth biggest city in the country. I don’t know what to feel about paragraphs like this one:
“My hotel in downtown Dallas was within a short walk of several gay bars; sex shops selling packers, which are often used by trans men; smoothie shops; and purveyors of CBD remedies of all kind. Black Lives Matter signs dotted front yards. Not everyone was wearing a mask, but lots of people were — many more than I was expecting, and certainly enough that I never felt out of place donning one.”
Secondhand embarrassment, mostly. And a sense that Manjoo needs a better tour guide if he ever comes back. Where does he think “downtown Dallas” is?
Regardless, I think he gets at least some of the reason why people keep moving to Texas—and why we should welcome all comers. “Texas, now, feels a bit like California did when I first moved here in the late 1980s — a thriving, dynamic place where it doesn’t take a lot to establish a good life,” Manjoo writes. “For many people, that’s more than enough.”