Michigan 12th District
The flat expanse of land just north of Eight Mile Road, Detroit’s northern city limit, was mostly vacant in the years just after World War II. A string of suburbs in Oakland County ran along Woodward Avenue from the Detroit city limits to the Shrine of the Little Flower Church in Royal Oak, where Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s made his radio broadcasts opposing Franklin D. Roosevelt and denouncing bankers and Jews. In the 1950s and 1960s, Woodward was one of America’s greatest cruising highways, where teenagers drove big Detroit cars up and down the eight lanes and where the lights were timed at 42 miles per hour. (Since 1994, the Woodward Dream Cruise of old cars has commemorated that era with a mega-celebration drawing more than 1 million.) To the east in Macomb County was some industrial development along Van Dyke Road, but this was mostly empty land, too. Then Polish-Americans began marching out Van Dyke from Hamtramck to Warren. Italian-Americans headed out Gratiot from Detroit’s east side to Roseville and Clinton Township. Belgian-Americans from the Mack corridor moved out farther to St. Clair Shores. Today, these areas are well-settled suburbs, long since built up, a few neighborhoods edging toward seediness, many others continually renovated. Almost half of metro Detroit’s population is now north of Eight Mile, in communities drawing on old traditions but crackling with economic creativity.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 12th Congressional District of Michigan is in this suburban territory, with two-thirds of its population in Macomb County. On the Oakland County side are the southern part of Royal Oak and other Woodward Avenue suburbs, which have been economically revitalized, attracting singles and gays as well as families. Oak Park, heavily Jewish in the 1950s, now also has sizable numbers of Arabs and blacks. Hazel Park and Madison Heights are mostly peopled with descendants of the Appalachian migrants of a few decades ago. Southfield, Michigan’s largest office-space center (far ahead of Detroit), has a black middle-class majority. Ferndale, one of the original bedroom communities for autoworkers, has been revived with help from government bonds and is viewed as a model for rescuing aging suburbs. On the Macomb side are the county’s more Democratic neighborhoods: Warren and the southern part of Sterling Heights, site of the General Motors Technical Center, a big Chrysler plant and the now-privatized M-1 tank plant. Farther east are blue-collar communities of Macomb: Eastpointe (formerly known as East Detroit, it voted to change its name to make it sound less like Detroit and more like tony Grosse Pointe), Roseville, St. Clair Shores, Clinton Township and Mount Clemens. Although still a small share at 7 percent, the black population has been growing rapidly in Macomb. This district is solidly Democratic.