Conservative writer Kevin Williamson believes that conservatives can someday win the vote in big cities.
He begins by listing off a litany of Democratic failures in city governance, some of which are certainly true — Rahm Emanuel’s sitting on that tape of the murderous cop until a FOIA request forced it out, no doubt due to the fearsome power of Chicago police unions; the sorry state of inner-city neighborhood schools, due mainly to the teachers’ unions; the considerations of black people having to take a back seat to the interests of the public sector unions; everything about Detroit. Complacency and corruption are the norm of Democratic city governance and its unionized employees, and I speak from a position of experience as a resident and taxpayer of NYC.
Williamson then concludes, “In the long run, conservatives need the cities. And the cities need conservatives right now.” Which would be the logical conclusion if the conservatives in his own comments section didn’t immediately prove him wrong.
“The only way that Republicrats are going to run cities is to burn them down,” rants one. “The cities are occupied by freeloaders and they will not leave as long as there is free – or nearly free food and shelter. The freeloaders know who will continue the same stuff. No conservatives welcome.”
“And rather than wait around for the once-in-a-century moment where people get sick of the farce and vote in responsible adults, most of us just flee to suburbs where responsible adults are already in charge,” another lectures in the second-most upvoted remark.
The GOP is known as the party of the suburbs for a reason.
And this commentator gets straight to the point: “… because apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what had white people ever done for Chicago?”
The GOP is also known as the party of white racists for a reason.
The realities of big city life are simply incompatible with the belief systems of the GOP base. They hate high-density living — Williamson’s colleague Stanley Kurtz has made it his Alex Jones-level obsession that Obama has a conspiracy to raise the housing density of his precious exurbs and pack those people into high-density projects in his cul-de-sac, which indeed is the greatest horror imaginable for your standard-issue GOP voter.
They similarly hate public transit, the higher taxes necessary for city dwelling, the reduced privacy, and, yes, the high numbers of who they consider those people. (Remember John Rocker?) And I again speak from a position of experience, having grown up in lily-white and heavily Republican suburbs in a red state.
Williamson remarks that the biggest city that is reliably Republican is San Diego. This town is home to a consistently underperforming NFL franchise, always finding innovative new ways to fail its upper-tier QB1. It is also home to increasing numbers of Democratic voters as the town becomes more and more Hispanic, and its white Republicans presumably take flight like their LA counterparts before them. San Diego proper has fallen to 45.1% non-Hispanic white. San Diego County, however, is 76.3% white, which is almost identical to famously Republican Orange County. Which is to say, the political party of San Diego’s mayor at any given moment will eventually become as easy to predict as Chicago’s.
So, Williamson’s dream is so fantastic that it’s surprising it wasn’t published in Asimov’s. But that said: could conservative governance save the city?
Few question that the Rudy administration was therapeutic balm for this city. The biggest reason why: by kicking out all the usual vested interests from Gracie Mansion, he gave this town the enema that it needed. The staff members of elected officials are no different than unionized public employees: If they don’t have any fear of ever losing their jobs, they have no incentive to perform their jobs well. But by throwing these people out on their asses and bringing in some new blood, Rudy was able to shake some things loose and finally bring about some more competent policing strategies and bring about other QoL changes NYC so desperately needed.
But to some extent, the city’s renaissance of the ’90s had less to do with Rudy’s specific party and more to do with the fact that he simply wasn’t a Democrat. Look at Bloomberg: He famously split from the GOP because he was arguably to the left of his successor on some nanny-state issues. Yet, merely because he wasn’t a Democrat, Bloomberg didn’t get bogged down in petty intraparty squabbles the way de Blasio so routinely does.
The inertia of single-party rule takes hold no matter which party it is. The statehouses of Alabama or Mississippi are hardly bastions of honest public service, either.
The main specifically conservative policy that would benefit cities is one that not even Rudy could countenance: dissolving the public sector unions. Look at Chris Christie: he rants and raves about these unions every day of the week, but he’s just as helpless against them as regular John Q. Taxpayers like myself. Scott Walker could do it (just barely) at the state level in Wisconsin, but if he were mayor of the city of Milwaukee and tried that? He’d be buried next to Hoffa!
Otherwise, the main of the GOP platform is not directed at cities because its base hates the cities. Regrettably, as the GOP has turned its back on the cities, the only answer is for Democrats to somehow fix them on their own.