How the Democrats are Destroying Large Cities
Kevin Williamson has published a commentary in the NY Post dealing with the “blue wave” that’s moving through metropolitan areas. In cities like Denver, Omaha, Dallas, and Salt Lake City, the Republican Party has ceased to be even competitive. According to Williamson, “there is no Republican-led US city with a population of one million or more.” In Salt Lake City, Omaha, Denver, and Dallas, elections are now held between left-of-center Democrats and more radical members of the same party. Williamson is understandably concerned that if urban politics in areas that we expect to be relatively conservative continue to move in a blue direction, they will cease to give their populations “real political choices. Cities need real political competition to create incentives for policy innovation.”
My own concern is somewhat different from that of Williamson. It seems to me that Democrat urban rule is becoming increasingly chaotic, particularly as it turns in a woke direction. Defunding the police, abolishing gender identities, placing biological men in girls’ locker- and restrooms, and eliminating bail are all problems that now often accompany Democrats' rule. Pulling down statues that are deemed politically incorrect and renaming streets and parks to fit the Left’s advancing antiwhite agenda are also characteristic of Democrat urban governments. The same governments are also treating indulgently large homeless populations which live in their streets and poach on the lawns of local residents. It is not so much the lack of “policy innovation” as it is how and what the Democrats innovate that makes their urban rule quite unsettling.
Unfortunately, Williamson does not offer much of an alternative to what he justifiably deplores. He points approvingly to the “moderate Republican” mayor of Fort Worth and to a few other non-Democrat urban executives who won office but who don’t seem to have notably changed the political culture of their cities. It is hard to view these exceptions as the hope of the future. Williamson also points to difficulties in Dallas, where he lives and where houses have become pricey, taxes alarmingly high, and crime out of control. But when it comes to offering urban policies that Williamson believes have worked, the best he can offer is Ed Rendell’s promotion of Center City while mayor of Philadelphia. Rendell got businesses to move to downtown Philadelphia by adopting an effective tax incentive plan.
Rendell is of course a Democrat and a firm supporter of the Biden administration. And not insignificantly, the core of Philadelphia is now convulsed with crime. It is doubtful that Philadelphia can maintain a vital commercial and recreational life for its citizens or tourists if its crime rate continues to rise. It currently rates near the top of American cities for violent crime.
Urban areas may still have time to turn around some of their problems if they make different political choices. But the fault, contrary to what Williamson suggests, is not that of the Republican Party or American conservatives. Cities have undergone critical demographic change even since 1994, when Rudolph Giuliani became New York City mayor. The white ethnic families from which Giuliani drew most of his support are moving out of our cities; and racial minorities, often suffering from broken families, and young professionals professing woke politics and exhibiting woke lifestyles have taken their place. Both marriage and children born in wedlock are less common in urban areas than they are in rural ones.
Our present urban populations do not generally have the same interests or values as those they’ve replaced. These newer residents stand culturally and socially well to the left of the urban electorate of the past. The machine Democrats of my youth for whom city-dwellers once voted certainly traded in political favors. But they were concerned with physical safety and expressed what might now be considered antediluvian views about the family. In the 1960s and even later the Democrat party was still the party of ethnic Catholics and Southern Protestants; and Joe Biden was well to the right of where he is now as president.
Equally important, there is a culturally and socially determined population movement. The anti-woke demographic has been moving from blue to red regions and out of crime-ridden, politically radicalized cities. The result of this development is not necessarily that more of the country is looking like Dallas, Philadelphia, or San Francisco. It is that areas that are more congenial to traditional bourgeois Christian society are attracting those who share their values and life choices. Mr. Williamson, who has expressed strong feelings against the white working class and particularly against Trump voters, obviously won’t be joining this exodus, but he should be aware that one is occurring -- and is likely to accelerate. Those who remain in large cities may feel increasingly uncomfortable unless they share the dominant values of their environment or can survive in isolated enclaves. But others are packing their bags and are not likely to come back.