Why Republicans Need the Cities

Chicago pro immigration rally.jpg

Republicans took an all around shellacking in the 2012 elections. Part of the reason is that Democrats dominated the cities. President Obama won 69% of the big city vote, according to a New York Times exit poll analysis. Some of this is perhaps on account of the racial makeup of the cities, as blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic. Yet it’s clear that, even among the upscale white urbanist crowd, Republican policies and candidates are finding few takers.

This bodes ill for the Republicans, but also for the future of cities. Most places suffer when under single-party rule, whether liberal or conservative. This has plagued big cities. Chicago, for example, doesn’t have a single Republican member of its city council. For a long time Republicans dominated large tracts of the suburbs.

These geographically discrete monopolies have resulted in a thoroughly corrupt bi-partisan system that Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass has dubbed “The Combine.” Some competition remained at the state level, but it should come as no surprise that as the state as a whole as gone solidly blue, state and city finances have cratered, leaving Illinois as a national basket case.

Cities can benefit from Republican ideas on a variety of fronts. As Harvard Economist Ed Glaeser points out in City Journal, Republicans have been leaders in ideas around urban crime reduction, education reform, and privatization and rationalization of city services.

Unfortunately, Republicans have largely abandoned the urban playing field, preferring to condemn the cities as cesspools of Democratic corruption, high taxes, and decay. The Republican party today is largely driven by exurban and rural leaders, as well as populist movements like the Tea Party, with values that are not widely shared by urban dwellers. This has not only cost the party votes, but, critically, it has left it on the outside looking in on many debates, as culture is shaped in large urban centers where Republicans have little voice.

It’s well past time for Republicans to take cities seriously again. This starts with valuing urban environments, and respecting (or at least taking time to understand) the values of the people who live there. For example, urban dwellers expect and indeed require a higher level of public services than many suburban residents. The suburbs might not need quality street lighting, for example, but cities do. The rural area I grew up in can rely on people passing by in pickup trucks with chain saws to clear away trees that fall on the road. Cities can’t. Thus, Tea Party-type policy prescriptions in which basically everything the government does is considered bad, and in which cutting taxes is the main political value, aren’t likely to sell. Urban dwellers actually want to know how you are going to deliver services more effectively. Similarly, just bashing transit as a waste of money, lashing out against location-appropriate density, opposing all environmental initiatives, and shrill anti-immigrant rhetoric only turn urban dwellers off.

If Republicans took urban concerns seriously, they would find that they have much to offer urban residents and voters. For example, Democrats pay lip service to transit, but much transit policy in America today (heavily shaped by Democrats) is more oriented towards protecting entrenched constituencies than it is towards actual effectiveness. A serious Republican-led effort to reform the federal process and reduce the insane construction price premium (effectively a transit surtax) for American transit versus overseas systems would be welcomed, as long as it was not a Trojan horse for undermining transit. Republicans have so abandoned transportation (other than highway spending), that ideas which Republicans invented, like congestion pricing, have been claimed by the left as their own.

As an example of what a more urban focused Republican/conservative could be, consider the Manhattan Institute, a free market think tank (full disclosure: I have been a writer for their City Journal magazine). Because they are based in New York City, demonizing transit and such is just not realistic. Hence they’ve focused on policy ideas that are actually relevant to the city. They’ve also not hesitated to praise Mayor Bloomberg’s transportation reforms, and even gave an award to Rhode Island Democratic state treasurer Gina Raimondo for her leadership in pension reform. If more conservatives were similarly focused on driving better urban outcomes in the inner city rather than demonizing it, or on scoring political points, Republicans might be back in the game.

Republicans have a huge opportunity in the enormous income and wealth gap in inner cities, which Democratic policies, focused on things like greening the city, have done little to address. Indeed, all too much urbanism amounts to a sort of trickle down economics of the left, in which a “favored quarter” of artists, high end businesses, and the intelligentsia are plied with favors and subsidies while precious little ever makes it to those at the bottom rungs of society. A key lever to end this is to cut away at the massive regulatory burden that stifles small scale entrepreneurs, particularly minorities and immigrants. Regulatory relief is right up the Republicans’ alley.

Republicans also need to take on cities, especially the biggest ones, in order to get more of a voice in the cultural debates. Culture and media emanate from big cities, particularly New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Major academic centers also are idea generation factories.

Republicans became all but excluded from the cultural/media industry as the 60s generation took over. The party's response has been to create a parallel infrastructure of think tanks, talk radio shows, web sites, and even its own TV network, Fox News. This worked well in the era immediately following the end of the Fairness Doctrine, but as the so-called mainstream media reacted by shifting to the left, this has left the Republicans often talking mostly to themselves while the national culture gets shaped by Hollywood, etc. A good example is the web site Atlantic Cities, which fully embodies the values of the international urban elite left, with few identifiable conservative ideas.

The 2012 election shows the limits of this strategy. Just as evangelical Christians have decided that they must look to plant their flag in the inner cities – both to reach an increasingly secularized, ,upscale population, and to engage with culture where it is made – Republicans need to start showing up seriously in the cities again if they want to influence the culture. There are already some top-notch conservatives participating in and writing about serious culture (e.g., Terry Teachout). More ambitious, talented young conservatives should seek to enter culture and media industries apart from simply writing for conservative magazines. This battle won’t be easy by any means, but defeat is certain if you never fight.

One thing is for sure: if Republicans want to have any future in America, they can’t afford to cede any more constituencies as monolithic Democratic voting blocks. Urban America is one constituency the Republican Party can’t afford to ignore.

Aaron M. Renn is an independent writer on urban affairs and the founder of Telestrian, a data analysis and mapping tool. He writes at The Urbanophile.

Flickr photo by jvoves: Immigrants protest a Republican-sponsored proposal in Chicago.


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republican party

If the republican party is going to kneel before the free market, stop trying to manipulate it. The flight toward urban, higher density development, is not because of "Agenda 21" or some other government conspiracy. It's because enough people are craving a low-car, urban existence. That's called "the free market". The entire suburban movement, was an intervention against market forces from the beginning. Samsung UN55F8000

We need more such post

Belgravia Villas is also near elite schools such as Chatsworth International School and Lycee Francais De Singapour. Nanyang Polytechnic and Anderson Secondary School are also around in the area.
For vehicle owners, it takes less than 20 minutes to drive to the business hub and vibrant Orchard Road shopping district, via Central Expressway (CTE).
Belgravia Villas Project Details

There are already some

There are already some top-notch conservatives participating in and writing about serious culture (e.g., Terry Teachout). More ambitious, talented young conservatives should seek to enter culture and media industries apart from simply writing for conservative magazines. http://saulehealth.com

Another Path To Consider


Take To The Downtrodden
I like John Yoo's prescription. Take our principles to all of the down, bankrupt, and/or struggling cities and run an effective campaign there where we can then implement our policies, and most importantly, take credit for it. It would be a form of gentrification, but if these cities start performing again, they'll stop hemorrhaging jobs and population decline. If we can do these in as many municipalities, such as scoring a place like Fresno, or an unlikely but awesome victory such as Oakland, it'll speak volumes at the state and local level in building up our brand.

It works in Portland, Wisconsin, & New Jersey. It can work anywhere!
The Portland metro area has a 60/40 political split on the West side, leaning in favor of the Democrats, and and a 55/45 split on the East side, a little more conservative but still leaning Democrats. While Portland is a bit extreme (75/25, Liberal), Republicans can do well on the local level, and it's because of that brand cache of not only working with the other side on things that don't run contra to our Conservatism, but running an effective municipality that is efficient, pro-growth, and yet provides a healthy safety net and a great quality of life for citizens of all income levels. You see the same trend in Washington, and I think that's what our elections have to be about. They have to have their greatest priority be on running a well-run city. You already see Republican Governors doing this all across the country. You see Scott Walker, Republican, do this in the liberal state of Wisconsin, and the trust that people have in his brand of Republicanism is precisely because they think he's going run a well-run city. We can really build our brand up as people who fix inefficient local governments, and we have to take the initiative because the Democrats are no longer scared to challenge the public employees, namely the teachers unions.

Not all conservatives are created equal

A Portland republican, is a marxist, compared to an Alabama democrat. Not an easy comparison.

Difficulties for Republicans in metropolitan areas

Wow. Interesting article. Misses the point entirely.

A certain type of emotional/intellectual personality thrives in urban environments. These people value community, inter-dependence and civics that are simply ignored by the current conservative paradigm. The same community-mindedness requires a hopeful mentality. The inherent belief that those around you intend you no ill-will. The last twenty years of republican talking points tend to be fear-based. Whether fear of immigrants, fear of being unarmed, fear of crime, or fear of government. These are foreign to many in a connected, urban environment. If someone in this environment harbored that same sentimentality, they'd be unable to leave their apartment.

Myself, I come from a rural background. I raised horses, enjoyed the farming experiences and it brought me great joy. Then the "white flight" happened, and many great farming locations were bulldozed for suburban expansion. Now, it's not "country living" there. It's two hour commutes, through hideous tract housing developments as far as the eye can see. It's devoid of it's sense of place, or it's identity. It's now just "human warehousing". These aren't places of value, or places worth caring about anymore. Now that there's a revitalization of urban cores beginning to take place, people are finding a sense of place, and local/regional identity.

I've followed Newgeography for some time now. It's interesting how data can be interpreted in so many ways, to justify whatever platform you identify with. Many of these articles favor extensive suburban expansion, and yet claim to be more of a libertarian ideal. What's not mentioned, is that in a libertarian paradigm, suburbia would have never existed, as it requires massive transfer payments to cover the advanced development of roads, sewers, power infrastructure and fire/law enforcement services. These are often paid for by debt, or by siphoning capital from core cities via annexation. If I was to purchase a home, in an exurban setting, but was required to cover these costs myself, it would be untenable. Since I reside on the edge of an urban core, I'm forced to subsidize the exurban developments way outside the city, even though I'm not likely to ever visit them. This is actually some type of quasi-socialism that you're advocating.

If the republican party wishes to remain relevant in such a changing demographic, here's some suggestions:

Kick the religious right out. They are your absolute worst spokespeople. Place them in a very small box, and tape it shut. The vehement language, and policies they bring to your party are both bad for you, and bad for religion in general.

Kick Norquist to the curb as well. Society has no place for absolutists like that. He binds your hands, and renders you helpless.

Stop trying to manipulate data/people/press. Everyone knows, it's become the butt of lots of jokes now. Climate change is happening, and yes, it's most likely an affect of carbon dioxide emissions. Acting like it's not happening, is going to make it more difficult to develop resilience to deal with it.

Put the NRA in a box with organized religion. They are hurting your party in ways that you can't even imagine. Many of those that reside in cities, are not really happy with universal firearms ownership. They make the republican party seem very negative. Until such time as the NRA begins to become a positive force, in firearms safety, rather than just an industry spokesgroup, keep them in a box.

Recognize, that Private Enterprise, is not a god to be worshiped. It's one tool, among many. Private Enterprise should not be the end-all. There is a distinct reason why fire departments used to be called "Fire Companies". Read up on that a bit, and you'll understand why.

If the republican party is going to kneel before the free market, stop trying to manipulate it. The flight toward urban, higher density development, is not because of "Agenda 21" or some other government conspiracy. It's because enough people are craving a low-car, urban existence. That's called "the free market". The entire suburban movement, was an intervention against market forces from the beginning. I read a lot. I enjoy reading almost to a fault. When the republican party/libertarians freak out over a new transit expansion, yet endorse a much, much more expensive freeway expansion, your "small government" credentials vanish into thin air.

In short, if the republican party wants me back, it needs to start becoming something that's "FOR" something, rather than "against" everything. I'm tired of the hatred against so many, and the respect/love for so few. Until these change, the party will eventually fade into memory with the Whig

You are mis-framing this.

You are framing things from a leftist perspective. There is no way a middle-of-the-road person, whose politics is unbiased, could look upon the Democrats as not engaging in the politics of fear. Their platform is more then just antithetical to business, corporations, "polluters," the sexism and racism perpetrated by our culture, things they deem unequal, so and so forth... NO. It is not enough to just be against it. They are, instead, out to rectify social justice, and destroy all of those things, legitimate or not, and the only way to wage these social wars is to get all of us to drop our free-associations, by using FEAR, to mobilize us into action NOW, because the world can't wait. The Left is just as fear-based as any group who is fearful of the alternative to what they support.

The problem with those who peddle new urbanism today is its disdain for suburbia. New Urbanism has become an extension of leftwing theology. There is a place for both the urban, and the suburban. The suburbs allow upward mobility for immigrants and young families. Many of immigrants used to come and become stuck in the urban immigrant gateways of NY, LA, SF, Chicago, etc. Now, many bipass that entirely and go straight for the suburbs where they have school options, housing options, and employment options that are far superior to big cities. Not to mention, space, access to parks, affordable shopping, less traffic, less crime, and a higher standard of living then their counterpart still trapped in the urban grind. All of these things are what enable upward mobility. These folks see their incomes rise, and within a generation, they are very often firmly in the middle class, and their children enter higher education, and often end up marrying afterwards and beginning a family. The suburbs are worth caring for because they incubate the middle class, and allow for their rise. Your not caring for them is largely emotional, and on the basis of its ethos and aesthetics. But if you care for the upper lower class, and the lower middle class, you should at least champion a suburban model that you agree with, socially, that are affordable and allow for all of the things I mention above.

You talk as if the suburbs are siphoning urban funds, but the urban core is not the generator of economic activity or the source of job creation in many settings. Very often, within a big city, the most dynamic areas tend to be bubbles beyond the core itself, and a self-sustaining eco-system that the city is largely dependent on to sustain its services to the less productive parts of the city. Then you have development in the suburbs that you say the urban crowd funds? Well let me say, the urban core is dependent on the economic activity beyond it, it does not have adequate housing at affordable rates or safe and excellent public school systems, etc. to offer to every potential transplant, and rather then loose them to another major city beyond it's sphere of influence, it annexes and supports development beyond its border. That, and most metropolitans are intertangled with each other, allowing a more fluidic flow of capital, people, and services that empowers the entire region. By the way, unless you are in the top income brackets, you the city-dweller may not necessarily be paying at all for any of that.

Do I reside in a City?

You assume too much. I'm a fairly old man. I've lived on a farm in central Washington state, raising horses and cattle. I've lived on a sailboat, out of the carribean. I've lived in several suburbs around the country. I've seen both parties screw things up pretty bad. I am an independent, that sees both extremes as a detriment to everyone but their special interests.

My dislike for suburbia, is from both first-hand experience, and from paying attention to the outcomes. Suburbia, only offers affordable housing, during a "market correction". During flush times, suburbia is so white it can be seen from the moon. Suburbia combines all of the bad things (lack of privacy, crime, traffic, ) of a city, with all of the bad things about living in the country (isolation, long commutes, high transportation costs). It contains none of the benefits, of either. It also requires massive subsidies, government intervention in zoning, and subsidized fuel as well. It's also not economically sustainable.

If you want, how about reading something from a real, small government conservative.


The Suburbs

You Do Seem Of A Certain Persuasion
Well why are all of your values, arguments, and positions on the Left? As David Brooks and Jonah Goldberg have constantly pointed out, independents tend to just be people disgusted with labels in general, or, particular associations with certain labels, but the truth of the matter is, very few are actually independent and non-partisan. For every position you espouse, you defend it with liberal rhetoric.

There is a non-partisan case for increased gun control. There is a case for non-partisan support of some levels of smart growth policies. There is a non-partisan case for many of the things you either support or are against, but I have yet to see you make one that does not involve left-wing rhetoric, or some left-wing value as it's underlying ideological basis. That www.strongtowns.org should also have literature skeptical of both developers with their uncontrolled sprawl, AND smart-growth policies, yet it's outlook is rather one-sided. There is nothing inherently wrong with being a liberal or a conservative by the way, or having a liberal/conservative bias.

The Suburbs
You have a lot of explaining to do then of the continuity of immigrant-flight from urban centers. Social and economic pressures in the traditional urban setting has often bar'd immigrants out from participating in institutions that allow them economic mobility, such as better wages then menial labor allows for, or housing options that are better served by achieving schools, with little to no crime to worry about. The urban environment has also promoted a cultural insularity that not only makes assimilation difficult, but creates self-imposed ghettos, whereas living amongst the greater culture at large in the suburbs has allowed most immigrants to enter the middle class, and put their children, also first generation immigrants themselves, through k-12 and into higher-education.

What are the benefits of the suburbs, that the suburb does not contain? I at least acknowledge the benefits of the city, but you liberals have to stop waging war on what built the middle class. Small Towns & Cities will not fit the bill for everyone. We've gone from 180 million in my parents time, to, soon enough in my own lifetime, 400 million Americans, and none of this would be possible without our suburbs. How do the suburbs have high transportation costs? How do they have high crime rates? lack of privacy? High crime? What are these massive subsidies that you speak of that the advent of the sprawl hasn't paid back in dividends?

You clearly didn't really read strongtowns.

Right now, I reside in a suburb. A suburb in the direct battlefield of the urban/suburban battlefield. It's ironic, because market forces compensate extremely well. If the government path is paved for suburbia, which it has been for the last fifty years, the market will compensate. There are massive subsidies for suburban development. Who builds roads and sewers, before a development is put in? Ir sure isn't the developer himself. Often, the developer will secure tax deferments to encourage residents to move in even! That, is called a "market intervention by government". If the developer shouldered those costs on themselves, the homes couldn't be "market priced".

You write, as someone that lives by ideologies. That, is your failing. Ideologies are rigid. They don't allow for circumstances. That, is why things that I write seem liberal. That's just reality intruding on your ideological bubble..


We All Have Ideologies
Exile, you cannot prescribe a set of prescriptions that does not buck one bit from the conclusions that Leftism, as a collective movement, has also arrived at, and be non-ideologic. Well, actually, it can in fact be that you accidentally and magically came to the same "reasonable" conclusions that Leftism also arrived at, but on your own. But that is highly unlikely given that every Liberal makes the same lament that you do, that those who differ with you are being ideological, and you, the one who takes liberal positions, are not ideological. My point with Strongtowns is that their literature section is all from the liberal urbanism camp.

Government Subsidizing Suburbia
Of course there is an investment on the part of government, to subsidize fuel, and infrastructure, but that is because it can secure far more revenue if a greater number of people have upward mobility, move solidly into the lower-middle or middle class, join higher tax brackets, and have a generation later, children who also enter the middle-class or higher depending on the economic environment and their training/education. Those investments aren't in vain, and it isn't a loss for Portland or San Francisco or Chicago to expand its suburbs outwards. Much of our suburbs have payed their initial costs back to the taxpayer, many times over, just like the construction of more roads and the expansion of our highway system that took place under Eisenhower and since then. There are government investments that do not generate economic activity, and are nothing but a black-hole to suck up tax dollars, such as high-speed rail in most parts of the country, and some of our suburban expansions have been at a loss too but for the most part, they have been a net good.

Look At The Larger Picture
There is a case of our failures with regards to both our urban approach, and our suburban sprawl. I won't turn a blind eye to the issues that both present, and I'm not a fan of the ways that developers and city hall zoning regs that segment and appropriate development in a way that the only way to bridge the relationships between a shopping district, a working district, and a neighborhood is via the automobile. I also find the lack of mixed-use development that provides the beautiful communal ecosystem that makes many urban settings attractive severely depressing, especially when it doesn't have to be this way. But I can't delude myself to denying all of the benefits of suburbia in both an American and a global context. It gave rise to our middle class, and brought 4 billion people out of poverty along the way.

We need BOTH the Urban & Suburban
What would San Francisco and San Jose be if it weren't for its suburbs, or any other large city that is fed by an even larger metropolitan area. Most people in the San Francisco area are employed outside of the city, and are fortunate that tourism and several of its core industries such as Finance, Eds&Meds, and Apparel Giants can make use of SF's excellent infrastructure and transit, but the fact of the matter remains that SF is not the engine of job creation in the region, is not the provider of affordable housing, and is not the enabler of a great quality of life for young families given the expenses & limited schooling options. There is a relationship between the urban core, and the suburban rings around it, and it isn't a zero-sum game where one is clearly losing because of the other's existence.

One thing to add

The only thing I would suggest different is your NRA remark. While the NRA is a scummy lobby group, they do provide a good service by keeping gun ownership on the front burner. Let's face it. If it weren't for legal gun ownership in this country, you and I would NOT be having this conversation.

Everything else you said about the GOP is true, 110%. But guns is one of the last rights we have left. We must fight anyone who even suggests they be taken away.

Oh right

Anyone who worships guns over people has a problem.

Is that a bit low?

I found this rather disgusting. It assumes the other's intentions. Very often, inferring bad intentions. I think you use it like a throwaway line, an assumed truism that's not even worth mentioning, but I want to deal with it. Because I've tried to reduce it logically and it is nothing more then a stupid, emotional statement. Or, I may be missing something, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

What do you mean by worshipping guns over people?

Is one who fawns over his collection of rifles and assault-weapon look-alikes worshiping guns over people?
Is simply owning guns, engaging in worshiping guns over people?
Is wanting guns to remain legal or preferring the populace at large was armed, worshiping guns over people?

The "over people" part is what's really throwing me of. It's also what makes your statement unrescuably stupid.

I believe, what he/she is

I believe, what he/she is attempting to say, is that now matter how high the body count gets, the NRA only offers "stupiditudes". Yes, I made that up. You can use it if you want.

Arming Teachers? What the hell? How about mandatory weapons training, as part of you teacher certification. Oh, how about, mandatory weapons training, for all high school students?

The NRA doesn't achieve anything positive. They "defend" part of something. That would be a negative statement. Have you read the full text of the second amendment?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The first half, scares the hell out of the NRA. "Well regulated", hhhmm. I wonder what that means? Perhaps a registry? Mandatory classes before licensure? Who knows. But why don't you ponder those two words. You'll understand why it frightens the NRA so.

What to consider:

Well I partially agree, the NRA is an impediment to achieving a full scale, honest study that can continually track the sale and movement of arms around the country. They are also a roadblock to studies on the harm that little oversight over the sale of firearms has had on homicide rates. I also don't agree with arming teachers either. It's not that I don't have as high a faith in teachers as the NRA does, its just that I know many people shouldn't have become a teacher in the first place, and allows a rare event to totally impact our lives for the worse, in a way that only increases the issues and liabilities that our struggling schools already have to deal with.

The Correct Framework
That said, most people, like you, Exile, who count the massive amount of lives taken by guns, are not honest. You are not honest because you have an agenda, and will self-willingly throw truth by the wayside to advance it. Handguns, not high-powered, semi-automatic, high-round weaponry, are responsible for most deaths. And the majority of deaths by handguns are suicides, not homicides. But those left of center are materialists, and blame the politics or the economics of the material for all the injustices in life. Forget that when you compare white homicide rates in the US to Europe, they are nearly identical, and that most gun violence are by hispanic or african americans.

It's An Issue Of Values
Regardless, whatever MarkRaymond's intent was, I could care less. It was a disgusting comment. We who are for gun ownership don't care about those who are killed by guns is the implication. It assumes that one who cares supports the banning of guns or limiting access to them. Might I offer that perhaps our attempt to make our culture more ethical by changing our values is a form of caring? If you were to dump 100,000,000 guns in sweden, you would not see swedes slaughtering each other. They will most likely melt it down to repurpose as Ikea furniture or use it to construct progressive scandinavian art installations. And the reason is simple… as it is in Japan, and many other places on earth. It's not about the availability of the material, or the climate of its economics/politics that leads to a high level of crime, but rather, the culture and values that underpin it. Dump those guns in Denmark, or Japan, and you can expect a similar result.

A Truly Bipartisan Approach?
I am fully for massive gun regulation laws, and wide-spread gun ownership. That might be a stupid position to you, and to the NRA types, but it's the only true non-partisan position one can have on the issue without one side heeding fully to the other's preference.

In no place

Did I state my opinion, regarding firearms control regulations. Again, you assume too much.
My issue, is not against widespread ownership. It's against irresponsible ownership. Where do the illegal weapons come from? In many cases, from legal weapon sales. Out of the five people in my immediate circle of friends that have firearms in their home, three of them had them stolen from their homes. Just like operating an automobile, there are responsibilities that come with that. The NRA advocates against ANY responsibilities being applied to firearms ownership. Registration? Nope, they're against that. Background checks? they're against that too. Safe storage requirements? Nope, not going to happen.

In the United States, for EVERY right that we have, is a RESPONSIBILITY that is tied to it.

Scummy is a curse

Join the NRA, vote. get them do to positive things. Change them into something besides part of the fear engine. How about doing some safety advocacy? Perhaps put together an alternative solution to the rampant supply of illegally used weapons. Nope, they're so busy protecting the right to bear firearms, no matter where it goes. The NRA is making everyone they associate look terrible. They're the "Todd Akin" of the 2nd amendment. They are an embarrassment, in every sense of the word

Simple Fact, Republican Policies Do Not Work For Cities

This article ignores the fact that the Republican policies of tax cuts, government spending cuts, and deregulation just do not make sense in an urban context.
Urbanites live close together, so the laissez-faire policies that rural and ex-urbanites support make no sense when people have to co-exist in millions at close quarters. Which is why cities have always flourished under strong governments which can provide necessary urban infrastructure and enforce the regulations that make city life possible.

So the Republican "small government" ideal is really a suburban concept (and even there is really pretty much a lie, because suburbs cannot function without massive government investment in roads, sewers, law enforcement, trash collection, etc.).

Plus the xenophobic fear and hysteria that the Republicans hype up about "illegal immigrants" falls flat among urbanites who live with ethnic diversity every day as normality.

So Republicans will keep losing urban voters unless they fundamentally change their policies. As long as they hold to the extremism of Norquist's "No Tax Increase, Ever, For Any Reason" pledge Republicans are doomed to failure among urban voters. No marketing or talking points will fix the fact that current Republican policies fail in an urban context.

What examples do you have?

What examples do you have?

If the GOP's policies of tax cuts, government spending cuts, and cutting primitive regulations are relevant anywhere, it would be Urban America. The Democrats have long held dominance over Detroit, LA, Chicago, Jacksonville, New Orleans, DC, NY, Philli, Cleveland, Oakland, etc. and not much has changed for the better unless GOP policies were enacted or many other forces beyond politics reframed the zeitgeist, and character of the city. It is because of GOP policies that most immigrants from abroad, be it asia, europe, africa, or latin america, come here, and move directly into the suburbs. They no longer are forced into harsh inner-city ghettos, working long hours of menial labor that pay little, and very often, are never afforded mobility out of their circumstance for at least several generations. We sort of look at Chinatowns and Koreatowns with a bit of respect at what they have become, but they weren't always like that, and every new group that has come to America have had many demons to battle, from the inability to assimilate into the local culture, to poverty, and inter-ethnic violence. Not very much attention is given to these small immigrant groups, but the richness of the greater community is because of them, and much of this activity goes on beyond the urban core. In the Portland area, from Buddhist to Sheik temples, to Korean churches, to a fragmented but lively entrepreneurial group of immigrants who have founded all sorts of businesses to cater to their communities, much of this action happens beyond Portland, in its suburbs, such as Gresham, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin, and Wilsonvile.

Where the Democrats have done well are places like Austin, Portland, Salt Lake, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Denver, but do note the very little amount of ethnic diversity and foreign born populations that exist there. They don't have the large flux of immigrants or blacks who have been stuck in a reoccurring, generational prison of poverty, which lead to immense and off-the-chart epidemic rates in gun violence, obesity, diabetes, out-of-wedlock, high-school drop-outs, and many of the other things that lock people out of upward mobility.

But places that have moved in a GOP-supported reform include the Massachusetts state legislator, and the city of San Jose. Many state and local municipalities, with a high-democrat voting populace, have elected Republican governors and Republican mayors. Conservatism is never credited when Democrats move to clamp down on out-of-control pensions that drain the states coffers, and limit the state and local government's ability to then provide services we expect. But... Conservatives are vilified when it is us who bring about those reforms. The implication seems to be that we will be vilified, irrespective of what we do, so we might as well stick to our guns. Or at least that is what is implied.

Providing urban infrastructure is different from giving out welfare with no incentives attached to it. Providing urban infrastructure would be nice for a change, instead of having revenue pocketed by public-employee pensions. What is your definition of "Infrastructure" anyways?

I don't even support a small government, and neither do most people in the suburbs. We prefer a medium sized, uber-efficient and narrowly-focused government, not the grotesquely huge one we have today. People do prefer a small government, emotionally speaking, but we have to understand it in the correct framework. When they say they oppose a large government, they usually mean that with regards to the federal, and at times, state government, and what they really tend to mean is that the current levels are too much, and perhaps we should cut it back to the Clinton, or even Reagan years. When it comes to local government, however, it can be as large as we're willing to pay for or tolerate. And certainly, preferably, large enough to provide well-serviced communities, roadways, trash & recycling services, urban renewal projects, services for the poor, mentally ill, etc.

There is nothing extreme about Norquist's request, either, when you put it into perspective. Read: http://www.city-journal.org/2012/22_1_taxes.html --Do note, that because of the vilification of the GOP when we make reasonable requests, paired with no effort to slim entitlements and government, makes compromise exceedingly impossible. There is a case for conservatives supporting the raising of taxes if paired with cuts in entitlements, or just lowering taxes out right, but Democrats have no intention to make a meaningful compromise in either of those lanes.

Confusing fellow

It's not easy to keep track of your communication. What I can tell, is that you're only getting the very surface bits of detail. You have to look deeper. First of all, welfare, is a tiny, tiny aspect of government spending. What pays for the roads to your lovely suburban enclave? Gas taxes? Yeah, only 12% in most cases. The rest is payroll, property, or local sales taxes. That's automotive welfare. So much for personal responsibility, eh? What of the massive petroleum subsidy that's currently in place? Republicans in Congress guard that with everything they have. That's more automobile/suburbia welfare. Charge what gasoline really costs. Do, that, and what what happens to suburbia. Most would be returned to nature, converted to farmland, or multi-family housing for the destitute.

As for Norquist, he's an absolutist. There is no place in either economics, or politics for him. His activity alone, could be the end of the Republican Party.

Look deeper. Don't just talk the party platitudes. Enlighten the discussion.

Urban imperative

Having spent most of my career as a lonely conservative in the urban revitalization business, I found this article heartening. Why are cities important? Look at the map for the 2012 presidential popular vote. All the big, blue splotches are in metropolitan areas. The red area is spread widely but the blue is concentrated where there are large numbers of voters. You want to know where the election was lost, look for the big, blue splotches. As a practical matter, if the trend is for those areas to continue to grow, conservatives either take up the challenge of winning votes there or accept that they will lose many national and statewide elections.

Can we win those elections? Not often, at least in the first generation of effort. But an election campaign can have two positive outcomes. First, you can win the election. But even if you don’t win, you can use the platform to shape the public debate. You can start getting your issues in front of the voters and get them thinking about it. Sure, you won’t win many of them over at first. Perhaps you’ll convince 5% or 10% of them that you have something to offer. But if the Republicans had peeled off another 5% or 10% of the urban minority vote in a couple of key cities, it could have made the difference.

And republicans will find that there is more common ground than they expect. Many minority groups are socially conservative. While there are plenty of freeloaders, there are also many who want to work and make good for themselves and for their families. Conservatives have much to offer these voters; we just aren’t bothering to reach out to them. We have allowed the opposition to define us in those communities, so when election time comes, those conservative souls aren’t aware that they have a viable alternative. We have decided that since we clearly can’t win there, we shouldn’t bother to try. Thus, our message is never heard. That is a huge mistake. Will we win a majority? No. A meaningful minority? Over time, yes. Very meaningful.

Matthew Sternberg


Funny, I voted for Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton twice, and Gore. But my Democratic party's deranged responses to the 2000 election, and to 9/11 just a year later, turned me into a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage conservative (or does that make me a libertarian? Anyway).

The Democrats abandoned me with their insane hard-left turn, not the other way around.


This was supposed to be a reply to DaveBarnes' post below. Sorry for cluttering the thread.

If we can't provide a secular defense for the male-female bias..

My initial reactions to you and Dave Barnes on Gay Marriage: I think if the GOP cannot defend it's positions with secular defenses, it should not defend biblical positions. There is a secular case to be made against gay marriage, but 95% of GOP'ers don't know it, or how to effectively articulate it. The biblical position was reactionary against the fluidity of gender that was common in all societies around it, including within Israel, and societal constructs permitting arrangements beyond the biblical preference for the male-female bias. Remove biblical from that statement, and you are well positioned to argue a secular case against gay marriage.

Realistically though, my hope is that the GOP can cleanse itself of the homophobia that pervades many religious circles. It is unwarranted. The homosexual is made every bit as much in the image of God as heterosexuals. They didn't choose their sexuality, nor are they possessed by a Gay Demon from Satan. And though it's far too late to have any meaningful credibility, for what it's worth, those of us who oppose any redefining of marriage beyond adult males and adult females, should, as a gesture of acceptance, support civil unions in full.

The message from those of us in the GOP who don't want Gay Marriage should be that we don't want you to live out life alone, and we want to treat and love you as equals. But... at the same time, considering the fluidity of gender, we'll trade off marriage for the status of civil unions, accept you as equals, while you affirm the male-female preference, for the sake of society. A gender-neutral society will not last, Sweden has no idea the fire they are playing with, a fire whose harvest will come to fruitition in a few generations.

That said, I won't even mind gay-marriage if there were meaningful attempts on part of those who support it to uphold the male-female bias that has defined western civilization for the last 1500 years, for the sake of the 60-70% of people who comprise the large middle.

You really feel threatened by same-sex marriage?

Tradition is nice, but if the only reason for continuing with a tradition is, "Well, that's the way we've always done it", you're going to lose the argument. Actually, you already have.

Tradition Is Important

The tradition was born from something. It exists to commemorate a memory that was worth preserving so that future generations would know a seminal moment that shaped the ethos or spirit of our day, or, to pass on a value that is worth valuing.

So in a sense, traditions are symbolic. But if the symbol loses its symbolism, and becomes an end in and of itself where we do it just for the sake of doing it, then it is meaningless, and worth abandoning unless you are a habitual practitioner or like it for the fun(?) of it.

When Gays celebrate a day of silence, they are engaging in both preserving a memory and passing on a value. They remain silent for the entire day, to ritualize the importance of never forgetting that though we have it easier today then in the past, we can never forget all of those who have gone before us, but could not be open about their sexuality lest they suffer very unfortunate consequences. And the symbol is still symbolic, so it will remain a rich tradition.

That said, the rigid tradition of the male-female pairing comes from the assumption that, that living arrangement is the most elevated living arrangement, and a society can and should then be built upon it. We assume the male-female to be a given, but one does not realize the amount of social constructs that support our views of how we came to take on the sexualities that we do. For much of the human experience, sexuality has been largely fluid. It is not fixed as most pro-gay and anti-gay advocates like to say. It was present in almost every major military and military campaign of the pre-Christian world, and would be seen lived out in society, and even religion. Priestly prostitution was commonplace and men and women were easily interchangeable. All of the ancient Gods lived out aspects of human nature, often posing as models for human behavior, and from Zeus to Ishtar, and Krishna to Poseidon and Osiris, the Gods of the ancient world were bisexual, reflecting both the acceptable zeitgeist of the time, as well as a truer portrait of the human creature. That is why homosexuality may be epigenetic, and the triggers for it are far more easily triggered then we think.

The biblical ideal was a revolution, but I won't debate it out in full until there's another marriage thread, or unless you(or someone else) meaningfully respond to this.

I love reading your stuff.

I really do.

So, are you required to abide the "day of silence"? Do we give symbolic chains to black people, to remember? The issue with your belief, that tradition, is enough, is weak, and ignorant.

No one is proposing, making you marry someone of your own gender. Tradition or not, you wish to impose the churches will on people that would prefer not to. There simply is no secular reason. None.

That aside, the church, or ANY church has any business in politics. It's a strict requirement, as part of their religious tax exempt status. MANY churches violated that over the las fifteen years. I personally witness church officials passing out their "church voters guide". They should have their status revoked immediately, and be taxed at the fullest business rate possible.

You didn't read my posts.

The Day Of Silence
Without going in depth on the issue of Gay marriage, here are a few quick rebuttals. I wasn't knocking the day of silence. I even think that if practitioners observe it practically, it could be beneficial to both those who practice it, as well as those who around them observe the ritual and infer the dogma being expressed. It needs to be more uniform, with less rivalry and less stand-off-ish. I brought it up to provide a context for why I defend ritual that is practiced as a tradition, and the day of silence is an excellent example that I have no issue with, intellectually.

Please Provide Examples
Please point out where in my statements I have said anything about tradition as being sufficient, for anything… I will be more then happy to retract it if it exists, I'm beginning to think that you, low on substance, are resorted to cheap shots at my intellect.

The Main Secular Defense of The Biblical Preference
The secular defense of the biblical preference is the open acknowledgement that if we don't define this preference as the only ideal, it will compete with other alternatives that cannot construct a society that progresses. And this is important precisely because of the fact that gender is fluid for most of us who occupy the vast middle. If gender was fixed, and there was a built-in, biological impediment that naturally limited human beings from having sexual relations with others of their own sex, then there would be no case against supporting traditional, male-female marriage.

The argument would go, that, since it comes naturally to both men and women to only couple with the opposite sex, then, that is exactly what they will do, and children will not need to see gender roles modeled out by each sex since that is the natural human inclination. We then, under that amateur and unfounded presumption, don't need marriage beyond a contract over who owns what in the case of a divorce. But nothing could be farther removed from reality and history.

The Current Zeitgeist Does Not Promote Progress
We are dealing with many things that impact demography, such as secularization, singleness, using career as a reason to forgo having children, the policies that are antithetical to promoting families, our culture, and the obliteration of gender. Gay marriage lends to the obliteration of gender(like we're seeing in scandinavia, parts of asia), and all combine to form a zeitgeist that, will bring about the end of the human race.

alarmist rhetoric

End of the human race? My goodness. Same-sex marriage has nothing to do with the elimination of gender. Nothing at all. You're just pushing through the same lines that the evangelicals use when talking to atheists. Gender roles? perhaps some. but Gender roles need a good shaking up now and then. More men should be taking part in raising children. Women should have equal opportunities in the labor force. Will it cause a population catastrophe, I seriously doubt that's going to be an issue anytime soon.

We don't do grievance politics

The cities are chock full of grievance groups, looking for special consideration and subsidies. It is not a natural constituency for Conservatives. Occasionally a moderate like Giuliani comes along, gets elected and does a great job. Does that translate to Republican support in the cities? No.

A Conservative message isn't going to resonate in a place like Detroit or Chicago, the interest groups are too entrenched. Blaming Republicans for this is absurd. Democrats are willing to use the tools of corruption and vote buying and it is the fault of Republicans they can't gain traction in the big urban areas? No.

The writer also brings in the straw men of Republicans "hating" government and not wanting decent public services. That isn't the case, we merely prefer a smaller, more efficient model for government and believe the private sector does a better job of delivering most services.

Try using that message in a place controlled by unions and their buddies in the Democrat party. In the end it doesn't matter what the actual Republican message is, the media will characterize them as evil, bigoted, cruel, what have you. The folks in big cities engorge themselves with this propaganda.

Republicans didn't write off the cities, it is the other way around. Once the libs figured out how to buy off the interest groups the game was over. Now they are running out of money and the big collapse is drawing near. This is no time for Republicans to be pandering to people, our message is going to be proven true by upcoming events.


Good luck with that. You see no need for Republicans to reach out to new voters. You think that just sitting back and acting smug will be enough to win people over? LOL.

I'm not a 'Grievance' Constituent-- I'm a Voter

"...The cities are chock full of grievance groups, looking for special consideration and subsidies. It is not a natural constituency for Conservatives. Occasionally a moderate like Giuliani comes along, gets elected and does a great job. Does that translate to Republican support in the cities? No...."

You have a very Suburban view of the City. As a Black Republican New Yorker, Guiliani struck me as flat out hostile to my neighborhood. If anything, all I wanted from him was GOOD, reliable services and Police Protection.

What he gave was Good Reliable services to the White parts of the city and Hostile contempt to mine.

Just Bus Service alone as an example. During Rudy's reign, I would have to wait an HOUR at 9PM to get home on a busy avenue in my neighborhood and the bus (Singular) was packed to the gills. But if I took a longer route thru a white part of Brooklyn, there were 3 buses every 15 minutes..and if you counted the driver, it had maybe 5 people on it.

That part of Brooklyn LOVED Rudy. And he spent a lot of MTA $$$ and MY Tax money making them happy. No Fiscal Conservatism There!!

Then came Bloomberg. He was a TRUE Conservative. He initiated Use Studies. That same Bus in the white area got slashed back. That Neighborhood screamed. They were upset that they had to wait more than 20 minutes for that same bus.

My Neighborhood ABRUPTLY saw 2 buses every 15 minutes. And since the people on the Bus Stops were WORKING people who needed to get to their Jobs, we sighed and said: "About Time." We also said: "This Mayor LISTENED to us...Giuliani Didn't."

Bloomberg, who is NOT a Democrat, Won TWO re-elections with a Strong Black, working class Vote. Guiliani, got nothing from us and we were pleased as punch to see him go.

Back to the wider argument of this article-- the GOP should steer away from the Guiliani Model of Governance if it wants My Vote. I'm not a welfare recipient. But I sure as heck ain't gonna vote for a neo-suburban GOP candidate who only talks about 'Controlling' me to the white voter while NOT giving me services my Taxes are Paying for. And when the candidate DOES talk to us, don't prepare a speech that excoriates us for having too many welfare moms who don't work. All that speech does is anger all the WORKING conservative Blacks sitting in the audience, and garantees that that Candidate will NOT get either our $$$ or our Vote.

How does this work?

"The suburbs might not need quality street lighting, for example, but cities do. The rural area I grew up in can rely on people passing by in pickup trucks with chain saws to clear away trees that fall on the road. Cities can’t."

In my suburb my local and property taxes pay for my streetlights, transit, etc. and our "taxpayers per square mile" is much lower than your city... so you should have a lot more money.

If you want something, pay for it. Why is that so offensive?

I'm not sure why you need my approval from my suburb to take money for your streetlights; unless you somehow can't manage to get that money except by taxing me... why should I pay for my streetlights AND your streetlights?

I get that it would make you happier... I'd be happier if you paid my mortgage. Does that mean you're going to do it?

How it works now

My city taxes pay for big streets, bridges, streetlights, police, fire, EMT, sewers, 911 operators, snowplows, TIF-funded parking garages, etc. that suburbanites use daily in commuting to their jobs in the city. I'm paying for services suburbanites use free of charge.

If you want something, pay for it! Why is that so offensive?


The city generates a lot of business from the suburban dwellers. Suburbanites who commute to the big city are very productive, and their productivity in the urban core for big companies generates the taxes that help subsidize your public transit systems, trams, things that the port oversees, etc. We cannot view the two as independent entities. There is a web of relationships that don't always seem apparent, and the suburb/urban pairing are not always 50/50 but they certainly benefit off of each other in ways beyond those services you list. Do the urban types power the downtown shopping districts on their own? Do only people who live in SF or Seattle eat at SF or Seattle estaurants, or empower the urban entrepreneurs and the goods and services they provide? No.

Planning agencies, public transportation, and the flow of business in general depend on the fluidic flow from one municipality to the other. It is not a zero-sum game where we siphon all of your funds for nothing in return. If that is the case, people in the urban core should not commute outside the city into the suburbs with their suburban corporate business parks to do their work.

LT, I've spent a lot of time

LT, I've spent a lot of time debating Tea Party types of message boards. They all say what you say, that they support all types of government services. But for some reason they can never seem to find actual examples of investment to support. It's like the NIMBY protestors who claim they don't have a problem with development, just inappropriate development but can never seem to find any actual appropriate developments they can support.

Comprise can be had, but not only by one side.

In my opinion, I think most Conservatives would support a target-specific stimulus such as modernizing the grid to the tune of $120,000,000,000. And updating our decaying infrastructure, like our roadway, bridges, sewer systems, etc which were designed in another era that did not foresee our current population and economic expansion. Our sacred architectural works from eras long gone are worth civic funds to preserve them, and our public libraries, and local attractions such as recreational centers, city parks, and some public transit offerings are worth are tax dollars. So is beautifying our downtown in an aesthetic true to our local identity, making waterfront districts accessible for the public to enjoy, and other things that add to the quality of life of a city, attracting new residents, tourist foot traffic, business, and investment.

But this has to be paired with some major cuts to entitlements, and curbing the drain of public unions on the system wherein some state and local services are cut because of the drain of union pensions on state and local revenue. That is immoral. As public servants, serving the public should require the inverse wherein public servants should take a cut to their pensions, while services are spared.

This has to also be paired with increasing roadway, and not knowingly allowing its decay to blackmail people into supporting non self-sustaining public transit systems. Our roadways and the economy that is both built on the car-driving public, and dependent on it, produces revenue for the local, state, federal level, for every passenger mile traveled, whereas other forms of transportation are subsidized and yet there is a war on the car and the highway trust fund, and this shouldn't be so, considering public transportation and governments dependency on vehicles.

And finally, this has to be paired with some serious scholarship via NewGeography, City-Journal, Urbanophile, Atlantic Cities, and the many other sites of this type, on what people are doing everywhere, so that we don't kill off our local culture buying into someone else's image, or attempt to build stadiums, museums, or theaters that may sound beautiful and romantic but are not the way forward to spurr local economic enthusiasm, or import in a new wave of transplants. There is a powerful case to be made by conservatives in support of these things. The problem is that while we may make concessions to support many of these projects, it does not feel that elected Republicans or Democrats have any interest at all in dealing with meaningful reductions of our national debt, getting a hold of our state economies, limiting public union clout in the policy process and taking on their pensions, moderate tax policy, and reducing entitlements. There are acceptable levels of all of those things, but we cannot, in good faith, make meaningful investment in civic infrastructure and civic life a higher priority if those conservative issues are not addressed.

(That is the conservative view, in my opinion. My own view is to push through anyways with my suggesstions at the top, whilst fighting for those conservative principles, but whatever.)

The only stimulus that the Republican Party support

Is tax cuts, regulatory relief. Now, these folks aren't conservative at all. They're just as socialist as the ones they despise. They're just supporting different constituents. they're socialists to big monied corporate interests. Oh, they hate subsidies for solar power. they hate subsidies for public transportation. But don't you dare cut the petroleum subsidies, or the borrowing to build another freeway.

Look deeper, both sides are mirrors of the same problem.

That is a dishonest framework

How Can You Call This A Subsidy?
It is not a subsidy if you allow someone or something to keep more of their "earned" money. Money of which, was not "earned" in business done in America, but rather, abroad. Would you prefer Chevron left America just for it to be consistent? Taking with it hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs? You look at the top 20 energy companies, America has 3 of them, and only one(?) in the top10? All energy companies around the world are either heavily state-backed or owned outright by the government.

The least America could do is not tax Chevron for earnings it accumulated from activity in foreign markets, especially since they are already amongst the largest sources of revenue for the federal government, paying hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes. If a subsidy simply means not being taxed at a higher rate that you prefer, then we've just raped the term subsidy of it's meaning, and perhaps should find a replacement. Under this "honest" framework, this isn't the same as a handout to a solar company. Or subsidizing high speed rail on an assumed ridership & operation costs that have never been realized anywhere where high speed rail already exists.

Please Argue In The Correct Framework
It's fine if you still want to tax them then, in addition to barring them from drilling in the gulf while petronas and scandinavian oil companies feast on the bounty of the Caribbean. But at least do so in an honest framework. There are no subsidies given here. There is just a thank-you for being an American company that is the source of much of our revenue, and competing against other foreign companies that do their government's bidding.

The Infrastructure Problem
The problem with our infrastructure is that neither Democrats or Republicans care for it. The Democrats have the appearance of one who champions infrastructure, but are very often banking on its failure to service people in order to move folks into it's preferred alternative: mass transit. The Republicans don't care for infrastructure that enhances the civic experience lest it has great confidence in its market performance in terms of bringing in revenue, and that's wrong too. The automobile industry, and every business & service dependent on it produces more then enough revenue to pave roadway to the moon and back a few times over. But the highway trustfund and general revenue from all the commerce that cars/trucks enable do not come back into building or maintaining our roadways. They are instead diverted into things like education, military spending, medicare, public pension liabilities that the state has to fulfill, etc.

Your information

is either out of date, or incorrect.


Between %9 and %13 federal taxes. Compare that to the CEO's secretary. Consider the liability cap on damages from an oil spill? That's a subsidy.

Also, can you find the source, that indicates the highway trust fund has been raided to pay for education, miliary spending, medicare or public pensions? The reality, is that the gas tax is way, way too low. If the fuel tax was corrected, to actually fulfill the requirements to maintain the infrastructure that is in place, a gallon of fuel would cost up to three times as much as it does now.


You can re-arrange data all you want, to attempt to forge an argument, but reality always comes creeping in.

Partial Agreement


Thanks very much for responding, I appreciate it. I don't doubt that you run into people that say one thing but don't actually act consistent with what they are saying. Let me give you a very real example of what I am talking about. I am a commercial property owner in a small city that was working with consultants to develop a rail transit loop which would connect much of the downtown office, civic center, local university, etc. Great idea, even though it was a small city with probably limited ridership demand, I still thought it was a good amenity, public service, helped business. The consultants were testing the affected property owners willingness to accept a property tax increase to fund the design and construction of the project (basically a bond distict affecting specific property owners.)

I told them I would absolutely support it as long as they considered privatizing the operations, showing me the projections on how it would merely break even operationally, or if it didn't break even, what was the plan to fund operating losses without hurting the City's budget for police, fire, teachers, etc.

Answering that question or even analyzing it or evaluating it was a non-starter for the City and the consultants. In other words, the consultants were afraid of the answer and sought to avoid it. These are, of course, the same consultants that make big fees project managing the construction (previously mentioned "political entrepreneurs".)



There is no "public transit" anywhere that pays for itself. It's a public good, a piece of urban infrastructure like a bridge, street or highway.

So the "pay for itself" hurdle allows you to claim you support transit, but really you're one of Aaron's category of tea party/NIMBY folks who can't actually name a project that they would be willing to pay for.

We're close


We are almost on the same page, but please don't just put me in a categorical box such as "Tea party / Nimby folks", as you actually know nothing about me and mis-characterizing me doesn't suport the discussion. I actually agree that public transportation is a public good and I believe public transportation enhances urban environments and can even encourage economic development.

When you read what I said, I qualified my "pay for itself" argument to include some form of taxation if not self-sustaining. The problem is not disagreeement on policy (should we do transit projects as a public good), but how we do it, which right now is subject to corruption, public union execesses, suboptimal and politically oriented routing decisions, bad economic planning and ridership forecasts, etc. In other words, if you really believe in the policy goal of public transit, have some creativity into how it is done and be willing to evaluate some form of property taxation to support the capital investment, some blend of fares, taxes, privatization of operations, rationality of pension structures, etc. to make it operationally sustainable.

The problem today is that many transit projects are set up in a way that creates a long-term and growing liability for cities, counties and states with costs spiralling out of control, resulting in competition for economic resources (a well managed and responsible city would not have to choose between teachers, police officers and transit workers, pensions and bond debt, but that is happening today).

Unfortunately, my experience is that the policy goal of sustainable public transit gets subordinated to corruption, intractable positions by public unions and politicians, and bad faith and self-justifying economic analysis. It is heard to break through that resistance with creative solutions.

The GOP is baked

The GOP has lost me. Completely.
I am a 64 year old white male who grew up in the Northeast voting republican.

Not anymore.
GOP = Guns Over People
GOP = the party of hate (homosexuals, latinos, women)

Dave Barnes

In some places, why bother?

I live just outside of Columbus, Ohio now (moved) and there isn't a single Republican on city council there. Some numbers have republicans outnumbered 3.5 to 1...some claim its 5 to 1 inside the city of Columbus. The Franklin County GOP plans to run a couple of guys again but they'll lose. They lost huge in 2011. So bad in fact the Mayor basically mocked them in the local paper. I agree the GOP needs to focus on the cities but it needs to pick and chose the right cities. Columbus, Ohio is not worth it. There are not enough Republicans living in the city to matter. Most see the one-party run city and haul for the suburbs, as I did. Who's left to vote Republican? Nobody except maybe for the single people/yuppies with money but they don't vote because they know there isn't enough of them.

On the other hand, larger cities like NYC and Chicago have ample numbers of Republicans yet they don't bother with voting, either. The mass corruption that is the city of Chicago, for example, could be exploited by Republicans to get their people onto city council there. But you're looking at 3 to 4 election cycles of work and millions in investment. I question if that is even worth it.

What do urban voters care about?

It seems that the GOP needs to focus on what urban voters care about. The top three are jobs, education/schools and crime. There have been successful GOP politicians that did well with urban and minority voters and really focused on these issues. Rudy Guiliani and Jack Kemp come to mind. Also, business leaders and high profile figures who support values like personal responsibility and family need to invest in the inner cities. They should setup community centers and affordable private schools that promote values and teach skills to kids, men and single moms. Getting down to the street level with urban & minority voters could change their share of the vote by 5-10%. Just think of the difference that would make in statewide and national elections.

Left's Policies Damage Minorities

The Republicans need to put more emphasis explaining to minorities how so many Democratic policies put them at a disadvantage. The loading up of colleges with so much administrative staff has propelled college costs out of reach for so many young, who are ever more made of up minorities. Their opportunities for education and getting ahead are being denied them or leaving them saddled with debt that will limit their options well into middle age. Housing quotas that may be 50% multi-family affordable housing units (meaning they are uneconomic to build), can not help but to reduce the amount of new housing built. That limits construction employment, but also drives up prices of existing housing stock (especially desirable single family homes often owned by older whites) making them harder for younger (often minority) families to afford. The decreasing ratio of worker to Social Security recipients means that fewer and fewer younger (often minority) workers will support more and more (often white) retirees.

The left says they love minorities and that the right hates them, but plenty of old white guys have come to terms with their kids or grandkids dating and marrying minorities. They probably even love the resulting offspring and don't want to see their opportunities impinged.

One of the more notable demographic trends is the substantial migration of blacks from the north (where they are supposedly loved) to the south (where they are supposedly still oppressed by the KKK). They are moving, of course, for opportunity. People will do a lot for opportunity, such as move across the world, walk through deserts, or even shift from Democratic controlled states to Republican controlled ones. We do a terrible job of discussing how the Democrats squelch opportunity for many people, particularly young people who are now pretty much synonymous with minority.

Yes, thats the trick, tell minorities they are dupes

This is a loser political engagement strategy with minority (black) voters. Conservatives are constantly saying we need to show black voters how liberal policies are bad for them because they just don't understand it. You're essentially calling this group of voters stupid and telling them they don't understand why they vote. Why? Because they don't agree with you, don't vote the way you vote. Instead of telling black voters how they just don't understand what's wrong with democrat policies, you need to be advancing conservative policies which respond to this voting constituency's concerns effectively.

But instead, you think the focus should be on telling black voters how they just don't get it and you know whats best for them. I hear this point of view from conservatives all the time, its a very commonly held idea and I'm always shocked because at bottom, this is a victimization approach. This approach is about convincing minority voters they are victims of democrats and only the GOP can save them. It's the wrong approach. Lead with our principles and good policy based on them that effectively address the concerns of this constituency and you'll win.

It's not that they are stupid...


...it is because they have lived under a fixed set of paradigms their whole lives. This is the result of policies of BOTH parties but in reality, the black man's worst enemy is not the white man, its Democratic party policies. Same with poor whites and the other minorities. Democrats require that people are "victims" of those whom will not or can not achieve the American dream, i.e. get rich. Republicans don't want to save anyone. Remember Romney's 47% remark. He wasn't being a racist. He was being too honest. How do you convince people whom don't pay taxes and live off welfare to vote Republican? You can't. How do you convince retired persons depending on social security to vote Republican? You can't. Gays and non-religious people? You can't. So what is the ROI on investing in those people by Republicans? It's a negative number. Why bother except for the fact they need to win elections. I think the GOP is going to contract for a period of time and maintain its base out in the sticks and walk from the cities wholesale. Take a look at the red/blue map of Ohio, where I live, and you'll see the problem for yourself. White flight backfired. You'll never convince whites to move back to the cities wholesale. They're not welcome, at least at this moment in time.

Obama is the first president ever to win because the economy was bad and he was able to capitalize on it. Democrats need to keep running non-whites for president and they'll never lose. I also believe what Valerie Jarrett said, get ready for revenge...and I believe her.

The municipal public/non-profit/eds/meds apparatus......


I am an avid follower of your articles at New Geography, but was actually surprised that you were the author of this effort because I think some of your premises are wrong. Just to mention a few:

You saying that Republicans are abandoning cities is incorrect. Cities are abandoning Republican and conservative / constitutional/ classic liberal policies and theory of governance and the Democratic party has captured voters through patronage programs, corruption and policies that create voters as clients, not as citizens. Free market, limited government type policies simply cannot win votes from "client" voters.

When you refer to Tea party policy prescriptions that say everything government does is bad, you are engaging in the same sort of caricaturing and demgoguing of the Tea Party that Democrats and the left do. Tea Party members are for limited government and local control of government, not for no government, which would be anarchy.

Basic services for urban areas is something that Republicans and Tea Party members would absolutely support, but it is the unrealistic and corrupt pension arrangements, and debt laden public patronage projects that collapse a city's finances that they oppose. This is not radical, it is rational. Zero based budgeting would be a mechanism to solve this problem, by the way......budget and prioritize first for all basic services and see what you have left. Today blue cities and states are cutting basic services to pay for pension obligations, bond obligations, etc. which is backward.

As for public transportation, again, I think that many Republicans believe that public transportation is a public good and should be paid for with taxes, provided it does not result in a growing negative operating deficit that bankrupts a city, county, or state. Much of the recently proposed transportation projects are in fact boondoggles that are based on flawed studies and economic assumptions and even poor location decisions. Do you really think Republicans oppose the high speed rail segment in the middle of Central California because they don't like transportation in general or because that is just a really bad idea that is a waste of taxpayer money that the bankrupt state doesn't have?

Last, one of the things that is often not remarked upon that is destroying our cities is that the employment base over time has become comprised mostly of a large public sector, non-profit, education, (and even to some degree health care) apparatus that relies on taxes, donations, or government subsidized tuition or insurance for their livelihood. Additionally there is a large consulting class that would nominally consider themselves private sector, but actually derives their fees and livlihood from government contracts (economists refer to this class as "political entrepreneurs" and "rent seekers"). So this apparatus grows and votes in their rational (short term) interest to extract more and more from government and it is ultimately fiscally unsustainable.

But, Aaron, this is where I agree with you and I think Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin is a good example. If the Republicans are willing to be statesmen and risk all the vitriol that will be hurled at them by entrenched interests and be willing to sacrifice their political careers by taking courageous stances, there is hope. I think the example of success by some of these Republican governors that have solved previously intractable issues at the state level could be a good model for cities. But they have to get elected!

Cities are abandoning Republicans


I fear you are quite correct. In my post, I cited that the City of Columbus, Ohio has ZERO Republicans on city council and has a Democrat for a mayor. Some of the democrats to republican ratios has it 5 to 1. The GOP ain't making no inroads here. Period. They plan to run two candidates for the 2013 elections (off year here) and they will lose...probably wholesale.

You said it best right here: "Cities are abandoning Republican and conservative / constitutional/ classic liberal policies and theory of governance and the Democratic party has captured voters through patronage programs, corruption and policies that create voters as clients, not as citizens. Free market, limited government type policies simply cannot win votes from "client" voters."

I call that the "gimmedat voter". Welfare would not be accurate since it can be argued that retired people collecting social security would be on welfare. I chose "gimmedat" because the group of people you describe want government to take care of them, regardless of their race or gender. I see almost a "soviet"/"eu" type of system. It seems there has been a generation of people living off the 99 weeks of unemployment, can't or refuse to find a job, and are realizing this is a way of life. I also fear this group is growing. Remember the 47% that would never vote for Romney. That's them (minus traditional groups such as homosexuals and minorities whom would never vote for a Republican or a white candidate, regardless). Most of the gimmedaters are white.

The GOP has never been in the business of backing welfare populations, instead they promote pro-business, low taxes, and creating opportunities for people whom work hard and what to empower themselves. Those are values I believe in yet I am in the minority and that minority will get smaller and smaller as the New America Soviet starts to take hold.

I think the GOP has it hands full trying to stay in the offices they have versus trying to get ahold of the cities. I won't lie about their chances (as I am a Republican) but I also know what ROI is and from my perspective, the ROI on cities like Columbus, Ohio are simply not worth the dollar investment...considering whom you're trying to convince to vote for you hates you to begin with.

Obvious race-baiting

Keep it up with the "gimmedat" talk. It's so clear that a large number of Republicans want to turn the Democrat/Republican fight into a race war. But considering that whites are on the decline in the United States, it's a losing strategy. But hey - if you want to continue losing the big elections, please keep it up.

If cities abandoning Republicans, your kind of rhetoric is why

You demonize urban city dwellers as a version of welfare leeches. That seems to be a dominant conservative attitude towards urban areas with large populations of minorities. How you think you can politically engage urban voters when you describe them as this worthless breed of citizen is beyond me. That's a very cynical and inaccurate view of people who live in cities, even cities as off track as Detroit.

What people want is leadership that leads and inspires, not demonizes. Republicans lose because all we seem to offer is this bitter brew of demonizing groups of people rather than focusing on solutions that solve problems. But if you blame the people as too stupid or lazy to be engaged with, then you don't have to bother to try.

A lot of it is about branding

I think the divide between Republicans and cities is less about policies than about social issues, and more specifically, branding. By catering to rural and exurban voters--who practice this Middle-American notion of God, family, and country--they repel urban professionals who are more secular and global-minded. These professionals would probably agree with most conservatives, say, on the issue of municipal unions and their wastefulness. But not on social issues that mask an urban-suburban lifestyle divide, like gay marraige, immigration, and the role of science. To read more about this, check out Bill Bishop's book The Big Sort. You can also read my most recent blog post at a site called Big City Sparkplug.

Well stated


I think this is a good point. When Republicans and conservatives focus on these social issues they lose the audience that might listen to the more secular policy issues on freedom, limited government, fiscal management, etc.

Frankly, Republicans lose credibility when they talk about freedom and liberty and then want to impose laws like limiting gay marriage. It sounds like "freedom for me, but not for thee".

I think there are a lot of young voters and urban voters that are classic liberals in values (economic freedom and social freedom) that would listen to a (sincere) Republican message along the same lines.

Good point.

cities are a lost cause?

" Similarly, just bashing transit as a waste of money, lashing out against location-appropriate density, opposing all environmental initiatives, and shrill anti-immigrant rhetoric only turn urban dwellers off."

From my experience, these my neighbors in urban central cities have not been people open to new ideas. If anything they've seemed to be more dogmatic than what I'm used to encountering. At the risk of sounding like a pompous jerk, these people are less rational and willing to compromise as the population as a whole.

These tend to be the sort of people who want rail transit no matter how inefficient it is; no matter how much bus service is sacrificed for it. They want to preserve as much history as possible no matter how unaffordable development becomes and thus drives out the poor. These are people who would burst a vein over the mere idea let alone actually doing what Indianapolis did, privatize it's water service ( yet again, BTW ).

I think you have a good point Mr. Renn. But I'm not sure it there's enough possibility of change to make it worth the bother. I see these people as the policy drivers, the taste makers of politics, so to speak. I don't see any politicians in most old, small land constrained central cities making much headway with ideas that differ from their. But maybe this is because I'm only picturing certain types of cities? Maybe it's a lost cause for PDX, MPLStown and Boston. But maybe some cities like Charlotte, Dallas, Salt Lake City and Phoenix this sort of thing may work?

The Republicans Are Hopeless

They truly are. The character of our nation has changed. It is no longer about what the people can do on their own, but what the government can solve. Even if it is a stupid question or issue, such as "food deserts" or whatever the next social war the Left constructs to battle, it cannot go unanswered. There is an old talmudic saying: "Silence is agreement." You must answer every critique.

When the GOP aren't offering a rebuttal to assumed Truisms flung from the Left, they leave the poly-sci heavy technocrats to do their business in DC and think tanks, removed entirely from the public, with their only presence being amongst a few conservative journals that are beyond the reach of the average citizen.

When the Left knocks our motives and assumes our intentions as selfish or evil, then though we answer with numbers, statistics, and figures, and though that may be true, they fall on deaf ears as they do not resonate with the hearts of sidelined observers. When they knock our hearts with anti-equality, anti-compassion, anti-tolerance, anti-multicultural, anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-environment rhetoric, we must defend our ambitions, explain our motives, frame the issue correctly, while launching a counter-offensive on the often, under-reported cruelty that results from compassion-based arguments and policies. The Left has gained in converts precisely because of it's ability to knock the motives of those they differ with, and mock them, no end!

To win this Aaron, Conservatives must enter the fields of media, science, design, and areas that carry a lot of cache with the bohemian counter-culturals that dominate many of these fields today. We need a presence in the "Social Studies" as we are seeing with New Geography, Forbes, Urbanophile, and City Journal. But more important then entering any of these fields is simply knowing the arguments. Most do not. They can give you a heart felt summary of why they are on the Right, but that is not enough.

Some books that have shaped my recent thinking:

1.) "The Paradise Suite: Bobos in Paradise and On Paradise Drive" - By David Brooks
2.) "Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph" - By Dennis Prager
3.) "Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left" - By Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell

(Feel free to suggest other books as well.)

And that is just a beginning. We need to "Get" our history, to "Get" the current zeitgeist, and to have a narrative we can then construct that will resonate with the masses of the vision we want for this country. We also have to "Get" the enemy, play as little as possible into their hands, and attack them intelligently, no end. But to sum this up, we need a presence in media, a presence in science, and a presence in design. We have a story to tell, and we have to be at the forefront of culture.