Across America's Cities, Voters Are Driving Out Progressives

Is sanity finally returning to America’s blue cities? The places that incubated inept policies such as “defund the police” and “sanctuary cities”, but welcomed open-air drug use, are beginning to have second thoughts. In Seattle, Portland and San Francisco (which featured in a recent UnHerd special), lawmakers are looking at ways to curb public drug use — a move that has been symptomatic of a wider pushback against progressive policies.

Take Houston as a different example. This week, progressives lost two-to-one in the mayor’s race, electing a moderate Democrat, John Whitmire, and rejecting Sheila Jackson Lee, one of the reliably far-Left Democrats in Congress. In addition, the city elected more conservatives and moderates to the city council.

In Houston, as elsewhere, crime was cited as by far the city’s biggest issue. It was also behind the defeat last month of a Soros-backed prosecutor candidate in Pittsburgh’s district attorney race and in Seattle’s contest for city attorney, which a Republican won. Meanwhile in Dallas, another city with a serious crime problem, Mayor Eric Johnson, an African American, felt compelled to change parties, becoming the second major city (after Miami) to go to what many urbanistas call “the dark side”.

None of this suggests that Republicans will inherit the cities. The demographic shifts in recent years have eroded the party’s potential base of middle- and working-class white ethnic groups, who are being replaced by both minorities and millennials, both of whom vote heavily Democratic.

The key here is a potential coalition of moderate Democrats with conservatives and family-oriented multi-racial groups. This is the formula that two decades ago helped elect reformist mayors from both parties across the country, ranging from Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg in New York, to Richard Riordan in Los Angeles, to Ed Rendell in Philadelphia. Their elections played a critical role in the reduction of crime and economic resurgence in all these cities.

Like now, progressive politics, lax law enforcement and stupefying regulations brought these cities close to bankruptcy and decay. But today, the problem is arguably worse: an influx of undocumented immigrants and soaring real estate prices have made the situation near untenable for Democratic leaders.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.