The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Slow Emptying

It seems that the allure city living has always been a personal thing. The people who love it cite the arts, the social scene, the food, the diversity of people ... the list is long. It's almost as if they have convinced themselves that the crowding, the often less than optimal living conditions, the noise, the clutter, the frenetic pace, the high, high cost of living are a small price to pay for the benefits. That's great.

Major cities across the United States have become bastions of progressive thought and small laboratories for progressive governance. Virtually every American city of any size is governed by a Democrat Mayor and a predominantly Democrat city counsel. Taxes as always high, in part to fund the demands of public sector unions that are the city-Democrats' biggest voter block. Pension obligations (again acceding to union demands) are crippling for major cities and with money tight, spending on infrastructure suffers. Over the past five years, there has been a small, but noticeable exodus out of the cities.

And then came COVID-19 and the recent mass protests.

Urban dwellers are resilient, but these simultaneous events have forced people to face a hard reality. In just three months it has become clear that modern urban progressivism is politically incompetent and intellectually incoherent.

After the days and weeks of marches through cities, what has fallen out of it is basically one idea—defund the police. In New York, with blocks of stores boarded up and cherry bombs exploding nightly everywhere, the City Council has agreed to cut the city’s police budget by $1 billion, or one-sixth. How hard is it to connect the dots?

A shapeless mass declares multiple blocks of Seattle now belong to it, and when asked how long it could on, Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan wanly offers: “I don’t know. We could have a Summer of Love.” The first one was in 1967, also accompanied by massive urban unrest.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the weekend issued a plaintive request to the daily street protests: “You don’t need to protest. You won. You won.” Then the kicker: “What reform do you want? What do you want?”

Historically, the media and press have served an arbitrating function among competing urban forces. No longer. Through the pandemic and now the protests, much of the urban-based media have become bizarrely invested in apocalyptic story lines, picking at scab after scab and problem after problem, with not much effort at sorting substantive policy alternatives other than heading deeper into the progressive frontier.

The message being sent is that progressive governance is, at best, ambivalent about maintaining civil order. The net result the past three months has been a sense in many cities of irresolvable chaos, stress and threat.

I think many younger, often liberal families would stick it out if they thought there was anything resembling a coherent strategy to address this mess—the new health threat, the homeless, the rising crime, the filth, the increasingly weird school curriculums. But there is no strategy.
There is no strategy because any coherent approach to addressing urban decay will run afoul of the Democrats' increasingly hard-left and strident urban base. That base, driven by perpetual outrage, identify politics, and increasingly extreme demands (e.g., defund the police), whipsaws even the most progressive mayors (think hard left Mayors Bill Deblasio of New York or Jacob Frey of Minneapolis being booed by a mob of leftists because they didn't agree with the mobs' insane demands. Or maybe it's uber-progressive mayors like Seattle's Jenny Durkin who has essentially ceded a small part of that city to yet another leftist mob, yet using fantasy thinking that is all too common among progressives, calls it a "summer of love."

At the same time, Team Apocalypse scrambled to shut down cities. Their near-hysterical approach to managing COVID-19 destroyed small businesses and at the same time did little to mitigate the virus' deadly affects. Closing schools, parks, and playgrounds, demanding that people shelter-in-place, and otherwise shutting down urban life have set a frightening precedent. Big city mayors often became petty dictators, drunk on the power to control every aspect of city life. They set a precedent that even the most hardened urbanites find concerning. 

And so, the slow emptying of cities has begun. It's important to see the slow, tragic demise of American cities for what it is—a failed experiment in uncontrolled  governance by the majority Democratic party. In some cases, major cities have not seen a GOP mayor or city counsel in a generation or more. The results of this lack of diversity in governance and thought is what we're now seeing.