In his epic novel “Tale of Two Cities,” author Charles Dickens began with these words, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” That descriptive is as apt to American cities today as it was to Dicken’s mid-Nineteenth Century England.
For many of our major urban centers, it is, indeed, the best of times. For others, not so much. There may be many reasons why one American metropolis prospers and provides a high standard of living – and why another suffers urban problems of virtually every nature. What are the governing policies and programs that determine success or failure? And, more importantly, who is in charge.
It does not take a team of professional demographers and urbanologists – or months of statistical research – to find an answer. Cities run by Democrat administrations tend to fare poorly compared to cities run by Republicans – or where power may shift from time to time.
There is a second finding that speaks to the partisan difference. The greater the power of the local Democrat political machine – the worse things get. There are two explanations for that. The first is the failure of left-time and quasi-socialist policies and the second is the level of corruption.
One of the characteristics of the great Democrat political machines that have run the major cities for generations is … corruption. Yes, corruption. Government jobs are handed out as political currency. City and county workers provided the backbone of the all-important precinct organizations. Public office is used as a reward system as Democrat workers rise from the precincts to the pinnacle of local power.
Private sector contracts are doled out based on political alliance and campaign contributions. Donor banks are often rewarded with millions of dollars from government accounts – especially those huge pension funds.
Democrat urban machines have long had a cozy relationship with organized crime – the Mafia. The alderman for Chicago’s notorious First Ward had long been considered “the Mob’s alderman.”
The most iconic corruption is vote fraud at every level of the electoral process. Though many Democrats and their media friends laughingly deny the existence of vote fraud, it has been, and remains, a hallmark of the urban Democrat political machines.
De facto urban institutional racism has flourished during and after the days of southern Democrat segregation and black oppression. While perhaps not as pervasive or deadly as the Democrat paramilitary organizations in the south, such as the Ku Klux Klan, many Democrat controlled cities had local “athletic clubs” whose primary purpose was to attack blacks and keep them in their place, as the mantra stated.
These racist clubs were often associated with the most powerful political leaders. In fact, Mayor Daley of Chicago was the head of one such club which was charged with attacking – and possibly murdering – blacks.
Urban racism – with its policies of segregation and black oppression – is in full view in the major cities today. It is seen in the lack of education, high unemployment, street crime and denial of a broad range of city services.
One party rule
Corruption and racism in America’s cities are directly proportionate to the length and depth of one-party Democratic rule. Most American cities have been ruled over by Democrats for generations. Yes, there may be an occasional left-wing Republican mayor in the tradition of New York’s Michael Bloomberg and John Lindsey (both of whom switched to the Democratic Party), but the city councils and all-important bureaucracies remained firmly in the hands of the Democrat political machines.
This is an important characteristic because you do not have such levels of corruption, institutional racism and destructive policies without the authoritarian grip of one political party.
The failure of Democratic policies
Certainly, the corruption and institutional racism found in our major Democrat-run cities is a factor in the eventual demise of them as viable and sustainable communities. Equally important is the left-wing quasi-socialist policies that are enacted as a means of maintaining political power. At its basic foundation is a very simple concept. Take increasingly from the productive sector and redistribute that wealth to the unproductive sector as a means of maintaining political loyalty.
We are a rich enough, generous enough and compassionate enough society to care for those genuinely in need. But under progressive policies, there is a pretense of need that is created by the maintenance of a permanent generational underclass.
The pretense of need also extends to policies that excessively reward loyal bureaucrats with high salaries, top-rated benefits and exceptionally generous pension programs. These urban political institutions maintain a program of welfare for the wealthy. This money also flows to loyalists in the private sector – contractors, vendors, consultants, etc.
It never ends well
The long-ignored posterchild for Democrat urban political policy is Detroit. The once vibrant and economically powerful “Motor City” gradually descended into a virtually destroyed community under a succession of progressive Democrat mayors – most notably the radical left-wing Mayor Coleman Young, who reigned over the slow-motion destruction of Detroit for 20 years, from 1974 to 1994.
Unfortunately, the lesson of the inevitable failure of left-wing policies has been largely ignored as several Democrat-controlled cities have crossed onto the slippery slope that doomed Detroit. Chicago, a metropolis that once took on the slogan “A city that works” is teetering on the edger of financial collapse – a situation exacerbated by the exodus of taxpaying businesses and residents. This political malpractice has spread to states such as Illinois and California.
The economic failures have bred social failures since the Democrats’ policies eventually – as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously put it – ran out of other peoples’ money. Before the end of his term, Mayor Young was forced to cut the public payroll – but not before Detroit did not have enough snowplows to clear the streets. Abandoned and deteriorating houses and commercial buildings over large expanses left Detroit looking like Berlin after the allied bombing.
The social impact of failed progressive policies can vividly be seen in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Goldengate city on the bay actually produced “poop maps” to indicate human fecal waste fouling the public commons. Los Angeles has more than 60,000 homeless people setting up tent cities along major thoroughfares and in private neighborhoods. That level of homeless squatting has not been seen since the Great Depression – and not referring to the “squatting” in San Francisco.
The failure of these great communities is evident in the migration of the American people. We the people are abandoning California, Illinois, New York for places like Texas, where Republican free-market capitalism has produced wealth and a comfortable lifestyle.
Fixing the problem is a problem
In a sane and rational world, one would expect that those bosses of the big city political machines would change their policies – and that the national Democratic Party would impose corrective actions and improved policies.
But instead, they turn a blind eye to the situation because … those corrupt political machines are the source of great power within the national Democratic Party. Democrat leaders will tolerate racial segregation and de facto racism in their midst in return for the money and votes the Democrat urban machines provide.
This is no different than when the national Democratic Party tolerated southern segregation and racism because of all those Democrat racists who held the powerful chairmanships in Congress – and for all those Democrat votes that came out of Dixie. It was that corruption of American elections in the “solid Democrat south” that enabled the Party to hold onto Congress and take the White House more often than they otherwise could.
The 2020 election
The presidential election of 2020 my be an existential turning point for America. We will either reject the sweet-smelling toxins of progressive policies – and continue to be what President Reagan described as the “shining city upon a hill” — or we will see America go the way of Detroit.
So, there ‘tis.