The election of Barack Obama promised to inaugurate the dawn of a post-racial America. Instead we seem to be stepping ever deeper into a racial quagmire. The past two month saw the violent commemoration of the Ferguson protests, “the celebration” of the 50th anniversary of the Watts riots, new police shootings in places as distant as Cincinnati and Fort Worth, and renewed disorder, tied to a police-related shooting, in St. Louis last week.
The current state of the Republican Party may seem like a demolition derby, but there’s an equally fascinating, if less well-understood, conflict within the Democratic Party. In this case, the disruptive force is largely Silicon Valley, a natural oligarchy that now funds a party teetering toward populism and even socialism.
In the fall of 2005, many saw in postdiluvial New Orleans another example of failed urbanization, a formerly great city that was broken beyond repair.Yet 10 years after a catastrophe that drove hundreds of thousands of its citizens away, the metro area has made an impressive comeback.
Barack Obama has always wanted to be a transformational president, and in this, at least, he has been true to his word. The question is what kind of America is being created, and what future does it offer the next generation.
Public concern about illegal immigration, particularly among older native-born Americans, as well as the the rising voting power of Latinos, all but guarantees that immigration is an issue that will remain at the forefront in the run-up to the 2016 elections. Nor is this merely a right-wing issue, as evidenced in the controversy over “sanctuary cities”; even the progressive Bernie Sanders has expressed concern that massive uncontrolled immigration could “make everybody in America poorer.”
Twenty years ago, America’s cities were making their initial move to regain some of their luster. This was largely due to the work of mayors who were middle-of-the-road pragmatists. Their ranks included Rudy Giuliani in New York, Richard Riordan in Los Angeles, and, perhaps the best of the bunch, Houston’s Bob Lanier. Even liberal San Franciscans elected Frank Jordan, a moderate former police chief who was succeeded by the decidedly pragmatic Willie Brown.
Across the nation, progressives increasingly look at California as a model state. This tendency has increased as climate change has emerged as the Democratic Party’s driving issue. To them, California’s recovery from a very tough recession is proof positive that you can impose ever greater regulation on everything from housing to electricity and still have a thriving economy.
In hip, and even not-so-hip, circles, markets, restaurants and cultural festivals across the country, local is in. Many embrace this ideal as an economic development tool, an environmental win and a form of resistance to ever-greater centralized big business control.
Yet when it comes to areas being able to choose their urban form and for people to cluster naturally – localism is now being constantly undermined by planners and their ideological allies, including some who superficially embrace the notion of localism.
Few people have had more influence on thinking about cities than the late Jane Jacobs.
The onetime New Yorker turned Torontonian, Jacobs, who died in 2006, has become something of a patron saint for American urbanists, and the moral and economic case she made for urban revival has been cited by everyone frompundits and think tanks to developers.
Manufacturing may no longer drive the U.S. economy, but industrial growth remains a powerful force in many regions of the country. Industrial employment has surged over the past five years, with the sector adding some 855,000 new jobs, a 7.5% expansion.
Several factors are driving this trend, including rising wages in China, the energy boom and a growing need to respond more quickly to local customer demand and the changing marketplace.
Racial and economic inequality may be key issues facing America today, but the steps often pushed by progressives, including minority politicians, seem more likely to exacerbate these divisions than repair them. In a broad arc of policies affecting everything from housing to employment, the agenda being adopted serves to stunt upward mobility, self-sufficiency and property ownership.
This great betrayal has many causes, but perhaps the largest one has been the abandonment of broad-based economic growth traditionally embraced by Democrats. Instead, they have opted for a policy agenda that stresses environmental puritanism and notions of racial redress, financed in large part by the windfall profits of Silicon Valley and California’s highly taxed upper-middle class.
Will Rogers famously stated, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” And he was not so far from the truth. The old Democratic Party was a motley collection of selected plutocrats, labor bosses, Southern segregationists, smaller farmers, urban liberals and, as early as the 1930s, racial minorities. It was no doubt a clunky coalition but delivered big time: winning World War II, pushing back the Soviet Union and making it to the moon while aiding tens of millions of Americans to ascend into the middle class.
In our modern economy, the biggest wellspring of new jobs isn’t the information sector, as hype might lead some to think, but the somewhat nebulous category of business services. Over the past decade, business services has emerged as easily the largest high-wage sector in the United States, employing 19.1 million people. These are the white-collar jobs that most people believe offer a ladder into the middle class.
Recent setbacks for social conservative ideals – most particularly on same-sex marriage – have led some to suggest that traditional values are passé. Indeed, some conservatives, in Pat Buchanan’s phrase, are in “a long retreat,” deserted by mainstream corporate America sporting rainbow logos. Some social conservatives are so despondent that they speak about retreating from the public space and into their homes and churches, rediscovering “the monastic temperament” prevalent during the Dark Ages.
The next culture war will not be about issues like gay marriage or abortion, but about something more fundamental: how Americans choose to live. In the crosshairs now will not be just recalcitrant Christians or crazed billionaire racists, but the vast majority of Americans who either live in suburban-style housing or aspire to do so in the future. Roughly four in five home buyers prefer a single-family home, but much of the political class increasingly wants them to live differently.