If states are laboratories of democracy, as Justice Louis Brandeis dubbed them, then our cities must be incubators of leadership. On a relatively small scale they allow for insight into how the governing ideas and principles of the political parties actually work in application. And, quite frankly, it gives a stunning insight into what happens when Democrats are allowed to run amok for decades without any meaningful conservative counterbalance.
Take, for instance, a recent article written by Jabari Parker, an NBA basketball player who fled the projects of Chicago to attend Duke University.
“You get used to the crime and, from a young age, you learn how to live with it,” Parker writes for The Players’ Tribune. “You learn what do do during a drive-by: You duck. And you run. I’m not saying all this to be tough, it’s just how things are.”
Quite frankly, things are bad in the Second City. More than 200,000 Chicagoans fled in the 2000s, pushing the city’s population down to a level not seen since 1910. During the recession, Chicago lost 7.1 percent of its jobs, the worst of any of the country’s ten largest metro areas. The city is a fiscal disaster, with $12 billion in underfunded pensions and a structural annual deficit of around $650 million each year. Things are so bad that Moody’s downgraded Chicago’s credit rating to “junk” with a negative outlooks. City officials tried to paper over the problem by raising tax rates. Is of 2011, Chicago residents paid the highest effective sales tax rate of any city studied by the Wall Street Journal. And the city’s famed corruption continues to run rampant. Since 1970, 340 officials in Cook County have been convicted.
These are not the signs of a successful city, yet somehow Chicago has been led exclusively by Democratic mayors since 1931. And we haven’t even gotten to the worst problem of all, the one that worries kids like Jabari Parker, who has seen his hometown grow more violent than even the scary days of his youth. He writes:
It’s only been a few years since I left, but Chicago isn’t the same city anymore. It’s worse. A lot worse.
Nearly 50 schools closed in Chicago in 2013, mostly in neighborhoods like mine, with primarily black students from low-income homes. Now, you might be thinking, Well those kids can just go to other schools. Is it really that big of a deal?
Yes, they can go to other schools, but the real danger is that these kids are now forced to go outside of their neighborhoods and maneuver around unfamiliar territory — some of which is controlled by gangs that are rivals to the ones near their homes. They’ve lost the safety and the insulation that we had from some of the violence because we went to school in our own backyards.
When I was a kid, there was crime and violence, but we could still run around and play. We could live around it. But July was the deadliest month in the city in 10 years.
Now, you’re hearing about kids being caught in crossfires at all hours of the day. Nearly 3,000 people were shot in Chicago last year alone. Already in 2016, there have been over 2,500 victims of gun violence.
Parker goes on to recite the tragic stories of Tamara Morgan, Kavan Collins and Jaylene Bermeo – innocent children who were shot while holding their parents’ hand or coloring on the sidewalk. Sadly, these are just public examples of a growing epidemic.
Which begs the question: Why? Why are cities like Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, and Chicago suffering through disastrous decade after disastrous decade at the hands of Democrat leaders? Why do we let this failed experiment in progressive political hegemony continue with no meaningful opposition? Why don’t the working poor rebel and demand better?
There are hints that Democrat dominance may not last forever. As Thomas Edsall writes for the New York Times:
Beginning with the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson, African-American voters have provided Democrats with their margin of victory in elections at every level across the nation, year after year.
How have African-American voters been faring over all? Badly. The Democratic debt to black voters is immense, and the party has not paid up. …
These developments suggest that African-Americans living in poor neighborhoods cannot rely on Democratic leaders to take the decisive steps needed to ameliorate the problem as long as the Democratic Party can take the black vote for granted.
The question, then, is how long can Democratic Party leaders and candidates continue to rely on African-American voters before African-American voters take matters into their own hands — just as white working-class Republican voters have done this year.
Of course, for any of this to matter Republicans must be perceived to provide a worthwhile alternative to the problems that plague America’s cities. Republicans, led by Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty agenda, are taking steps toward providing a different, better path for America’s downtrodden. And sadly, it’s a low bar to clear.